There was a study done several years ago to determine why certain people live to be over 100 years old. They looked at all factors including family history, diet, lifestyle, and geography.
There was one factor that was common to most of those studied. They had a purpose. They had a reason to wake up in the morning. I could be a job, caretaking, an interest that requires attention, or plans for the future.
Having a purpose or a goals goes a long way toward improving mood and self esteem. Find an interest and pursue it. Have a reason to get up in the morning. You may well live longer and actually want to accomplish this.
What a huge and universal topic to be tackled on a blog post. Man has been trying to find an answer to this question since the beginning of time. Numerous philosophers and psychologists have written volumes on this topic. This is the major reason people have turned to religion and metaphysics. How many sleepless nights have been caused by the search for the meaning of life?
“What is the purpose of my life?”
“Why was I born?”
I have come up with my own answers that simplify and truly work for me. They make life less of a mystery and far less scary. I thought I would share and I hope they might work for you.
1st the second question: Why was a born?
My birth is no more or less significant than the birth of any child that has ever been or is yet to be. My parents engaged in sexual intercourse. One of my mother’s eggs was fertilized and approximately 9 months later I was born. This is the reason I was born. It is that simple.
1st question: What is the purpose of my life?
I do not believe in some grand plan or inherent meaning of life. I believe each of us has value as a person and we make choices during our life. My life does not have meaning. I give meaning to my life. The meaning I give it depends on my values and beliefs and the choices I make. Therefore, life means what I decide it means. And the meaning I give it can and has changed over my lifetime.
Try this on and see if it works.
I often hear from my clients that they don’t know who they are. Part of the process of counseling is helping my clients define who they are and what that means. It is important to understand that our identity (who we are) is not stagnant. We are constantly changing and evolving as human beings. It is also important to understand that people are complex beings containing many dimensions. A combination of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences combine to make us who we are.
It has been my observation that most people identify who they are by the roles they play in life (father, sister, wife, parent, a profession). In reality, these roles do not define who we and are not stable over time. They describe what we are doing at a given time in our lives. If we define ourselves by our roles and one or more of our roles change, we lose our identity. I have experienced this and I found myself searching for an identity. Our identity cannot be tied to only what is currently happening in our lives.
Our identity cannot be tied to one event or period in our lives. This leads to being tied to the past. Example: the person at the high school reunion who identifies him or herself by their time in high school. Our lives are not a snap shot. Our lives are more like a feature film lasting many decades that include our accumulated experiences. We have our successes and our failures. We have all made mistakes over the course of our lives. It is important not to define ourselves any specific events.
Our identity is not determined by how others define us. Some people will like us and others will not. Some people will agree with what we say and do. Other people will not agree. Their opinions in many cases have little to do with who we are and more to do with who they are.
Who we are is an internal process and not about the external. For me, identity is what my values and beliefs are (and those have changed over the years). It is my thoughts and feelings as well how I perceive things (and myself) to be. From this I can determine my purpose in life and not have it determined for me.
After a significant amount of time away from posting in my blog, I have decided to put my mind back into writing more posts. I think the thing that holds be back the most is trying to say something profound every time I post. That is simply impossible.
I think that only serves to keep me from providing my readers valuable information and a better understanding of themselves and others.
I have been writing my blog for a few years and I have rarely spoken about myself and my own struggles. Having started my own journey of recover nearly 30 years ago, I have a great deal of experience and knowledge about all the skills I have shared with my readers. I have also learned from all the people I have counseled over the last 20 years. I hope that some of you have benefited from my blog.
One thing I have to keep in mind is the phrase: progress not perfection. No one, including me, has ever done this perfectly. I am a work in progress like everyone else who is in the process of change and growth. I suffered from chronic depression and addictive behaviors for most of my life as well as poor self-esteem. Although I have experienced a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life, I also have my struggles. I sometimes find it difficult to apply all the coping skills I know. There times I have to work hard to focus on the things I need to and stay in the present.
