This post is about becoming the kind of person you long to be. Regardless of what you do with your life - your direction in life - your purpose is about the meaning your life has, or will have. It is based on such things as your character, the values that define you, and the things that give meaning to your life.
The aim of this reflection is to help you:
I live in central Victoria on the edge of the town called Maryborough. I’m local to the events of a memoir which has deeply affected me since my early 20s, Raimond Gaita’s Romulus My Father. I highly recommend this beautiful book, which was also made into a film, and often loan a copy to my clients. I do that for many reasons, but one of them is the sense of life that Romulus embodied and which Rai communicates in different ways through the book.
The blurb on the back of the book says “Romulus Gaita fled Yugoslavia aged thirteen, and came to Australia with his wife and their son soon after World War II. Tragic events were to overtake the boy’s life, but Raimond Gaita has an extraordinary and moving tale to tell of growing up with his father in country Victoria. Romulus, My Father is the much-loved story of how a compassionate, honest man taught his son the meaning of living a decent life.”
That last sentence captures the beauty of the book. Half way through the story Rai writes, “The philosopher Plato said that those who love and seek wisdom are clinging in recollection to things they once saw. On many occasions in my life I have had the need to say, and thankfully have been able to say: I know what a good workman is; I know what an honest man is; I know what friendship is; I know because I remember these things in the person of my father.”
Reflection on such people in your life
I'd like you to find a quiet place, open up your journal or the notes in your phone, and reflect on and write about these questions:
Who has been this for your in your life?
In what ways?
What were the values they embodied?
How did those values influence you?
How has it helped you in hard times?
How has it helped you in good times, to make life good?
There may be various people who have done this for you, and each of them may posses different virtues to the others, so feel free to reflect on more than one person. Take your time with this, returning later today to this reflection if need be - the point of what you are reading is to gain clarity and to change, rather than to walk away with some insight that I've handed out.
Now it’s time for another meditative, imaginative reflection.
Again, go to a quiet place. For a moment, reflect on the mystery of time. Notice that what happened twenty seconds ago is now in the past. And that the sentence you just read is now in the past. And that this word...is now in the past. Time is spinning by. Can you feel it in your body, the way it is flowing and passing like a stream?
In the last post we stepped into the future, to your deathbed. We will step into the future again, to your deathbed, but we will keep going. That night of mortal agony passes and now you are dead. Let’s keep going: days pass, your funeral happens, a year is past, and now ten years have gone by since you have died. The world is a decade along in fashion, politics, and life. You are a mere photo on a shelf.
Imagine that you have great-grandchildren. Imagine that they are asking about you ten years after you have died. About what kind of person you were. Somebody is answering their questions. You can hear every word. They are talking about who you were from 2019 onwards, because for some reason you became a different person from that time on. It's good to hear the things they are saying.
Imagine the details. What was it about you that they are admiring? What gave your life its purpose and meaning? It could be your humour, your passions, your kindness, a project to change something in the world, a moral quality, or something else.
When you are ready, write down the things they are saying.
Take you time doing that before moving on.
Once you have finished writing what they have said, consider what values are expressed in the description of the kind of person you were.
What made you proud?
What do you wish was different?
What do you need to change about yourself to become that more that person?
What do you need to do differently?
How did your strengths show themselves in that way of being.
Now try to reduce the things that give purpose to your life to a short-list, a few that capture it all.
By boiling them down, you can formulate them as goals:
The purpose of my life is to _____ (do or be a certain way).
What positive thing could you be doing habitually, a year from now, to be on the way to being more that kind of person?
For example, “the purpose of my life is to be a kind and honest man. To do that I have to
In the last post I discussed the process of setting out your direction in life as a set of life goals, then breaking down those long-term goals into medium-term aims, such as what you will be doing in a year on the way to that goal, and then breaking these medium-term aims down into short-term habits and actions you can start today. I suggest you do the same with your purpose in life: get clear on it, then make a project of it. Commit, take action, and make it real. You can transform yourself into the man you want to be, you just have to live intenionally like this, and take action.