Flavour of the Month Purpose & Meaning
FLAVOUR OF THE MONTH – The path to a life of meaning and purpose is paved with small daily actions!
The trouble is that ‘life’ simply seems to get in the way. There’s just so much that needs to be done – and so little time for innovation and change.
In our exploration of wellness, we have identified qualities of life experience that make all the difference to living vitally. There’s physiological wellness, requiring a healthy body and there’s mental wellness requiring a healthy mind. There’s social wellness, inviting healthy relationships, and, of course, there’s environmental wellness, that needs a healthy living space.
When you make resolutions about improving your life, all those factors need to be included. And vitally, if you’ve slipped up, please don’t berate yourself and simply ‘wait for next year’. Decide to take some small steps – day by day. You see there is a further factor – and this relates to your ‘will’. That is the willingness to ‘go for’ what is important for you. And this capacity is ultimately related to a sense of purpose and meaning.
Having said that we come to a further vital factor of wellness to examine, namely – spiritual wellness. Some folks simply see this as a belief in a higher power and the observance of religious or spiritual practices. That works for many people, often ensuring a sense of certainty and security. But for others the idea of spirituality is a bit ‘far out’ – even ‘unscientific’. In this secular modern age of rapidly advancing science with its mind-boggling technology one can understand that perspective.
But wait a minute! When we talk of spiritual wellness we are not necessarily talking about angels or God. We are talking about a deep sense of personal mission and purpose – a sense of meaningfulness. It’s about having a reason for being alive beyond simply existing and hopefully having some fun in the process. This is about that sense of joyfulness that comes from living purposefully. And this, again, brings us to those broken resolutions.
Martha Beck, has identified two different selves; one she calls the ‘social self’, and the other the ‘essential self’. The social self is that part that has been conditioned by your life circumstances; how you have been brought up. That’s the self that says “I really should…or I really must…or I really need to…!”. The essential self is that part that represents your unique potential; who you can naturally become. You were not given a handbook on that when you were born, nor were your parents and teachers. They were doing their best for you. You must discover that unique potential for yourself, in the process of living your daily life.
Now you might go to an astrologer to find your star sign – and that’s OK. But this is something more unique to who you are. And here’s a clue to its discovery. Robert Dilts describes the evolution of the human self. We can say it evolves from being dominated by the ‘social self’, what society wants you to do, to becoming governed by the essential self, what your true nature wants to do. And that, Robert shows, happens in stages.
First you become aware of your environment and adapt your action to the context. You might go and work for a new firm and find a way to fit in. Then you become aware of your actions and strive to improve them. You might educate yourself further to acquire improved skills and competencies. This is still the work of the social self; striving to achieve in accordance with the norms of society. Then later, as you become aware of your personal values, you gradually develop a new quality of discernment. You begin to determine what works for you personally, and you set resolutions in line with your own plans.
Be aware that you will now face a test. You could very well be challenged by people with different beliefs about who you are, and what you should be doing. You are also going to be challenged by your own beliefs. Once you have a sense of your personal values, breaking through the belief barrier is an essential part of the change for the social self to the essential self. One part of you will ask:” …is this right? …can I do it?… what happens if I fail? Here’s a clue; your social self is more likely to be the doubter, and your essential self is more likely to be inspired when you make resolutions and choose to act on your values.
How do you identify your values? You become increasingly aware of what excites you in your daily life experience. What is it that draws you to respond? That which excites you negatively, giving rise to an experience of anger, or anxiety, or repugnance, is more likely to be responsive to the values of your social self. That which excites you to act purposefully and joyfully is probably more responsive to the values of your essential self. A deeper sense of self-examination and self-awareness is part of the journey to your essential self. It is also the way to increasingly live a life of meaning and purpose. That is spiritual wellness.
From this place of spiritual wellness, you can re-evaluate your resolutions. You can make choices about your physical wellbeing, your mental wellbeing, your social wellbeing, and your environmental wellbeing. And you can take decisive action to do something about improving your experience in those contexts. In so doing you will bring a more joyful and creative new you to your community – to the benefit of all.
If you would like to talk to someone confidentially about taking small steps to leading a life of meaning and purpose call our helpline to set up a free session with one of our skilled counsellors on 08002BWELL (0800229355)