So what does it mean to live on purpose, exactly?
Since this is the title of my blog, I thought it was high time I explained myself. :) I don't have a true definition per se, but I will try to give you a sense of what it means for me to live a life on purpose. I think, for each of us, this will mean something different.
Here is what living on purpose means to me:
1. To make conscious choices.
To do things because we choose them, not because we are reacting to our circumstances.
I will not do things out of guilt, fear, or obligation.
I will not hold onto possessions indefinitely because I feel too guilty to pass them on. Instead I will keep the things that I cherish, and allow things that are a burden to find a new home. I will not do things because the thought of not doing them makes me afraid. Instead I will do things because they make me feel empowered. I will not do things because I feel I owe it to someone, or something. Instead I will do things because they bring me joy, or add some meaning to our lives.
I put this one at the top of my list, because it is one that I struggle with. I am working very hard to make this a part of my life.
2. To be proactive rather than reactive.
To avoid what we don’t want, and choose what we do want.
For instance, we have made a conscious choice to eat healthier, and to avoid toxins and chemicals in our home so that we may hopefully enjoy good health for years to come. I will not wait for a cancer diagnosis and then say "oops... guess I should have been a little more careful!". (I’m not in any way implying that we choose to get cancer - I'm sure that there are many more factors at play than environment - but if there are choices I can make NOW that will reduce my risk, and my family's risk, then I will make them).
3. To realize that nearly everything is a CHOICE.
Too often, I hear people saying "I can't, because...". When the vast majority of the time, what they should actually be saying is "I choose not to, because...". There are very few things in this life that are truly out of our control. For the most part, whether consciously or unconsiously, we have made a chain of decisions that has led us to the place we are today. On the bright side, we can become conscious at any time. We can begin another chain of decisions that will lead us to live the lives we WANT to lead.
Try it. The next time you catch yourself saying "I can't, because...", replace that sentence with "I choose not to, because...", and see where it leads you. It truly is empowering when you remove "can't" from your vocabulary. There is absolutely no reason we cannot live the lives of our dreams. There is no reason that Mrs. Smith from down the road is happy and fulfilled and living consciously, but I cannot. Each day we wake up and are faced with a whole new set of choices. That's the beauty of being alive. :)
4. To create an environment that supports us and sets us up for success.
My organizational efforts are not an end in themselves. They are a means to an end. By being more organized, I know that I am less frustrated, and therefore a kinder person. A better mother. A more willing listener. When my environment is chaotic, I feel out of control, and am not in a position to live intentionally.
For example, I post my weekly meal plan on my fridge, in big writing, on a dry erase board. This is not so my neighbours can see what I am having for supper. This is because I know I am more likely to follow through with my meal plan if it is in front of my face. I am more likely to remember to take things out of the freezer, or soak my beans ahead of time, or get something in the crock pot, if it is right in front of my face. I am less likely to resort to ordering pizza (although I sitll do sometimes!) if I have a written, defined plan. I am also more accountable, as my husband will know what we are supposed to be having for dinner, so I am more likely to follow through.
Sometimes I’ll even set everything out the night before, so that it’s the first thing I see in the morning. If I wake up and see my clothes neatly laid out for the day, I’m more likely to jump in the shower and get dressed. If the ingredients for the next day’s meal are set out on the counter the night before, I’m more likely to get a jump start on my dinner preparations first thing in the morning. If I pack the diaper bag and set the stroller by the front door, I’m more likely to take the kids out for a walk. By creating an environment that supports my values, I am more likely to live authentically.
5. To allow our spending to be in alignment with our values.
Whether we realize it or not, how we spend our money is often a direct reflection of our values. Sometimes this is not intentional - because we are living reactively, and not proactively. We are doing what we do today simply because it's what we did yesterday, and not because we have made a conscious choice to do so. Can you afford cable, but just can't scrape the money together to start an education fund for your kids? Are you struggling to meet your basic financial commitments, but frittering away bits of money on needless things? Do you eat out often, or choose low-quality, expensive convenience foods, and then claim you can’t afford to eat organic? Then either your spending is not in alignment with your values, or your values are different than what you think they are.
