Saturday, February 25, 2012

How are your Ripples?

In my recent post, A Date with your Right Brain, I encouraged you to find your passion, or your purpose in life.

You might ask, "How do I find my purpose?" or "What is my purpose?"

There are countless books, websites, blogs and articles offering ways to help you find your purpose. All of which give you different angles regarding purpose; finding it; living it and loving it. From my perspective, it's all good with one exception: it's all focused the wrong way. Today, I'd like to challenge the common definition and possibly influence your thoughts to think about it differently.

As I sit through funeral after funeral, I hear stories of the deceased person and how they lived their lives. How they influenced others around them. It's my observation that a life well lived, not only is fulfilling to one's self, but to those around you. The vast majority of purpose-focused material is all centered around what the reader does with his or her life. It is almost always presented as something that someone finds and then acts on for him or herself. Even in the case of someone's purpose being to help others, the focus is on the individual doing stuff. The whole goal seems to be so you know what to do. The focus is inward.

As I think about true purpose, I think it always points outward. It points away from us and toward others. I don't believe that purpose is centered on "what we're supposed to do with our life". I believe true purpose is about the effect "what we do" has on others. It's about the transformation, influence and impact "what we do" creates in the lives of those who cross our path.

It's like a ripple created when a pebble is dropped in a still pond. The real effect is not in the pebble being dropped, it's the ripple. The pebble could be defined as "what we do". The pebble hits the water in an instant and is gone. The ripple can last and last. It's the ripple that matters.... not the pebble.

It's great to be able to say at the end of the day " I was exactly who I wanted to be". But none of us live in a vacuum. We interact with others all the time. We live in a society where we are naturally inclined to be part of something greater than ourselves. We are social creatures. And therefore, we are not the beginning or the end of the journey. So as I prepare to leave behind me one part of my life and move into the next part, I plan to be more aware of the ripples.

At my retail job, I have been bombarded with praise, as of late. It seems that no one wants me to leave and that I am irreplaceable. They are all grateful for the two days a week that I will remain for now. And they want to take this opportunity to gather as much knowledge as possible from me. And with that, I've decided that I will not just teach how to do something, but WHY I do it. It is my hope that I can eventually walk away from the job knowing that my methods will continue and be taught to future generations of retail drones.

And as I work more with grieving families, it is my hope that my work will touch them and help them through the difficult times that death can bring. And in turn, be able to be there for each other in the years of mourning that will follow.

What do you think? How have you been thinking about purpose? Is it inward or outward focused? Is there a difference to you? How might this thought process change how you think about purpose? How are your ripples?

6 comments:

MorningAJ said...

It's interesting that you ask about inward/outward focus. Most of my life I've tried to look after other people but a lot of time it's turned out less than perfect.
Some time ago I decided to stop trying to please others and start pleasing myself. Oddly, I've been much happier and my relationships have been more successful too.

Jim said...

My ripples are very well, thank you! lol
Sorry Stew, I couldn't resist! I used to focus my purpose in life more outwardly.....helping others before I even considered myself. A psychologist suggested to me years back to begin to learn to focus on myself more. It was a very difficult transition for someone who was wired to do otherwise. After a lot of ups and downs I began to see how important this change could be for someone. I still have to work on that ocassionally. Great food for thought Stew!

Stew said...

Great testimony, AJ

Stew said...

As suggested with AJ's comment, by focusing on herself, all her relationships have been better. Thus, she is having a lasting impression on more people. It's something that must go hand in hand. By focusing on ourselves, we can be of more help to those around us.
It's like the safety speech on a plane. 'Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others"

laurak@forestwalkart said...

my comment is kind of a ditto to what morningAJ said. i have spent such a big part of my life...doing whatever i had to do...to PLEASE others...help others. i would spread myself too thin...i wanted to...NEEDED to...feel appreciated. but eventually that appreciation turned into being taken advantage of. i needed to start to DO for myself. of course first i had to FIND myself. ha. more of an inward and outward mix. a balance. the hardest part of all this has always been in my personal life..to DO for myself first...oh, i'm babbling. ...my work...my occupation...i love what i do. i'm confident in that. i help people. i help them feel good. THAT makes me feel good. it's a give & take. it's just taken me what seems like almost my whole life...to love ME, not just what i DO. LOVE me? did i really say that...i'm working on it...

Stew said...

Very nicely put Laura. And feel free to babble all you want.