Inside: Whether on the mountaintop or in a valley, we can live a life of purpose. One moment at a time. Here are 5 tenets for living a life of purpose.
I put in a great deal of energy thinking through my direction and primary goals for the new year. I spent many hours in honest reflection, life management binder and worksheets strewn about me, working to identify where I could cull and simplify and work smarter not harder. I felt purposeful and excited about what lay ahead.
And then, on the last day of the year, it began and intensified from there. Upheaval. Painful circumstances. Countless invitations to practice staying in the moment, loosening my grip, and remembering to breathe.
It felt like life was thrown off kilter.
You’re imperfect. Life is messy. Show up anyway.
This morning, though, a thought came to me. What if life was not thrown off kilter at all – it’s just that I often forget I am not in control. I plan and dream and naively assume that my plans are as life should be. I write out a script for myself and “supporting cast” that seems lovely – a perfect fit for my hopes and life vision – and when the director takes things in a new direction I feel angry, fearful, and shocked.
But I was never in control to begin with. And I forgot.
I don’t control earthquakes and mass shootings. I don’t get to choose the number of someone’s days or who gets sick and who does not. No one asks me to help decide who gets born into privilege or poverty, into opportunity or an uphill battle.
I don’t know why everything breaks at once and when it rains it pours or how to fix people’s pain and make life feel worthwhile.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds and never have. This is way past my pay-grade.
Maybe my life was not thrown off kilter – it’s just that I only ever had light for a tiny bit of the path. We’re all just doing our best with the light we have.
This will have to be enough.
I awoke this morning with a sudden flood of anxiety – the kind that makes your veins run cold. And before I opened my eyes I gently asked myself, “Krista, what do you control?” and began drafting a mental list. It was fairly short.
I control my response: how I love people and listen, how I treat and talk to myself, how I use the resources at my disposal and if I’ll stay open to joy and hope in the middle of the storm. Whether I’ll rail against what is or do my best to still my frantic heart and mind and simply live present in each moment.
I’m reminded that living a life of purpose is not dependent upon what season of life we’re in. It doesn’t require perfection or false confidence nor hiding from the very real and painful emotions that are part of being human.
I went looking for hope this morning and remembered this handful of tenets of purposeful living that I’ve gleaned over the years and which help me me feel anchored on the mountaintop or in the valley.
5 TENETS for living a LIFE OF PURPOSE
1. This is real life – it’s messy, unpredictable, painful and beautiful
I need to stop expecting perfect or orderly. In theory I know life will never be even “near perfect” but if I’m honest I still long for it. Although I’m no stranger to the valley, I am quick to forget that real life isn’t all that predictable. There is ebb and flow – light and dark – sometimes in rhythm but often not. I don’t have to delight in every circumstance but I am invited to tilt into the season at hand and trust that I have put down deep roots and they will hold me fast while the winds blow and seas roar.
2. When I know my core values, life is never truly thrown off course
In the seasons that feel light and fun and when life feels darker and scary – in seasons of abundance and those of need, knowing my primary values creates an anchor for me. In the same way, living clear on my mission for my work helps me see that even if my level of productivity or engagement shifts, my mission does not falter. I see that my life isn’t about what I do or accomplish but who I am and how I show up to life in every moment. I find comfort in this.
3. Regularly paring back to the essentials helps me focus on what matters
I’m grateful for the work I’ve done to identify the top 20% of rhythms or habits that keep my life and work from crumbling in valley seasons. I don’t love cancelling consults or commitments, but when I need to pare back I already have a sense of where best to focus my attention. Sometimes I drop the ball or miss out, I disappoint people, I put certain desires on hold – and it all feels uncomfortable to me. But there is peace in living clear on who and what matter most.
4. Fighting against what is creates far more pain than surrender
There is a human instinct to fix, offer advice, judge, or to try to rush through a process. Instead I choose to listen. I practice listening to others without false promises of a better tomorrow or harmful platitudes. I listen to myself without judgment, acknowledging both joy and fear. I’m allowed to be real about the messiness of it all and to hold space for others as they find their way. I don’t find the concept of surrender easy but releasing my grip makes room for hope and curiosity and helps me breathe.
5. I can always find beauty if I’ll look for it
I’m not interested in pretending or relentless positivity. I think truth-telling is one of the first steps to freedom and healing. But I am also, unequivocally, a sold-out believer in “both/and.” In the idea that we can hold two competing tensions or truths in the same hand, that life is neither all good or all bad. Even when I fear my heart might crack in two and never, ever heal again, I can force my brain to find something to be grateful for. Consciously choosing my focus is non-negotiable for a life of purpose.
In my Spring Mindfulness Journal I penned a heart-felt declaration that I will embrace each ordinary day as a treasure to be opened with gusto and wholeheartedly enjoyed.
If all is well in your world give yourself permission to really taste it, rest in it, and celebrate. If you’re in a valley right now, hold on tight and remember you’re not alone and no season lasts forever. Life is a tangle of heartache and sorrow, wrestling, sweetness, and incredible beauty. I believe life is a gift.
Whether on the mountaintop or in a valley, we can live a life of purpose. One moment at a time.
NOW WHAT? If you want to put down deeper roots that will help you walk with hope, purpose, and even joy on the mountaintop or in the valley, check out Show up Afraid: a self-guided Course. In 8 modules it will help you grow in self-awareness and self-compassion, practice new ways of seeing and thinking, and help you craft a joyful and sustainable life.