Greater Purpose: The Fourth Pillar

Greater Purpose

Find your purpose.  What’s it mean? Having been asked this more times than I can remember, I find it interesting that for years the question left me scratching my head.  Over the years one of the cardinal themes that arose was my lack of purpose. For instance, it was the main reason I fell under the spell of drugs and alcohol.  I looked for purpose in the form of a drink or a drug and where did it get me? Hopelessly addicted to a wide array of substances and committed to unhealthy, unfulfilling relationships.  Have you ever felt your life is a daily mundane routine, that you’re on the wrong path, run down, or depleted? There is one solution to this insanity and it’s finding Greater Purpose. However, what does it mean to have a greater purpose?

ODs Fourth Pillar to Balance, Finding Greater Purpose, means to address this. Basically, it’s finding what brings joy into your life. Greater Purpose means finding what you believe to be greater than your individual self. Part of happiness is finding Greater Purpose because it gives us something to strive for that’s bigger than ourselves.  Human beings are social creatures and since the beginning of humanity we have sought out that which is bigger than ourselves.

Over the course of history this has shown to be evident through religion, politics, and war. We’re constantly seeking something collectively greater than the individual. Our Greater Purpose is how we find meaning in our lives, by contributing or being part of something that is bigger than ourselves.  When we’re younger this can be contributing to a sports team, maybe we find our greater purpose in being a fan of a sports team. A number of people have expressed to me their Greater Purpose are their children.

What is Greater Purpose

Do you ever feel lost or like something is missing in your life? When looking for purpose it’s a good idea to start looking where it tends to arise. It’s a common belief that purpose emerges out of our special gifts and unique set of skills.  Purpose isn’t something we make up, it’s always been there. Each and every one of us were born with a purpose. We simply need to uncover it in order to find our most meaningful life. Ask yourself what you love to do and what comes easy to you? Remember it takes work to improve your talents. After all, even the most skilled ballplayers have to practice, however it should feel natural and be enjoyable.  

While purpose surfaces out of the special gifts that set us apart from one another- that’s only part of the equation. “It also grows from our connection to others, which is why a crisis of purpose is often a symptom of isolation. Once you find your path, you’ll almost certainly find others traveling along with you, hoping to reach the same destination—a community.” – Jeremy Adam Smith.  Ideally, before we can find Greater Purpose we should identify purpose.  With that being said, purpose isn’t a prerequisite to Greater Purpose.  Greater Purpose is simply contributing to a connection which you value above yourself.  This could be found in the halls of Alcoholics Anonymous, in church, from doing volunteer work, and through family or children.  On the other hand, it can be sought in drugs, alcohol, and work although these venues don’t often yield the same success rate.

Why is it so Hard?

Douglas LaBie, a Contributor for the Huffpost in the fields of Business psychology, psychotherapy & writing had this to say about the Themes Of People Who Find Their Purpose:

There are commonalities among those who find their true purpose for being. One major theme is that they aren’t very preoccupied with self-interest, in their ego-investments in what they do. That can sound contradictory. How can you find your life purpose if you’re not focused on yourself? The fact is, when you’re highly focused on yourself, with getting your goals or needs met — whether in your work or relationships — your purpose becomes obscured. Your ego covers it, like clouds blocking the sun. Self-interest, or ego in this sense, is part of being human, of course. It’s something that requires effort and consciousness to move through and let go of, so you don’t become transfixed by it, as the Sirens sought to do to Ulysses.

Letting go of self-interest opens the door to recognizing your true self, more clearly, so you see whether it’s joined with your outer life and creates a sense of purpose — or clashes with it. Knowing who you are inside — your true values, secret desires, imagination; your capacity for love, empathy, generosity — all relate to and inform your life purpose.

A second theme of those who discover their life purpose is that they use their mental and creative energies to serve something larger than themselves. That is, they’re like the lover who simply gives love for its own sake, without regard for getting something in return, without asking to be loved back or viewing his actions as a transaction or investment. That can be hard to imagine in our mercantile society, but giving your mental, emotional and creative energy from the heart comes naturally when you serve something larger than your self-interest. It beckons you; it calls forth your spirit.

Douglas LaBie

How this Ties in with Addiction:

How do you think this might tie into addiction? I’m curious to hear anyone’s thoughts who might provide feedback.  At its core, addiction is the act of putting a substance in the role of our Greater Purpose. It’s what’s meant in the Narcotics Anonymous saying “live to use, and used to live.”  The pursuit of getting high, the pursuit of false idols if you fancy the Biblical lesson, becomes our Greater Purpose. Looking outside of oneself for purpose leads down the path of losing your soul. Neither sobriety nor happiness are obtained through pleasure seeking or self-gratification, they’re obtained through commitment to a noble cause.

Most of us have no idea what we want to do with our lives.  Even after going to school, after getting a job, and after making a decent income.  People generally have a reason for using drugs, and addicts use for a multitude of reasons.  These range from masking trauma and mental illness to just wanting to get high. For some (addicts) it becomes instinctive or primal, going so deep that it takes on an almost spiritual experience.  Very similar to our relationship with finding Greater Purpose.

It’s interesting that modern scientific research on human purpose has its origins in Holocaust survivor’s experiences in a series of Nazi concentration camps. An article available at John Templeton Foundation explains, “While a prisoner at Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and two satellite camps of Dachau, Viennese psychologist Viktor Frankl noticed that fellow prisoners who had a sense of purpose showed greater resilience to the torture, slave labor, and starvation rations to which they were subjected”. Interesting in that we might find the secret to ending one form of misery through studying the resiliency of a more insidious misery.

Final Thoughts & Where to go From Here

There’s a reason for the common thread between addiction and Greater Purpose to be almost spiritual in nature.  It’s why the most widely used framework for addiction has been a, “spiritual, not religious program.” in the form of Alcoholics Anonymous; and it’s why people can find success in Religious Based programs.  An example of this comes from my personal experience. I happened to find my purpose in life through helping those with addiction. It’s not about making a dollar or becoming known, it’s about if I can help one person, better their outcome when it comes to dealing with substances then I’ve found success.  

There’s no way for me to tell someone where to find their greater purpose.  However, I can let you know if you’re on the right track using these tools. Jack Canfield, in an article available at his website, outlines these ten tips to help you find your passion:

1. Explore the Things You Love To Do & What Comes Easy to You

2. Ask Yourself What Qualities You Enjoy Expressing the Most in the World

3. Create a Life Purpose Statement

4. Follow Your Inner Guidance

5. Be Clear About Your Life Purpose

6. Conduct a Passion Test

7. Think About The Times You’ve Experienced the Greatest Joy In Your Life

8. Follow This Example of Finding Purpose

9. Align Your Goals With Your Life Purpose and Passions

10. Lean Into Your True Life Purpose

Jack Canfield

Click on the link and examine your responses.  After that. this will give you the direction you need in reassessing your life’s purpose.  The keys to finding greater purpose are happiness, enjoyment, and community. Greater purpose is the community we allow to become our identity, while purpose is using you unique set of skills to benefit that community.  

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