I have come to believe that happiness stems from cultivating a clear sense of purpose and learning to place the things that serve this purpose most directly at the top of your priority list, again and again.
We are constantly in flux, walking forward (we hope!), over uncertain ground, continuously negotiating new and unforeseen forces and circumstances. At any moment, any number of new variables can be introduced to distract, dissuade, or altogether derail us from the pursuit of what we believe to be, or what actually is our truest calling. So how do we really know when we’re on the right path? And if we have truly discovered this purposeful path, how do we stay the course? How do we stay centered within ourselves, inspired, and fulfilled as we chase down our desires? These are monumental questions, with no simple answers.
I have struggled with this process again and again, in nearly every area, and at every stage of my life. The reason I’m even writing this now, is because of how daunted, confused, and overwhelmed I repeatedly become in the pursuit of my desires. No matter how many times I've learned the same lesson, I still find myself chasing my own tail, stressing and striving to maintain the sense of success I have achieved, I end up stifling it in the same motion… akin to holding a baby bird so tightly, that it suffocates in your hand.
At what point does the pursuit outweigh the purpose? How do we remain grounded within the inspired core of ourselves, without succumbing to all the logistical pressures of manifesting our vision or becoming consumed by the analysis of attainment?
Many times, as if by default, our end goals are relegated to some imaginary place in the future, typically dependent on any number of things being achieved or acquired in order to be reached. And when we finally get to this "finish line, we find that the goal post has been moved. Generally our goals are rooted in questions that start with “if” and “when.” If I get this house, I will slow down and start drawing or singing or working on cars. When I meet my soul mate, I will leave this job that is destroying my soul, and pursue my true passions.
I have come to believe that by starting with the end, and continually bringing our end goals back to the beginning of our efforts, we’re able to attain more happiness in the here and now, ultimately drawing our desires to us with much less pursuit involved.
The first thing this realization led me to do, was hone in on a more honest version of what my end game actually is. Uncovering our most authentic end, is THE fundamental component of this recirculating system. What is it that I'm actually after? Have I put in the conscious time and energy necessary to dig beneath my surface desires, and truly tune into my deeper calling? Have I carefully thought through the times I've felt of most service to the world, considered the activities where I've become the most inspired and engaged, pondered when my natural talents were expressed most fully. What is it that I've always been good at and excited by, going back to when I was a child. Can I state this clearly and concisely, with an unspoken recognition that truly resonates at my core?
A “purpose” cannot be calculated or manufactured, it must be revealed. This requires much more than simple thought experiments or a weekend workshop. It requires deep analysis, reflection, and often a complete unraveling of our previously held notions, before a deeper truth can be unearthed. This is a lifelong practice and craft that is cultivated over time, day by day.
Through the trials and tribulations of building Solid Threads, in one way or another the past 20+ years, I've come to discover that my purpose is to spread joy, awareness, and well being through entrepreneurship, design, writing, and music. I did not set out to enhance humanities self awareness, one pithy t-shirt slogan at a time. In fact it is quite the opposite, but it is the revelation and recognition of this deeper purpose that renewed and reinvigorated my waning efforts when I hit my breaking point, and what has sustained me ever since. It’s taken many years of returning to this thread of thought time and time again to discover and refine this sense of purpose, and it's a never ending process. But as I look back, everything good and meaningful in my life has sprung from endeavors either in search of, or in alignment with this deeper sense of meaning.
As I've fleshed out my deeper calling further, It led me to consider the activities that engage and activate this purpose most directly more carefully? I want more time to focus on the creative components of my work, the designing, content creation, and marketing of my vision and message. I want more time to relax, play music, commune in nature, travel, connect with people, places, and experiences that inspire and uplift me, and share this enthusiasm with my tribe in my own unique way.
Up until this point, until the fruitful, yet at times harrowing trials and tribulations of the past 6 months in 2019 (of which I will elaborate on in future posts), forced me to slow down and re-calibrate my approach once again (a la Hurricane Sandy), I've always seemed to fall back into finding an excuse to put off these purpose empowering endeavors in lieu of something more immediate and concrete.
So why do I constantly put these purpose filled projects off? Why do I always push them down the line with this false sense that I must first finish something more overtly pressing, BEFORE, I can do the things that truly feed my soul. For example, why do I always start my day answering emails and sorting through my most pressing logistical obligations? This is absolutely necessary work, but why I have I let it become the priority? Why and how do I continue to let it steal the show entirely? HOW DOES THIS KEEP ON HAPPENING? Why I have I let these operational obligations drown out the very reason why I started this brand in the first place... yet again?
There is a prerequisite of tedium to any worthwhile goal, and balancing the time we spend wearing each of the many hats required to attaining success in any endeavor is crucial. But without our conscious efforts towards unraveling what it is that is actually driving us, and the proactive realignment of our pursuits with our purpose on a DAILY basis, we lose our meaning. At the end of the day, MEANING is what we are after more than anything else.
I continue to recognize, (unfortunately after I've reached the breaking point of my business or body), just how seductive it is to fall back into our old ways of surviving. How easy it is to sacrifice the activities most aligned with our purpose and well being, to temporarily satiate longstanding doubts and fears. In my case, by sacrificing the intangible, soul enriching activities that inspire and uplift me, in order to cross more quantifiable, soul suckingtasks off my to do list.
Without actively enhancing our internal awareness and establishing methods by which to measure how much meaning we get from what we do, we tend to fall back on what (we think) we already know. We are unable to resist the instant gratification of doing what makes us most comfortable again and again. It's a slippery slope, a soul diminishing cycle, a mirage of our mind, by which we unwittingly stifle out our own success, often by the same shear force and grit that got us some measure of it in the first place. Without infusing practices and self care techniques, that both invite and protect the space we need for our purpose to thrive on a daily basis, the battle is lost before it has begun. We don't know it yet, but at some point, it will become abundantly clear.
So why have I spent an inordinate amount of time, not only trying to figure out why I do what I do, but hopefully sharing these hard won insights in a way that might be of service to someone else? Because I've recognized that writing and encouraging others to become more self aware, and learn from my mistakes, ultimately gives my work, my business, and my life, meaning! So I started carving out time, first thing in the morning, when I am fresh, to engage in these purpose enriching activities.
This article is the one of the first tangible embodiment's of this “Start With the End” experiment. I am hopeful there will be much more to come, as this becomes a more naturally ingrained part of my approach. With practice of course! I’ll keep you posted on what happens. If all goes well, you’ll be hearing from me a lot more often. I invite you all to do the same... and to share with me any tangible results that slowly begin to materialize. Let us all practice starting with the end, and bring about brand new beginning in the process.