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January 18, 2016

Purpose over dreams: Three ways to live a fulfilled life in 2016

How to find your purpose and live in the moment

I don’t know about you, but 2015 dealt me one hell of a hand.

There were definitely some new heights of hope and promise reached, but the greatest lessons and realizations came in valleys of challenge. 

It was in those valleys that I, the determined entrepreneur and relentless dreamer, was reminded that while dreams are powerfully motivating, they can — and will — overwhelm you if you don’t maintain a healthy perspective. And by healthy perspective, I mean placing more of the focus on your purpose and not your dream.

Your dream is long term and requires an inconceivable amount of time, energy, resources and dedication to be fulfilled. You can consistently work at building your dreams for months and years, waking to a to-do list each day that never really seems to get any shorter (by the way: it never will). This may leave you feeling you don’t have enough help, support, favor, faith, resources, strength, etc. Eventually, that to-do list becomes a leash, dragging you in every which direction, with your dream always just a bit too far to grasp.

Cue the worry, stress, frustration, and self-doubt.

Your purpose, however, is lived daily and brings about feelings of worthiness, confidence, and assurance.

Imagine waking up each day with the intent of serving whatever purpose you’ve been wakened to fulfill, instead of just checking off a to-do list. You prepare for your day and move throughout it always aware that in every interaction with another person, every task completed, and every message sent by your inner voice, you lived your purpose for that day.

Where the to-do list of a dream creates a leash, the intentional actions of a life lived on purpose creates a lever. 

This leverage will help you to fulfill that dream, but in a much more authentic and less stressful way. A life lived on purpose provides you the patience to endure the process. Why? Because you know with each day lived, there’s not one spent in vain. Whereas when solely focused on the dream, you’re likely to kick yourself for not accomplishing everything on today's to-do list. Dreams require space and time, and purpose gives that to you in addition to the gift of peace of mind.

Now no, purposed living isn’t always as glamorous as your dream may be, but it prepares you for the other side of that dream -- the side that requires you to actually possess some wisdom, skills, experience and confidence to maintain the dream as your reality.

So what are the warning signs that you’re more focused on your dreams than your purpose?

You're living for someday, instead of today

You have a hard time staying present enough to see what today has to offer. It’s great that you’re passionate and excited for your dream. However, you may start to feel suffocated on a day-to-day basis because the manifestation of it feels so far away. This can become an unhealthy fixation. You’re living in the future, running from the past and absent in the present. Fulfillment can’t live and thrive in those conditions, love. 

You're getting ahead of yourself

You’re so busy worrying about tomorrow that you forget you still have to deal with today. How are you going to handle today? I’ll take you to church real quick via Matthew 6:34: "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.” Feeling overwhelmed leads to you feeling under-equipped, neither of which are really providing the necessary fuel to arrive at your dreams in a happy and healthy state. 

Oftentimes, even when you feel you don’t know your purpose, you’ve been living some form of it since birth. 

You're afraid of change

And I don’t mean healthy fear, the kind that fuels you to fight for what you want instead of running from it. I believe that a fear of change generally indicates that somewhere within you, there’s a vision of what you think life “should” look like or a plan for what “should” happen. Which, when you think about it, is extremely limiting and sucks all the possibilities out of life.

With these warning signs in mind, how can you redirect your focus to ensure your days are more fulfilling, and that you’re really tapping into your purpose?

Realize it's not all about you

Recognize that it’s not all about you and your dreams. As human beings, we share a certain interconnectedness. Our lives and the decisions that we make are like dominos; what we do affects someone else in some capacity either now or in the future. So, chances are that everything that you’re experiencing is for someone else too. Accept that things are not happening to you, they’re happening for you … and for those who are watching or will come into contact with your life story. It’s not all about you, and your purpose ensures that. 

Discover how others see you

Pay attention to the kinds of feedback that people give you, both verbal and nonverbal. I spent 2015 paying a lot of attention to how people introduced me, spoke of and to me, and interacted with me. I looked at them as potential clues to how my purpose may have been receiving some oxygen to survive and grow without me even noticing. Oftentimes, when you feel you don’t know your purpose, you’ve been living some form of it since birth. You simply weren’t aware enough within yourself to actually notice. But that doesn’t mean other people weren't speaking to your purpose long before you ever thought to. 

Set boundaries for yourself, and others

You (and others) may place demands on yourself to do certain things you believe will bring you closer to your dreams. The "Catch-22" here is that something can bring you closer to your dreams but take you further away from your purpose. You are the only person responsible for distinguishing between the two and then setting the boundaries necessary to maintain a fine balance. 

Now, with all of this in mind, I hope 2016 will prove to be a year in which we all transcend the limits (self-imposed or otherwise) in critical areas of our lives.