I have my own philosophy of life: Life is to be enjoyed. I work every day to make that a reality. One of the ways I stay focused is by writing this blog. It has great value to my life. I hope it has value to yours.
You have realized that something is not quite right in your life. You have become more aware of your anxiety or depression or some other issue that weighs heavily on you and negatively affects your life. You have become increasingly aware that something has to change because you can no longer tolerate living like this. What are you waiting for?
You have experiences that have haunted you for many years. You have tried to put behind you. You have read books and gotten advice from friends on how to overcome it. You have beaten yourself up for years about it. You have thought about getting help with the issue for years and understand that you cannot do it on your own. What are you waiting for?
Your drinking or other substance abuse has become more and more of an issue in your life. The damage continues to pile up. Friends and family keep telling you need to get help and deal with it. As much as you try to control it you find it impossible. You life is unraveling in front of your eyes. You know you can’t deal with it on your own. What are you waiting for?
You are very unhappy at your job and keep telling yourself you need to find another one. The economy has improved and it is easier to find a job. You have been thinking of continuing your education for a long time. You keep putting it off and continue to feel sad and anxious. What are you waiting for?
Your relationship is just not working. You and your significant other have one disagreement after another. There is more conflict than calm and happiness. You have worked hard to find ways for you both to get your needs met. The more you try, the more you realize your values, wants, and desires are not the same as hers/his. You know in your heart that the relationship will never be as fulfilling as you want. You want more. What are you waiting for?
Life is so short. The clock continues to move as you stay stuck in a place that you do not want to be. Fear stands in the way of finding a more fulfilling life. For the most part it is you that stands between yourself and having an opportunity to find the things you seek. Taking the steps to overcoming your fears is the only path. Moving forward one step at a time. Try not to look too far into the future. That’s a very scary place full all kinds of unknowns. You can deal with those when you get there. You are responsible for your own happiness. You are not responsible for the happiness of others.
Another year is about to come to an end. What are you waiting for?
One thing we have in common is the experience of loss. No one goes through life without experiencing some degree of loss at some point. Sometimes the losses are minor (a small amount of money, changing jobs, moving from one city to another). Other times they are more significant (the death of a parent or spouse or child, loss of a relationship, a betrayal, loss of something we are unable to replace, economic reversal). No one wants to have these experiences, and rarely are we prepared for them.
When we experience loss, what we feel is pain, but often we cannot identify exactly what it is about the loss that is causing the pain. We miss whatever we have lost and it just hurts.
This emotional distress comes mostly from two sources. First, the realization of how little control we have over what we experience in life. This realization is both frightening and depressing. We feel helpless and are powerless to control the situation. We want to regain a sense of control.
Secondly, what was lost occupied a part of our lives. It had meaning for us and took up space in our day to day living that was either physical or emotional or both. This leaves a void, and a longing to fill it. We feel empty inside and it is deeply upsetting. Many of us try filling the void with activities, a new relationship and/or, material things. Many of us turn to substances or addictive behaviors in order to avoid these feelings, but nothing we do can replace what we have lost. We struggle with our feelings and want the pain to stop.
The only way to heal is to allow the grieving process to run its course. It is important to avoid pushing those feelings away no matter how much we want to. Feel them for as long as you need to. Cry until you stop crying. No one can tell you how long this process will take. We will eventually release the pain and other people and things will enter our lives to fill the void. We will also begin to feel we have more control over what happens to us.
Allow yourself to heal. Repressing or denying your feelings will only lengthen the process and could result in prolonged depression and anxiety. Allow yourself to feel your feelings without judging them or yourself. Find ways to express them. Keep a journal and write as often as you need. Rely on friends and family for support. That is what a support system is for. The use of drugs and alcohol really won’t help and might make things worse. There is no timetable for grief. But, remember that you will heal. Those feelings will not last forever.