“Firmness of purpose is one of the best instruments of success.”
— Lord Chesterfield Stanhope, third Earl of Chesterfield
“Did you do it on purpose?” As a kid, my mother seemed all-knowing. She could tell if I was lying — even tell if I was just stretching the truth a little. The best policy was to be completely honest.
First, she would ask if I did it — break something, for example.
Once responsibility had been determined, she would ask the all-important question, “Did you do it on purpose?”
There was rarely any deliberate intent on my part to cause damage, harm or havoc.
In most cases, the event in question was simply an accident, a misunderstanding or the result of poor judgment on my part — occasionally, I was even innocent.
As I grew older, the concept of deliberate intent – doing something on purpose — took on new meaning. I found that certain tasks, if done on purpose, produced a better result.
For example, I could perform my job with deliberate intent or strive to be a good father, husband and friend with deliberate intent. As I began to grow in my awareness and self-esteem, I started to ponder the idea — the benefit — of living a purposeful life of deliberate intent.
To me, living on purpose means approaching each situation with a focused state of mind. Yes, every situation from work and relationships to simple things like taking out the trash.
Living on purpose means living in each moment as opposed to going through the motions in a mechanical or unconscious manner. Am I able to do it all the time?
Not a chance, but I am getting better at it. I’m “on purpose” at least half the time now. That’s an accomplishment since I honestly believe I had been functioning purposefully only 10 and 25 per cent of the time.
The first and often most challenging aspect of living a purposeful life is self-responsibility. By this I mean, a willingness to take complete responsibility for the quality, content and consequences of your life. That means no blaming or deferring of responsibility to others. You are the architect of your destiny – you own your life — the good and the not so good. You must own the past and each moment as it unfolds in order to chart a successful course into the future.
Many people are great out of the starting gate but not so great in the long haul. Success in any aspect of life requires perseverance and the ability to forestall gratification for a worthwhile endeavour. Perseverance is that stick-to-itiveness that sees us though the difficult challenges we each face. It’s that voice that says, “Keep going!” and “You can do it!” It is the same faith-filled voice that reminds us that in the striving can be found life’s greatest lessons.
The person who truly desires to live a life of purpose must release the notion that good enough (putting forth less than our best effort) is good enough. Purpose requires that we put forth our best effort — that we strive consistently for excellence. When we do so, we push ourselves a little further and a little harder to reach what (some) might seem unattainable. Excellence requires that you acknowledge real and perceived boundaries and strive to move beyond them. Always remember that your best will change from day to day and even from moment to moment. Put forth your best effort each day — whatever that might be — and your good efforts will ultimately be rewarded.
People who exercise creativity look at each obstacle as a challenge to be understood and overcome. Creativity helps us to look beyond existing ideas and ways of thinking and smash through barriers by devising new and innovative ways of approaching issues and obstacles.
Courage is a powerful component of a life of purpose. Courage allows us to face fears and to move through them. I think what prevents most people from discovering and embracing a purposeful existence is an unwillingness to risk being hurt or failing. We will never grow and learn if we are afraid to step out of the darkness and into the light.
I remember talking to a wise friend once about success.
He said I would never succeed unless I was willing to set aside my own timidity — my deep and profound fear of being judged.
He told me that to be great, I must be willing to stand up for what I believe whether or not people agreed with me.
Every individual who achieved greatness has had his or her detractors.
There will always be those who come from a place of fear and who would rather tear us down then step up and into the light themselves.
I am still working with that sound advice but it is gradually becoming easier to do.
Finally, I think a life of purpose must be built upon a foundation of intellectual growth and development. That’s what building self-esteem is all about.
Constantly striving to learn, grow, excel and push ourselves beyond real and perceived limitations — to reach our full potential. Perhaps striving to grow and excel as human beings is the greatest of all purposes.
“Great minds have purposes,” wrote Washington Irving, the renowned American historian and novelist. “Other minds,” he said, “have only wishes.”
Maybe a great mind is something that can be developed, nurtured and acquired through a dedication to purposeful living. And perhaps when someone asks you that all-important question.
Murray Fuhrer is a local self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca