Tag Archives: life

Micro-Manifestations – The patterns which define our Purpose

Forest

What we already know…

The purpose we seek to fulfil in our lives represents the purpose of our existence. When faced by such a significant statement, and choice, it’s easy to be daunted by the concept of searching for and even committing to something which will define us. Furthermore, when we realise that one of our core existential fears is of freedom – we fear the freedom we have to choose our life direction – we can understand why so few of us make the decision to ‘live with purpose’. But, what many people fail to realise is that each of us actually already know, albeit at an unconscious level, what our purpose is.

Look Outside to Find Within

When we hit the deepest darkest place within the existential vacuum it is easy to feel despair; it is easy to feel lost and without a destination or purpose; to feel that although there is no turning back to the life you’re leaving, there is also no clear path to follow into the future.

It is at this moment that we often intuitively begin our search within ourselves, introspecting to find the answers we need. However, this approach will not always provide what you desire, as although the answers to the questions posed within the existential vacuum (Who am I? and Why am I here?)  do come from within, they can only be answered from first looking outside. That is, to alleviate the tensions we feel and to discover the purpose we desire, we must focus first on our contribution to those around us – we must look outside of ourselves and focus on how and where we are making a positive contribution to the world. It is therefore, from outside ourselves that we find the answers which lie within.

Searching Outside – Look for the Micro-manifestations

Manifestation

The search outside to find our contribution to those around us can be a confusing one. It is rare for those passing through the existential vacuum to recognise that their contribution has been leaking from them throughout their lives; our purpose has always been with us, pouring from us into the world in the form of micro-manifestations. That is, throughout each of our lives we have, to a greater or lesser degree, been living our purpose through small unconscious patterns of behaviour. We have been contributing positively to those around us through our day to day actions as we interact with others.

To begin the journey of discovering your purpose, we must therefore consider the common ‘contribution’ patterns we have exhibited throughout our life. We must then piece these micro-manifestations of our purpose together as if completing a puzzle to see what they reveal. And as the picture forms, so to will your understanding of why you are here on this earth.

Although the journey through the existential vacuum is a difficult one, the answers you are seeking exist. They exist in your past and as a part of your present in the form of recurring patterns of contribution.

Job or a Calling – Fulfilling your purpose through work

A Profound Resignation

Pope Benedict Resignation

In February this year, some colleagues and I were fascinated to see on the BBC news that the Pope had resigned. Through the conversation which followed we deliberated about whether it is actually possible for someone in such a position, someone who represents something so symbolic for the catholic faith, could just step down.

At one point during the discussion I stated; “I guess that if it’s a job, then of course he can resign.”

One of my colleagues then quickly responded by saying; “But is it a job? Surely a position like that is not a job, it’s a calling.”

Although I’m sure the debate about the Pope’s decision to step down could continue into the late hours, I was struck by this question of ‘is it a job or a calling?’.

Is it just a job?

In our current professional lives, it is easy to feel sucked into the corporate machine; existing to work 9 to 5 every day (if you’re lucky) to earn enough to satisfy the needs and wants that must be satisfied. At best in this scenario, you enjoy what you do and connect well with the people you work with, resulting in the ‘job’ being a pleasurable way to spend your day. At worst however, you find that your job draws the life out of you, and you feel as though it is slowly eroding your soul. And, I’m sure you could find yourself anywhere along the continuum between these two extremes.

The scenarios above however are only relevant if you believe that what you do is just a job. Throughout our education and life, very few of us have never been taught to see what we do as being more than a job. Very few of us learn that what we spend so much of our lives doing, can transcend the classic definitions of work, and actually represent our purpose – our calling.

Recognise your calling?

Your Calling

A calling represents the purpose for which you were put on to this earth; the purpose of your existence! As explained through the Paradox of Happiness, your calling is represented by the contribution you make to society, the fulfilment of which is what paradoxically helps you live in a state of unconditional happiness.

To recognise your calling it is essentially to start with the question of “Why am I here?” Through this question you can begin to explore three further questions:

  1. What is the difference I want to make in this world?
  2. Who do you want to make this difference to?
  3. How will you make this difference?

It is through these questions that you can begin to focus; you can begin to bring some clarity to your calling.

Fulfilling your Calling through your Work

Often when people first begin to define their calling (or their purpose), they feel a sense of frustration. This stems from the mis-alignment between what they currently do in their work and the difference they are seeking to make to others. While this frustration may feel like it is valid, before taking any drastic action (i.e. handing in your resignation without other options) it is important to first look for opportunities where you can bring your calling to life through your current job. I have been surprised when discussing this with people that the opportunities to bring your calling to life exist all around, but only if we become conscious of them.

Therefore, as you begin the journey of fulfilling your purpose, begin gently. And, like building the momentum in a fly wheel, look for ways in what you currently do day to day to test your calling and to practice.

(Image of Pope Benedict from Guardian.co.uk)

Development Areas are Useful, but the Key is to Play to your Strengths!

“You have Development Areas”

With part of my time spent in the corporate world, I’m constantly amazed at the fixation of many on what they call ‘Development Areas’. As I understand them in how they are described by others, it seems that these development areas are areas of weakness, where you are behaving or operating below the required standard.

Although I agree that we all have these ‘Development Areas’ depending on the context we are in, I don’t agree with our constant focus on them. Often I’ve wondered whether our fixation on ‘Development Areas’ is actually an unconscious way of holding people back and not pushing them forward to fulfil their potential. How many times have you heard? – “You are performing well, but we believe that you have these development areas!”

Fulfil your Potential – Play to your Strengths

In the journey we each progress through in our lives, to live in a state of unconditional happiness it’s critical that we are always consciously focused on fulfilling our potential and living with purpose. It’s true that to do this requires us to constantly explore what we are doing which is holding us back – e.g. our beliefs, behaviours, abilities and attitude – which could be described as ‘Development Areas’. That is, we should constantly explore how we further build or refine our skills, knowledge and/or capability in the context of fulfilling our purpose. But,  this is not the complete picture. To live in a state of unconditional happiness through living with purpose, we need to go beyond the focus on development areas – we each need to play to our strengths!

Playing to our strengths means that we must first know what our strengths are! Often, we get tricked into focusing on development areas, because we don’t always know what we’re good at and what impact these strengths have.

Secondly, when we know what our strengths are, we should explore how we use our strengths to make a positive contribution to society and thus live our purpose!

Finally, in knowing our strengths and how we use them, we should focus on using them more intelligently and more consciously to increase the positive impact we have.

A final word…

When you’re told to focus on your ‘Development Areas’ be sure to listen and understand where extra effort is required to improve in the areas that may be holding you back from living with purpose.

However, beyond this, be sure to play to your strengths. Your strengths represent the things you are good at and through which you will make the most positive contribution to society – your strengths are what will help you fulfil your potential, live with purpose and ultimately live in a state of unconditional happiness! And…the first step in doing this is to figure out what you strengths are!!

Artificial Fragmentation: Transcend to become Whole

Forced Fragmentation

With the pace of modern day life we all struggle to keep in flow. That is, we feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ‘things’ that bombard us in any moment. We struggle to keep our heads above the surface of the metaphorical flood of information, tasks and preconceptions that gush in around us.

To deal with this, we over-rely on on a single approach that we each have been taught by others who’ve also suffered through the same struggle before us; like cutting a picture into a pieces of a puzzle, we divide the components of our existence, artificially forcing the fragmentation of how we define our lives.

In taking this approach, searching for a way to stem the tide, we paradoxically reinforce the situation that got us there in the first place. As we divide and force fragmentation, much like cutting the pieces of the puzzle into even more pieces, we create even more ‘things’ for us to deal with in any moment. Furthermore, in a bid to manage and understand this greater list of ‘things’, we establish false dichotomies that reinforce the fragmentation – for example; Work and Life, Personal and Professional, etc. Then, with a seemingly even great number of individual ‘things’ to focus on, the feeling of drowning becomes stronger and stronger.

Our Desire for Wholeness 

Despite our well practice and deeply engrained pattern of behaviour of fragmenting our lives, deep within each of us as humans is the desire for wholeness – our desire to exist in a state of unbroken flow.

As individual humans, it is true that part of our time in any day consists of work and non-work (what people often refer to as ‘life’ in the work-life balance dichotomy).  However, what we often fail to realise is that despite these perceived fragments, what is common to each of us is ‘us’ – our purest human existence. Recognising this common factor in everyone of our fragments means that we can each forget those fragments and focus on what is common – us! With this focus – being conscious of the commonness of ourselves across each fragment – we can therefore stop worrying about ‘managing’ the fragments, and instead focus just on living as who we are and who we want to be.

Create, then Multiply to Transcend 

To achieve ‘wholeness’, or to become ‘whole’, requires practice. But this is not the usual practice that we are each taught – i.e. stop doing the bad things and do more of the good things. This practice is one of paradoxical intention. Because our desire to fragment our lives is so deeply engrained in our behaviour, we should not try to fight it. Instead we should continue the process. In fact, we should not only continue the process, but we should intensify it by multiplying our efforts and create even more fragments of fragments of fragments.

By creating fragments and then multiplying them further and further, we are able to consciously or semi-consciously approach an infinite number. That is, we are able to transcend our existing clutter of fragments by overwhelming ourselves to  the extent that all our fragments blend into one; one whole that is bound by the commonality of us!

You can become Whole

To overcome the artificial fragmentation that so heavily plagues our modern lives and prevents us from living in a state of flow, we should first focus on the commonality across all our fragments; we must recognise that despite the divisions we create in the definitions of our lives, we as individuals are the common factors across every aspect of our existence. Then, as we become comfortable with the commonality of our existence, we should avoid fighting the desire to fragment, and instead continue creating and multiplying our fragments to the point of of infinity, or wholeness!

Are you a Victim?

There Are Victims Among Us…

Every time I watch this clip I can’t help but think about a few individuals that I’ve helped over the years. These individuals were all good people, with the right motives and all in search of happiness and fulfilment in their lives. However, in addition to these great traits, they also had one thing in common:

They were all Victims!

When I say that they were victims, I mean they allowed themselves to be victims to their circumstance; whenever things didn’t work out the way they’d hoped, they just sat there and complained, rather than taking ownership and action. 

How do we become Victims?

I’m not sure what the true reasons are for why we become victims, it could be both a nature and a nurture thing. However, what I am sure about about is why we continue to be victims into adulthood. And the reason is…

Because we avoid taking responsibility!

The absurdity of the video clip reveals this … ‘Why don’t they just walk up the steps?’ … I’m sure you wondered. That’s exactly right!

Although the video clip above is an extreme example, often when working with vicitms I’ve felt myself asking the same questions of them as we would ask of those people in the clip – Why don’t you take action? Why don’t you take responsibility?

Whenever I ask these questions of victims I always get bombarded with the usual load of excuses, all of which are designed to hold them in the comfortable ‘victim state’ they exist in!

Breaking Free of the Victim Mindset

To break free of the victim mindset is, as I describe it, simple but tough. It’s simple because taking responsibility is as easy as recognising when we’re avoiding responsibility. And then, when we realise that we’re in ‘avoiding’ mode, we seek to make our decisions for ourselves. However, although this seems simple, making the decisions we need to make can sometimes feel quite tough.

Why does it sometimes feel tough to make decisiosn for ourselves? Well…from what I’ve experienced with people, it’s because we’re scared of getting it wrong!

Being Scared of Getting it Wrong

The reason why we become victims and hence avoid taking responsibility is purely about fear. Often this fear is intense and buried deep within our unconscious. And, our fear is about being scared of getting it wrong.

One of the key existential concerns that each human has is the fear of freedom; we are free to choose what we do with our lives in the moment and over the course of our existence. We are therefore responsible for our lives. This on anyone’s measure is quite daunting, because the natural question ask is: what if I get it wrong?

This fear of getting it wrong, as I’ve said is natural. But this is only relevant if we believe there is a right and wrong decision to make. For many of the decisions we have to make we perceive them to be more important than they potentially are – yes, some decisions are critically important, but not all of them!

Throughout our lives we have to make many decisions, some big and some small. For the big decisions we know that they may have a significant impact on our lives. However, this is not a reason to avoid them or defer them to someone else. Because, believe it or not, this is still making a decision.

Stop being a Victim – Take Ownership of Your Life!

To avoid being a victim we must therefore recognise when we need to make decisions and then take ownership of our own lives. This does not mean that the decisions are not tough, but it does help us realise that whether we like it or not, they are our decisions to make!

Don’t allow yourself to be trapped as a victim – conquer your fear by stopping yourself from taking responsibility, so you can begin to take ownership of your life!

Rioters with(out) Purpose

Like many people who live in London and the UK, this week I’ve been horrified to see the events that unfolded across the capital and then across the country. These seemingly senseless acts of criminality and violence, of a magnitude that you wouldn’t expect in a relatively free and peaceful society, seemed to erupt everywhere like spot fires in a dry patch of Forrest.

 Our Desire for Meaning and Blame

Since it all started I’ve had many an interesting conversation with people about how this could happen – what would drive supposedly intelligent human beings to behave in a way worse than animals? As humans it’s a natural desire for us to want to attach meaning to that which doesn’t appear to make sense. And what’s more, we seem to want to find someone to blame! Whether it is the government, the education system, private industry, or the parents of those involved, we just want someone to point the finger at. And with blame attributed, we can then get back to our lives feeling like we’ve attached sufficient meaning to these events that have not made sense.

As I reflect on the conversations that I’ve had and what I’ve read I find myself asking those very same questions as everyone else: How could this happen? What drives human beings to behave like senseless criminals? However, taking a leaf from some great mentors of mine, rather than dwell on these questions in this blog I thought I‘d focus on ideas about how we should do move forward.

The Power of Collective Energy

When thinking how we should move forward the hypothesis I’ve formed is based on energy and purpose. For a moment, let’s ignore the destructive impact of riots and look differently at what was happening. When looking at the footage and hearing the reports, you could see there was a huge explosion of collective energy all directed at a single source or purpose. This energy swept up those around it, causing people to become consumed in the events unfolded. This focused source of collective energy source, much like a laser rather than a light bulb, created results that we could never have comprehended. And, while still suspending our views about actual destructive impact, this collective energy could be seen to be an incredibly powerful force!

The challenge with the collective energy that was created however was that it was directed in the wrong way. For whatever reason, the purpose those individuals were pursuing or attaching themselves to was negative. They had focused their efforts on the simpler ‘selfish’ side of the paradox of happiness, rather than recognizing that true happiness can only come from holding in tension being selfish and selfless at once. The reasons for attaching themselves to a selfish, materialistic and violent purpose, as discussed above, I’m sure are many. However, from my hypothesis, this gives us an opportunity to move forward; an Opportunity through Purpose.

Opportunity through Purpose 

Within any community of people there is always a flow of energy. For the rioters, this flow of energy was incredibly powerful and focused. However, it was also attached to a selfish, materialistic and violent purpose. To create change in any community rather than fight against the flow of energy that already exists, we should seek get within it and then ‘nudge’ it toward a more positive and selfless purpose that’s focused on contributing to making the world a better place. The question that I’m left with is therefore:

How do we get within the flow of energy and engage it to rebuild and develop the communities that it once tried to destroy?

The answer to this I’ve no doubt is tough, but I also believe it’s simple. I believe it is tough because it requires all of us to pull together and suspend some of our beliefs about the events that have unfolded. It is also tough because it requires us to engage more meaningfully with those involved, and seek to work with them to shift the beliefs attached to the flow energy created. However, to do this requires us to avoid perpetuating the blame game. Instead we must suspend our desire for meaning and retribution and engage these people as truly compassionate humans, who like ourselves are just seeking for meaning and purpose in our lives.

