How many times have you thought, if I could just figure out what I’m good at, I could figure out my purpose? Or, if I could just find a passion, I can find my purpose. You’ve surfed the web for articles, you’ve bought the books, watched the episodes of Super Soul Sunday and taken in a few hours of Ted Talks. And ultimately, you’ve found yourself frustrated, and still not completely clear as to what it is you should be doing with your life. It seems to come so easily for some people, and to be quite honest, that annoys the hell out of you. It’s not that you’re not happy for them, it’s just that you can’t understand why this whole Purpose thing seems to be working for them, and not for you.
Well, what has ultimately lead those people down their paths of purpose is the skill they’ve acquired to listen.
People are capable, at any time in their lives of doing what they dream of.
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
If you haven’t read The Alchemist, don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you here. And if you have read it, and did not find it so moving, I suggest going back and reading it again—without the cynicism that creeps into our hearts when we watch or read something those around us have deemed “life changing.”
Coelho’s allegory provides a beautiful adventure that sums up finding purpose (and ultimately success) by sharpening one’s ability to listen.
This has everything to do with being a business owner, a storyteller, an altruist and a creative person. I want to take this time to talk about strategies for applying this particularly beautiful idea to your life.
Listening is serious business. It’s one of the first things we’re taught how to do. Not to be confused with hearing, hearing is natural, listening is learned. If listening can be taught, it can be learned, which means it can get better and better with practice. So, what do I mean by listening?
Each morning we are faced with a series of mundane decisions strung together to make our day—and if we’re not careful, we will begin to see the mundane in every moment. We will lose sight of the extraordinary that honestly lies in wait with every breath we take. It’s how we wake up in December and say things like “where did the year go?! It’s already December!” The year went where the year always goes, you miss it when you’re not intentionally listening to each day you’re given. If we take the time to listen, we can hear and see the extraordinary and the fullness that is available to us everyday.
To spin the Coelho quote another way, I’d say this “There is no shortage of opportunities for daring in our lives.”
This past weekend, I tagged along with my honey (who is also a small business owner) to a seminar, and we spent about twenty-four hours in a room full of people who are passionate about their craft, hungry for change, and more importantly, ready to apply methods of change to see results. We took notes, laughed, listened to speakers, faced our fears (in some pretty interesting exercises!), and walked away exhausted, but refreshed. That’s sounds like an oxymoron, but I think if you’ve ever spent a weekend on a retreat where you take time being honest with yourself, you know what I mean when I write that.
We spent the weekend with an open heart in a familiar space—the space where you pull the metaphysical into the real. The space where you take really amazing quotes written by really amazing people, and you learn bit by bit how to actually apply those principles to your life!
This is what I mean by listening. This is the “secret sauce” of those who are living their lives in their purpose. They are listening to what the Universe is telling them, and they are making decisions based on what they hear. Sounds all floaty and in the clouds right? Well it’s that type of thinking that prevents us from listening. For me, I listen through prayer and intentional awareness of at least one moment in my day. Honestly, there are seriously days that ago by and I’m at a loss as to what I did with the day, but I’m a work in progress, so let’s work together.
There are the quiet moments that are available to most of us, those moments are usually just as we’re waking up or just before we fall asleep. These moments belong to us, it up to us what we do with them. If you pray, if you meditate, if you practice your breathing—these are your moments to listen, and reflect on the signs and wonders that have been brought to you that day. Turn off your cell, turn off your television, shut down your iPad, and even if it’s only for ten minutes, focus on the day ahead or the day behind you, and seek the moments that made you feel the most. There is power in those moments, there is something important behind those moments.
When you are working to develop a skill, you study. As you work to strengthen your listening skills, go back and re-assess the books, talks, conversations, films, poems, etc. that you feel brought you nothing. Don’t be so literal! It will distract you from the most important lessons if you continue to allow yourself to get caught up in the literality of things.
Even if it’s just for one hour a day. You will be amazed at what you will learn when you spend time with yourself on purpose.
Ha! Even if it’s just for one hour a day. You will be amazed at what you learn, when you spend time in the company of positive people on purpose.
This has basically been said throughout each of the points above, but it is a crucial step toward finding your purpose. If you allow each day to carry you where it carries you, with no thought as to why or where you are going, you will miss your opportunities to listen. You have to be intentional about your time, your energy, your friends—everything!
The most successful people are able to make decisions. As we run our businesses, as we manage our nonprofits, as we paint our paintings and write our books, it is important that we know how to listen, and from there, make decisions. Once we’ve made our decision, it’s time to listen again as the Universe works to “conspire in helping us reach our goals.”
If you have read this, and found truth it in (either because you can identify or because it’s just what you needed to hear), then great. If you have read this, and thought “there’s no mention of God,” “there’s no mention of prayer,” “how am I supposed to listen when I don’t even know what I’m listening to,” then you have missed the point. And I ask that you pause, release your cynicism, and go back and read the post again. Do not be so literal.
QUICK NOTE: While you're listening, it is important to remember, that our purpose (any of us) is not self-serving. The focus is to listen to what you are being told, not to focus on yourself.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.