- The first is, poorly.
- The second is with a plan.
- And the third is the point of the universe.
Well again, thanks for asking.
The answer is rather complicated. In fact, it is really what this blog is all about. That's why I made it the very first post.
Let me just say this:
Life is fundamentally mysterious, which is to say that it is beyond our ability to fully grasp. For all of its amazing power, the human brain is woefully incapable of understanding the universe. Ever.
At the same time, the universe is unfolding day by day in a beautifully mysterious, wholly synergistic way that obviously has meaning. Everything has its place. Everything has its role.
So why should we, as individuals, take it upon ourselves to dream up some personal goal and then pursue that goal doggedly to the ends of the earth, heedlessly, and independent of the symphony that is already in progress all around us? Why not seek to discover our own personal destiny as it might unfold in harmony with the rest of the universe? Why not discover our place in the universe, instead of trying to invent it?
The modern mind has been taught to believe that all we have to do is choose a path, develop good habits, stick to our guns, believe in the power of our dreams (oh yeah, don't forget to pay lip service to serving others) ... and somehow that will magically lead to personal fulfillment. Upon reflection, this is actually a pretty silly notion, given the complexity and majesty and incomprehensibility of the universe (which is, don't forget, running like a Swiss watch all on its own).
How do we know what we are truly meant to be? How could we?
I absolutely believe that each of us has our own unique, personal destiny. I believe that we are all duty-bound to live our lives with courage and determination and faith. I believe in good habits. I believe in serving others. In summary, I believe that we have to get after it every single day.
But I also believe that any future self we might imagine pales in comparison to the future self that might naturally evolve ...
... if we let it.
Definitely an interesting response. What do you believe the difference is between yielding to the natural harmony of the universe and simply being passive? How do you suggest one finds their place in the universe? Something Cal Newport suggests in So Good They Can't Ignore You is that waiting to come across some esoteric purpose for your life leads to frustration. He subscribes to the belief that passion and purpose is manufactured through our efforts rather than being bestowed upon us as we find some magical calling we had always been destined for.
I don't mean for this to come across as belittling your beliefs or being condescending, but what are your thoughts on that?
See, this is why it's complicated :)
First of all, definitely not passive. That would be pursuing your dream "poorly", as stated in my three ways. That one is out. So I agree that one should not wait.
But trying to "manufacture" our purpose falls into the second of my three ways - that is making a plan. To say that we manufacture our purpose through our own efforts presumes that without such effort, we don't have a purpose. It implies that we are a blank slate until we decide what to become. I believe that we are born with a purpose already, just as an acorn is born with the purpose of becoming an oak tree.
Which brings us to the third way of pursuing our dreams ...
The third way is not "poorly". We have to give it our all. We have to be hard-working and determined and leave everything on the field. No waiting!
The third way is also not "planned". We do not dream up some imagined future to be pursued. No delusional grand schemes to take over the world!
"Poorly" (i.e. capitulating or waiting) and "Planning" (i.e. creating our own destiny) are currently the two main options offered in the modern world. To my knowledge, few people have even considered the third option, which is neither of the first two,
The third option is to live each day with all of the intensity and resolve that you can possibly muster, but to only do the work that is set before you each day - no matter how trivial or meaningless or insignificant that work might seem on the surface.
The cumulative effect of living in this "third way" for months and years on end is how one finds one's innate purpose. And the paradox is that it leads to grand achievements. It is how one becomes part of the universe, alongside lions and earthquakes.
Now ... there are two huge points that must be understood here:
1. Complexity Theory teaches us that the universe is unfolding in complex and fundamentally unpredictable ways (think of it like the weather - you have absolutely no way to predict what the weather will be like in your neighborhood 30 days from now). As "Complex Adaptive Systems" ourselves, our lives are also fundamentally unpredictable. This means that our purpose is not linear . When our limited mind decides that we want to become an astronaut, it is deciding on a linear path for our lives. Our true purpose is a much richer spectrum of possible paths, all of which are equally viable and all of which are equally unique. Any one of those paths would be the fulfillment of our true purpose, but we have to wait and see which paths open themselves up to us as the complex world in which we live evolves around us. This is a critically important concept to understand, and it is a concept that is brand new to most people.
2. Living in this way requires tremendous faith. Otherwise you are constantly tempted to take matters into your own hands.
That's what I believe, anyway.
Thanks for the response. I think I'm starting to get you now. Basically you're saying that if I'm currently working at a fast food restaurant I should wash the dishes to the best of my ability. I should treat the washing of the dishes as a meditative opportunity and do my best because where I stand today is where I'm meant to be and is my current purpose. In other words, even what the outside world considers to be a remedial task is still an essential time for my development because no moment is more important than any other.
If I've interpreted you correctly I find that to be a very interesting theory indeed. One that I've recently begun scratching the surface of, but never dived as deeply into it as now. For that I must express my appreciation for you taking the time to explain the depths of this idea to me!
Almost. That's very close. What I am saying is still different, though.
Let's say that you have that job, and that your dream is to become a regional manager of the fast food chain. What would you do then? You would probably work extra hard every day so that your performance stands out. You would arrive at work early and stay late. You would go to work when you don't feel well or when you have much more exciting things that you could do with your time. In short, you would be dedicated to your job, because you would see it as a means to an end - the path to achieving your goal of becoming a regional manager.
On the other hand, if you do your job as a meditation, you might not be as dedicated. You might accept your plot, but you probably still just go through the motions. You do what you can.
What I am advocating is to attack the job each day as if it is the means to achieving your deepest lifelong dream ... but without looking forward to how that dream might manifest itself. In other words, you dedicate yourself to the job not in order to become the regional manager, but in order to become whatever it is that you are going to become - which might have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the food service industry (or it might).
This is a big difference.
Now the rub is that you cannot do this every day. Some days are better than others. And the grind is even harder when you don't have a tangible, known goal. With a goal you can always tell yourself that the grind is worthwhile because one day your will be a regional manager and it will all pay off. Without that tangible goal you might say "why am I doing this stupid job anyway?" So bad days are even harder under my approach.
On these days, it IS best to approach the job as a meditation. In fact, that is exactly how Eckhart Tolle says that we should approach every day and every situation - as opposed to Tynan, who says that we should be disciplined and productive every single day and in every situation. That is why I wrote the comparison between them, where you first posted a reply.
Left to its own devices, my brain would lay around on the sofa all day trying to Figure Out My Life. It took a long time to understand, but here is a terrible truth that is as beautiful as it is true:
My brain doesn't have a clue.
But there is a bright side - my brain is really good at Doing Stuff. So instead of pounding my brain for answers that it doesn't have, I now kick it out the door and make it go to work.
Tynan is a genius at doing this.
The bad news is, this is true; the good news is, this is true.