When I was a child growing up in one of Atlanta’s oldest communities, we often used the phrase, “You did that on purpose.” The statement indicated intentionality in someone’s actions. There behavior was not accidental but executed with forethought, sometimes malicious forethought. However, there was another, often unspoken, meaning to doing something on purpose. There was a more subtle communication from my parents and elders that our lives have meaning. We are destined to do and be in the world in such a way that uplifts, heals, and elevates others in our community. In psychological, philosophical and religious literature, these ideas fall within the realm of existentialism or eudaimonic well-being. I know. That’s lots of big words. Don’t rush off to Google or dictionary.com right now. Basically, it boils down to human striving to find meaning in our lives, specifically meaning connected to our spirituality.
In our everyday lives, especially in the world of those committed to wellness, we may hear people use the phrase, “I’m living my life on purpose”. It’s their mantra or proclamation of a commitment to stay focused on behaviors and mindsets that cultivate their best self – in mind and body. Building an overall sense of wellness from one day to the next is most often the aim. That includes staving off those extra pounds that always seem to be chasing us down, taking a breath before speaking when a co-worker does yet another immeasurably irritating thing and regularly reminding ourselves that our health matters. A strong, fit mind and body are certainly essential to living “on purpose”. Health in our minds and bodies gives our spirit a peaceful and thriving house to live in but the spirit has its own unique work to do.
If you grew up Christian, you probably heard the phrase - your body is a temple for the spirit. My Taoist teacher says that each spirit chooses the body it needs to fulfill its unique purpose on earth. The Yoruba sacred text says those chosen to bring good into the world are called human beings each of whom chooses a destiny to complete on earth. Further, that destiny is designed to help human beings achieve the good condition. While some suggest that striving for meaning is more important than striving for happiness, the Yoruba sacred texts indicates that our spirits choose our journeys with joy. I love it! Yes, you can have both. You can be “on purpose” and joy-full. This is not to suggest there won’t be challenges on your journey. However, when you’re “on purpose” any experience can be an opportunity to locate the good that propels you forward.
Activities to help you live on purpose:
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