Through engaging those who were involved in the riots in this way – through working with them to shift the collective energy toward a positive and more altruistic purpose – I believe that we can not only ‘make the world a better place’, but we can also help them and ourselves gain greater meaning, purpose and happiness in life. After all, despite all the violence and negativity that occurred, there was a ‘Ying’ to the ‘Yang’ with all the people who selflessly took to the streets to clean up the day after. I would hazard a guess that these people, who gave their time to help their fellow man, gained a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness through sweeping the streets than did those trying to steal some new trainers or a TV!

The Paradox of Happiness – Part 2

Purpose = Happiness

The paradox of happiness tells us that to achieve the happiness we each deeply desire we must at the same time be both selfish (focusing on gaining fulfilment) and selfless (focus on giving to others). As with any paradox however, this creates tension. And with tension, comes discomfort. But unlike many other times when we experience discomfort in our lives, this is not one where we should seek to resolve it as quickly as we can by choosing one side over the other. Instead, we must learn to use the paradox and the tension it creates.

Using the Paradox = Learning to Serve!

To use the paradox of happiness it’s critical to realise that the tension it creates is what gives us life – it brings an energy and focus to our existence, which helps us achieve all we desire.  However, to use the paradox of happiness we must be simultaneously selfish and selfless, but at a deeper level than we have ever considered. And to do this, we must:

Learn to Serve! 

Learning to serve means learning to transcend the self-grasping aspects of our own ego and instead reach a deeper level of existence by focusing on the fundamental human needs that each of us have. That is, at the very core of who we are has humans, we each desire to fulfil our potential – to be all we truly can be as humans. And this includes loving and being loved, as connected and flowing parts to the universe. However, often our deeper fundamental human needs are buried under the fears and insecurities perpetuated by our ego.

Our ego is the protective mask we wear each day that holds us in a place of fear and discontent. Our ego is driven by what we perceive society wants us to do, rather than who we truly can be as individual humans. It’s formed from our early childhood out of insecurity, fear and anxiety, and therefore it is a survival mechanism, not a fulfilment mechanism.

Our ego does not seek to serve our deeper human needs, it only seeks to serve itself by perpetuating the pattern of negativity. By living solely through our ego we are therefore trapped in a place where we become a slave to our fears and lower order needs for safety and survival. Our ego buries our deeper human needs.

To transcend our ego and reduce it’s power over us, we must learn to connect with our deeper human needs and become a servant to our selves and to others.

Becoming a Servant 

The noblest act we can perform is to serve another in helping them fulfil their full human potential – to help them be all they can be. And it is through this noble act that we serve ourselves by becoming who we truly can be.

To become a servant requires us to first suspend any judgement we may hold about ourselves or others. Driven by our ego, we are all quick to judge. Learning to suspend this judgement, helps us see ourselves and others as real human beings with the same fundamental deep needs that we all wish to have fulfilled.

With our judgement suspended we can then begin to understand and respond to our and others deepest human needs.  This means learning to immerse yourself in the worlds of others. This allows you to understand who they are as humans and how they are seeking to fulfil the same needs as you. Once you understand this, you will begin to realise that all humans deepest needs are the same, it is just how we seek to fulfil them that changes. With this knowledge you can then respond more consciously by seeking to fulfil the needs that you and others have.

By immersing ourselves in the worlds of others we begin to see ourselves in a different way.  We recognise that our and others’ deepest human needs are the same, and hence we let go of some of the insecurities and fears that we have by becoming a servant to those deeper needs.

You serve others, and in doing so, serve yourself. 

Through Service comes Happiness

The paradox of happiness tells us that to be selfish we must be selfish. To use this paradox and the life giving tension it provides, we must recognise that at the heart of who each of us are as human beings, we have the same needs; we each need to love and be loved, and we each need to fulfil our human potential. Failing to do this will result in us continuing to live a life to others preconceptions, while also remaining in a state of fear and insecurity. Recognising this, and learning to suspend the judgement created by fear from our ego, we can begin to understand and respond to the deepest needs that each of us as humans have.

To achieve the happiness therefore requires us to become servants to the deepest and purest human needs of love, compassion and fulfilling our potential…

As it is through Service comes Happiness!