Do you ever watch those home decorating shows, where the decorator clears out the room, and then selectively chooses which pieces come back into the room? Often those pieces serve a particular purpose, work well, and/or are very meaningful to the homeowner. A budget should be approached in much the same way. Start with a fresh piece of paper. Write down the things that you value. Decide how much you want to spend on various parts of your life. Budget accordingly. This is vastly diffferent from editing your current spending patterns, and trying to decide what you are willing to do without. Instead, choose what you want to spend your money on. Just as sometimes we feel stuck standing in a room full of stuff, not knowing what to get rid of - it's sometimes easier to clear the room and start fresh, bringing in only what is truly important. What is left behind is quickly forgotten, because it was never that important to begin with. When we begin with a clean slate, it is much easier to decide what is important.
6. To spend time on things that reflect our values.
In many ways, how we choose to spend our time is equally, if not more, important as how we choose to spend our money. I often ask myself if how I'm spending my time is a true reflection of my values. If it is not, I make adjustments accordingly.
For instance, our computer is in the living room. I was leaving it on all day, and would check my e-mail or MSN pretty much constantly. I realized it was having an impact on how much time I was spending with my kids. Now I turn the computer off as soon as I'm finished with it, so it is not a distraction. This way, I am setting myself up for success (It's harder to check my e-mail when the computer is turned off!), and making a conscious choice to spend more time playing with my children. A nice perk is that it also reduces our power bill – freeing up even more money to put towards our goals.
This is also another reason I spend time on organization. My house is merely a possession, which happens to contain what is MOST important to me – my family. If I spent most of my time running around trying to find things, or tripping over things, or buying new things because I can’t find things we already have – then my time would be wasted, when it could instead be spent with my family. The more I am able to simplify the parts of my life that are less meaningful, the more time I free up to spend time on what is more meaningful.
7. To live a goal-based life.
One of my favourite Dr. Phil-isms is that "the difference between dreams and goals is a timeline". I am a huge advocate of writing things down. For me, it provides great clarity. I guess that's part of the reason I was drawn to blogging. :) It's one thing to say "some day I'd like to... " (fill in the blank). It's a whole other thing to say I want to do X in X number of months, and then to write out the steps as to how you are going to achieve it. Create a timeline. Break it down into baby steps.
For instance, say you want to buy a house, and you need $10,000.00 for a down payment. Decide how soon you want to buy the house. Divide $10,000.00 by the number of months until you want to achieve your goal. Go even further and divide it by the number of days! Finding a way to earn an extra $20.00 per day, or to make room for that $20.00 per day in your budget, is less daunting than finding a way to earn $10,000.00. Move yourself in the direction of your goals. Allow every choice to be conscious. With everything you do, with every dime you spend, ask yourself if it is moving you toward your goal. If it is not, make a different choice.
After watching The Secret (for those of you who haven't seen it, I highly recommend it! Providing you ignore the materialistic nature of it, and simply listen to the message), we created a Vision Board. This is where we put our goals. It's simply a bulletin board with pictures of the various things we would like to achieve in our lives. Each time we look at it, it is a reminder of the path we are on, and to continue to make conscious choices that move us in that direction.
That pretty much sums up what it means to me to live an authentic, on-purpose life. When I reach the end of my life, whenever or wherever that may be, I want to look back on my choices and be filled with joy, not with regret. I don’t want to say “I wish I had…”, I instead want to say “I’m so glad I did…”. The time is now. This may be the last day I am blessed enough to live on this Earth. Lucky for me, it is also the first day of the rest of my life. Let today be the day you choose to live on purpose.
What is one choice you made today that is moving you in the direction of living an on-purpose life?