“Do what you’re meant to do.”
Do what you’re meant to do is a Reiki precept.1 I’ve not come across it until recently and it struck a chord when I read it. Connecting with a sense of purpose is a desire I come across in my work as a therapist all the time. Questions raised in peoples’ minds because they are trying to live a meaningful life, yet the path seems so difficult and full of obstacles. People feeling depressed because they don’t have a sense of purpose, or what they thought they were meant to do with their lives suddenly isn’t an option anymore, or it would take making a choice or sacrifice that just isn’t acceptable to them now. I don’t believe that we have only one purpose in life and I strongly believe that it is more important to enjoy the journey that purpose leads us on, than to reach any one goal or ideal. That it’s ok for our sense of purpose to change, change is healthy as it indicates growth.
What if your purpose became a way of living?
If we add, what I believe is a key component of the precepts – Just for today – do what you are meant do. How does that change things for you? For me it helps me to enjoy the journey, to be able to adapt more comfortably, to have a greater sense of achievement and purpose on a day to day basis. It means my purpose becomes more a way of life, a journey I chose to take rather than some big ideal or life mission I want to achieve. So perhaps we can set our own precepts1– as a guide to live out our ‘purpose’ on a day to day basis.
How do I know what I’m meant to be doing?
The answer to that question is far less deep and difficult than you might think. What makes you happy? What energizes you? Ask those questions often, notice what connections you find in your answers – keep a journal if it helps. Do more of the things that make you happy and full of life. This is what we ultimately want as human beings. This is when we start to build something special and find meaning in life. This is where we start to become a positive force in the world.
I am most happy and most energized when I am being creative, allowing my imagination and curiosity to take centre stage. I love to explore ideas and concepts in my head, in my writing and with other people. I love the endless possibilities that life holds for us all. It makes my world feel magical.
What if my purpose is to use my imagination and curiosity to explore all the magical possibilities that this world, this life can offer? What if that was my way of living? It doesn’t matter then what I do but how I do it. This is a way of living. Whether I am doing my accounts or writing a novel I can still apply this purpose. On some occasions, it’s going to be more challenging than others but when does anything great come without challenge?
What labels from your past do you wear that stop you living your life your way?
Doing what you are meant to do isn’t necessarily easy and it can take courage to step away from expectations that others have placed upon you, or you’ve placed on yourself. It’s not necessarily easy to get rid of the labels you’ve carried since you were young – it doesn’t have to be so difficult either. You won’t always be supported in your purpose, your choosing to live your way, by those around you. Obstacles will need to be navigated and sometimes new skills and resources acquired. Above all else it’s going to take courage to step onto that path with an openness to see where it takes you.
November is novel writing month and it just so happens I’m writing a novel, which fits my way of living perfectly. But writing doesn’t come easily to me or naturally. Writing has been a part of my personal struggle since I was first learning to read and write. At first they just thought I was stupid and that’s why I struggled, then when I was seven years old they discovered I had a hearing loss that is the equivalent of the loss a 40 + year old might have. That meant that I couldn’t hear high frequency sounds. To have an idea of what that was like at seven years old – just remove the letters c, f, k, s and z from the words in this paragraph and read it out loud, that’s what I would hear when I was five and my Mum was trying to teach me new words. I was 20 years old when I discovered that the words ‘pacific’ and ‘specific’ weren’t pronounced the same way. People often underestimate how hard it is to learn a new word when you can’t hear the word completely in the first place – in fact many wouldn’t even connect loss of hearing with learning being a challenge.
Teachers at school just didn’t have the skills to adapt and work with my learning challenges. Reading, writing and school were a source of constant frustration. My mum quickly got on board trying to encourage me to read by offering easier reading choices such as Mills and Boons. A lovely example of a parent doing the best they can and with all the love in the world but getting it wrong. Mills and Boons just affirmed in me that reading is not just frustrating but boring too. (No offense to Mills and Boons lovers intended but it’s just not for me.)
By the time I left school I had zero confidence in my ability to learn. I believed I was stupid and it was many years before I recognised my struggle for what it was and began to change my beliefs about myself. To realise that we don’t have to live up to the labels and limitations others place on us.
Luckily for me my parents got something very right. Something that made the biggest difference of all.
My parents instilled in me what is known as a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. In their efforts to help with my learning challenges, they placed emphasis on the act of learning rather than outcomes. I was praised for the work I put in not the results I achieved. This has been perhaps the biggest blessing of my life and means that challenges and obstacles excite me, failure is an opportunity for more growth and learning.
It’s my own journey with therapy, my work with clients and students that has enabled me to realise I don’t need those old labels. I have everything I need to live my life my way. To be happy and full of energy. If I believed the labels of my youth, if I gave more weight to the opinions of others over my own, if I believed that you can only succeed if you have a natural talent for something I would be a receptionist at a local council right now and instead of writing this blog I would be crying at the prospect of my life being what it is. (Again, no offence to receptionists, it’s just not for me.)
My purpose isn’t to get some great message to thousands of people through my book, or to become the next J K Rowling. Those things would just be a very nice part of the journey that is my life, if they happened. Writing the book isn’t my purpose, writing it serves my purpose, my way of living. It allows me to do exactly what, at this point in my life, I feel I am meant to do. To use my imagination and curiosity to explore all the magical possibilities this world, this life can offer. In fact, this book is becoming more and more of a guide for me, in terms of where I would like this journey to go and how I can live my life my way so much more than I currently am. It’s a beautiful thing to let go of focusing on achieving some great mission or getting to some desired destination and simply relax into the journey that is your life.
Some tips to help you begin your journey to your way of living:
- Create an environment that best supports you – this includes having things around you that remind you of those things that increase your happiness, your energy, give meaning to your life. It also includes people, who you spend most of your time with and give your energy to. This will determine a lot about your life direction. Choose your friends wisely and try to minimize giving your time and energy to those who don’t support your journey.
- Read ‘The Obstacle is the Way’ by Ryan Holiday to learn how to find value in challenge, in failure and setbacks.
- Create some small habits to do each day that help to align you with your new way of living your life your way. I do some creative writing every day, I walk in a magical forest and meditate to clear my mind and allow ideas to flow.
- I use my ‘purpose’ to help me answer important decisions and guide my direction and my choices.
- Get therapy if you are struggling – we all do from time to time. Be willing to invest in your way of life.
- Enjoy the journey – remember that every single day.
1The Reiki precepts are a set of guidelines designed to help us lead a happier, healthier, more meaningful life. You’ll find many variations if you search for them online or in books. This is for two reasons I think, one is that they are being translated from Japanese to English and the other is that they were intended to contain more than one meaning within them.