The Purpose Of An Ordinary Life
Finding happiness and purpose without changing a thing
Now days, it seems like everyone wants to change the world. Be your own boss, have your own website, write a book, start a charity… If you haven’t found your Purpose in life (yes, intentional capital P!) and are not busy shouting it from the rooftops, it seems like you just haven’t “found yourself”.
But… is it possible that not everyone wants to start their own business, not everyone is book-worthy and we don’t need any more charities? Is it possible that we are not all extraordinary, super-interesting or going to change the world? Is it possible to be perfectly happy living an ordinary life? Even more, is it possible for the Purpose of life to be perfectly ordinary?
In this day and age of reality stars and YouTube celebrities, it seems like there are more opportunities for having 15 seconds of fame than ever before. But there are also more people vying for that 15 seconds, so only the truly sublime or the truly ridiculous actually stand out. Combine that with a culture where every child is being pushed to be the best, and yet we give prizes to everyone for “participating”, it is no wonder some turn to horrific acts to get noticed.
Is this really what it is all about? Getting noticed, standing out, being remembered? Does that mean that those of us who fail to stand out have failed? That being an employee or being technologically anonymous makes us ‘unsuccessful’? Given that it is not really viable for all 7 billion of us to stand out, do we need a lesson on finding happiness in obscurity?
I would like you to imagine that you are actually living your Purpose. Right now. Doing whatever you are doing. Which, given you are on your computer or phone, reading this, is not really anything special. It is pretty likely you are just having an ordinary day. Imagine being completely on your life Purpose, having a completely ordinary day.
What if the purpose of your life is this moment. And this one. And this one again. Not because this moment is the pinnacle of your existence- that in this moment you are all you are ever going to be- but simply because this moment is your Now. What if the purpose of your life is not that one moment of crowning glory, the day you achieve your very greatest outcome, or have your baby or get your huge promotion or throw all of those things in to become a yoga teacher? What if the purpose of your life is, in fact, all the moments along the way?
And so, everyone’s purpose would be equal- to just be, each and every moment. To just live their life. No matter what today looks like, no matter what goals you do or don’t have on the horizon, every ordinary life would be Purposeful. And then, you could take sense of being on purpose, and do whatever suits you!
My sister and I were discussing that Facebook meme you see every so often: “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
Both of us have lives where people often comment on how “lucky” we are. She lives on a farm; I travel a lot. When most people see memes like that one, they imagine changing their lives to look like ours, or imagine making lots of money so they can have a bigger house or live by the beach or sail around the world.
But here is how I see it: “setting up” a life you don’t need a vacation from is an inside job, not a lifestyle change. If you are unhappy in your heart, that is not going to change with your career, or goals, or bank balance. The true key to having a life you love- a life you don’t want to escape from- is in finding happiness in what you have, where you are, what you are doing. Finding happiness in the ordinary, the every day, the journey, then, if things change, for better or worse, find happiness there too.
“But HOW???” I hear you wail! OK, here’s the thing- start small. Find one thing you like, one thing that makes you happy and pay attention to it today. Really focus on that thing, that moment, that small joy. Start with a kitten, or your partner, or the feel of your favorite piece of clothing. Practice really enjoying your daily shower, or admiring a tree or go waaaaaay out on a limb and try smiling at a stranger! Ordinary happiness is found in small everyday moments. Everyday heroes smile at their barista!
In these small, every day happinesses in the key to realizing that your life- your normal everyday, big or small life- is your Purpose. Each step, each day, each feeling exactly as it is. This doesn’t mean we don’t make goals, doesn’t mean we don’t aim for growth and change. It just means that we don’t pin the meaning of our very being on anything other than exactly who we are in this very minute. It means that being you is your Purpose.
It is possible the world doesn’t even need more yoga teachers or life coaches or energy healers. What if we really need more thoughtful bus drivers and accountable accountants and cheerful bureaucrats? What if our purpose is not to do something unique and important and noticeable, but to be the best person we can be while doing whatever normal things we do?
What if the Purpose of your life is exactly what you are doing? What if being “ordinary” could, in fact, be extraordinary?