Inside: Purposeful living – living on purpose rather than on autopilot – makes it possible to build a life that feels like home.
I want a life that feels like home. I want to feel safe, at home, and joyful in my body and my life.
The kind of purposeful life I want is aligned with my core values, needs, and desires. It honours my wiring, respects the season of life I’m in, and expresses the truth of my core beliefs and the kind of world I want to live in.
It’s not a fairy tale ideal but a life that involves truth-telling, questioning, stretching, healing, coming face to face with the reality of what is, taking responsibility for that which I can control and choosing my response to the rest of it.
Life isn’t static or linear, so I can’t grow complacent. My vision for life must also evolve. In some cases it morphs into something far more beautiful than I ever could have imagined for myself.
The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete. It is defined as ‘an undivided or unbroken completeness’, or ‘a state of being complete or whole’.iom.net
self-awareness, self-compassion and imperfect action lay the foundation for purposeful living
Feeling at home in our life is only possible if we are in integrity (or ‘integrity in-progress’ given that we’re all in progress). To live with integrity requires us to be clear on our values, on what we hold as most important and where we want to go, and to maintain congruency between what we say we want or believe and the choices we make.
If we don’t know, like and trust ourself, we’ll look outside of ourself for direction and approval. This doesn’t mean we won’t have a good life, it just means it likely won’t ever truly feel like home.
Likewise, if we don’t know what home feels like, or we can’t find a sense of home within ourselves, it will be hard to settle in. In some cases, nervous system regulation work, therapy, or other somatic work can help us ‘find home’ within ourselves or feel safe and at home in our bodies and lives.
As we get to know and befriend our True Self, the more we’re able to craft a life that works with instead of against our wiring. It begins to more honestly and fully reflect the truth of our core values and of who and how we choose to be in the world (or the kind of person we want to be).
This level of self-awareness and self-compassion strengthens us so we can consistently practice imperfect action as we get our hands and heart dirty in building the life we want.
Self-awareness and self-compassion together illuminate the path ahead in a way we don’t experience when we’re focused on pleasing other people, trying to keep up or measure up, growing weary trying to walk in someone else’s shoes, or comparing ourselves and believing our mean and fearful inner critic when it tells us we are not enough.
We cast a vision and loosen our grip
Crafting a life is a journey, a process, not an exercise we check off a list. It necessitates breathing room and permission for practicing, iteration, listening deeply, slowly becoming. It’s not always a pretty or comfortable process but we have the privilege of saying yes to the adventure anyway.
There’s much in life that we cannot control, so we must learn to cast a vision and then loosen our grip in order to remain agile through the twists and turns, and different seasons and experiences, of a meaningful and beautiful life.
At some point each of us finds ourselves in a season in which we are invited (or forced) to let go of all pretense, of clinging to how life used to be or how we thought life would be. To make peace with the life in front of us. Dr. Rick Hanson speaks to the idea of ‘welcoming this life vs fighting against it.’
There is no perfect life – there are many beautiful possible paths, all of them messy. A purposeful life might look, sound, and feel quite differently one season to the next.
When faced with painful change, loss, or grief, we can challenge our assumption that messy and imperfect always equates with bad. Or that different means worse. Sometimes different is simply different. Not always, but sometimes.
I feel sad when I come to the end of an amazing book. I wish it could go on forever. I miss the characters I must say goodbye to. But then I pick up another delicious book and become captivated anew. The two stories are not at war or in competition with each other – they simply bring different gifts in season.
Loving the new story doesn’t mean I haven’t also loved the first.
Purposeful living: focus on living ‘on purpose’ instead of finding your one purpose
I believe it’s important to distinguish between the idea of finding “a purpose” vs living “on purpose.”
A sense of contribution/being engaged with the world or sense of purpose is linked to resilience, mind-body health, and happiness. But when we live overly focused on trying to uncover an elusive “life purpose” we might forget to simply live “on purpose.”
If we can’t nail down one big life purpose we might believe that something is wrong with us and fall prey to comparison or feelings of not good enough. We might believe the story that everyone else has figured out the secret to life and we’re still trying to remember where we put our car keys.
But remember, we’re all wired differently, our brains work differently, and we engage in the world differently. Diversity is beautiful and needed.
Living on purpose, is quite simple, and accessible to all of us. We live on purpose simply by walking out our values. We can do this in big and small ways, in every season, no matter what else is happening around us. This is something we can control.
So, purpose matters but how we think about it might matter even more.
Our mindset is responsible for much of the way we experience the life in front of us and our emotional reality (there’s a bidirectional relationship between mind and body). We need to examine the stories we believe.
RELATED: In Search of Simple: Field Notes From Near and Far on Slow Living. Learn more here.
We cannot control everything that happens to us or around us but we can face life head-on, and we can keep watering our roots of self-awareness, self-compassion, and imperfect action. These roots help us live anchored and on purpose even in the middle of the wildest storm.
We can build the mental and emotional capacity and self-trust required to show up every single day on purpose. We grow into the strength, wisdom, and bravery that we need for every season in action, not before.
Mapping a joyful vision for our life, and feeling safe, at home, and joyful in our body and life takes work. But living adrift takes even more.
*Originally published Dec 13, 2020. Updated Feb 14, 2023.