The why and the how of life

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woman walking on a road

You have two big decisions to make in life.

  • The first is, Where do you want to go?

This is your life’s “why” — your purpose.

  • The second decision is, What are you going to do to get there?

This is your life’s “how.” How are you going to live? What choices are you going to make that are in line with your purpose and that take you in the right direction? How are you going to navigate life’s dilemmas? How do you make choices? To what are you going to say “yes” and to what are you going to say “no”? Who are you going to travel life’s journey with?

Get the why and the how in the wrong order and you’re in trouble. And most of us make that error. If our how is not informed by our why, then our lives are unlikely to be meaningful, purposeful, and satisfying, and will instead have a haunting sense of meaninglessness, of going up blind alleys, and of a persistent, nagging sense that something, at a very fundamental level, isn’t right.

The trouble is that most of us do indeed plunge into the how without thinking much about the why. In fact, my guess is that most of us devote little or no time to clarifying what our values are, and so we stumble blindly through life, often guided by other people’s values and expectations, or living in a disjointed way, guided by different purposes in different circumstances.

The purpose of Find and Live Your Purpose is to help you both to clarify what are your values and purpose (your why) and also the how — how to live a life that’s congruent with and organized around your core principles.

Our purpose is not something we create. It’s something that is already within us. It’s something that is to be divined. The aim is to help you clarify your core values, and to live them, so that you become more authentically you.

This is work that’s dear to my heart. Back in the early 1990’s, when I was running a retreat center in the Highlands of Scotland and feeling utterly overwhelmed by the task I was charged with, I happened upon a book by the late Stephen Covey — “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.”

This book had been recommended to me years before, but I’d avoided it because I assumed that Covey’s “success” was defined in material terms — gaining power, making lots of money, living in a big house, and so on. But I came to learn that Covey’s idea of a successful person was one who lived with awareness — an awareness that in every moment we face choices, and that those choices matter.

On deeper exploration, I found that the first three of Covey’s Seven Habits corresponded closely — even exactly — with the first three fetters that the Buddha said had to be broken in order for insight to arise. The breaking of these three fetters doesn’t represent full awakening, but the first stage of wakening, and it’s a highly significant event in our spiritual life.

I found the synergy between these two systems to be powerfully transformative. The clarity I gained at that time set up my life’s direction from that point right up to the present moment (and, I presume, beyond).

The aim of Find and Live Your Purpose aims to help you have a deep sense of faith that you’re doing the right thing, heading in the right direction, and to be whole, complete, and happy.

But this course ultimately has as its aim helping you to move closer to Awakening.

As we explore our life’s purpose we’ll draw on Buddhist teachings leading to insight, as well as on some of the overlapping principles that Covey outlines in his book (which are the same principles, but in different language).

You don’t have to have read Covey’s book (although it may help) and you don’t have to be that familiar with Buddhist teachings (although that, of course, wouldn’t do any harm). The guided meditations, the daily readings, and the reflections you’ll be doing in your own time will, i hope, together help you to make progress on the path to waking up to reality.

If you’re interested in joining this online course, which will included guided meditations as well as daily teachings by email, you can click here to learn more.


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