Divining Purpose ...

Life is an endless series of choices; each moment presents us with unique opportunity to alter the way in which our life unfolds. So how do we tell if the path we have set ourselves on, is one that will produce a fulfilling and happy future? With so much choice available to us, we are so much better off than our distant ancestors right? Wrong; at least in my opinion. Happiness is not, in my experience, an outgrowth of choice; in fact, too much choice in certain situations can make life more stressful than it needs to be. 

Happiness, as I have come to understand it, always seems to come hand in hand with having a sense of purpose. Think back to when you have planned a holiday (or an adventure); it is often the case that the planning gives as much pleasure as the actual event itself. The reason is simple; as we plan and envisage how our future may unfold, as we marinate in the possibilities the adventure might bring, we are bolstering ourselves with a strength born of purpose.

So when you choose, when you decide which course of action to take, ask yourself this: are you setting yourself on a path that fills you with a sense of purpose? For our distant ancestors, having a sense of purpose afforded survival value. If our hypothetical ancestor of old was skilled at hunting, fire-making, story-telling (or whatever) he or she would have gained greater standing or prestige within the tribe and would more likely enjoy a greater share of benefits. Being purposeful was a way to improve their odds of being successful in their chosen endeavour; being purposeful afforded personal identity and approval from others. Most of us are hard-wired to reap pleasure from those basic instincts that are necessary for survival (food, sex, etc). I would place having a sense of purpose a very close second to these fundamental laws of nature. A sense of purpose drives us, defines us and imbues us with happiness. 

John Will 2012


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