“Today’s society bestows rewards as never before for those who are comfortable with change, and it may punish those who are not, for what used to be the safe terrain of stability is now often a dangerous minefield of stagnation.” Leonard Mlodinow
Let’s get weird. Sometimes it takes a little shock value to shake us out of our stuck-in-a-rut-ness, our unimaginative daily doldrums, our all-too-comfortable comfort zones. Art can have this cathartic effect. Specifically, the art of questioning.
Such questioning plants seeds of imagination into the dry earth of our purposelessness. It’s only through attention, through deep awareness, that the seed receives enough water to grow. And when the seed of our imagination is allowed to grow, then our life’s purpose begins to flourish. But first: water, attention, awareness.
So, let’s shake things up with a little unorthodox questioning. Let’s stretch our rigid mindsets into mindfulness. Let’s kick off the dust of our fixed thinking. Let’s powerwash the rust off our mettle. Like Bruce Wayne told the Joker in the nineties Bat Man, “You wanna get nuts? Come on, let’s get nuts!”
1.) Tyler Durden has a gun to your head: What do you want to do with your life?
“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses.” ~Bob Moawad
Imagine you are Raymond K. Hessel pissing your pants in the back of that convenience store on the movie Fight Club. There’s a gun to your head and a crazy schizophrenic is asking you the most difficult question (for most of us) that someone can ask: “What do you want to do with your life?”
We could all use a little motivation. The problem, however, is that usually a “little” motivation isn’t enough to get us off our ass. Our Lazy Boy reeks of beer and old Doritos, and it will continue to do so even after we get all teary-eyed over a motivational meme while scrolling through Facebook or Twitter.
What we really need is a lot of motivation. We need a kick in the ass, a spatula-smack to the balls, a stiff-arm to the ovaries. We need Death him/herself to be whispering not-so-sweet nothings into our ear. This question is precisely the kind of deep motivation we need to toss our lazyBoy out of the window and finally begin living the life we want to live. As Mark Manson said, “Passion is the result of action, not the cause of it.”
You are going to die! There’s no way to weasel your way out of this daunting prospect. So you might as well own it. It may not happen today. Probably not tomorrow either. But someday you will be pushing up daisies along with every other human being who has ever existed.
Use the existential crisis of it all as a motivator. You have from this day until the day you die to live the life you want to live. So, you might as well make it a healthy life. You might as well do something you love. You had an eternity before you existed to do nothing. And you’ll have an eternity after you exist to do nothing. Now is your time to do something. You might as well make that “something” something you love.
Discover what you love by being brutally honest with yourself regarding this question. Then get out there and make your life happen on purpose, with purpose. Practice what you love day-in and day-out. Remain a creature of habit, just make your habit something you love to do rather than something that you were forced into doing by a profoundly sick society.
This powerful question leads to another powerful question: Would you rather work hard and reach your dreams or be dead?
2.) What kind of shit cake do you want to eat, and does it have icing?
“What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually. Might as well pick one with an olive.” ~Mark Manson
Life won’t always be rainbows and unicorns and scented roses. Sometimes, most of the time, it will be blackholes and rhinos and clogged toilets.
What’s the latest layer added to your shit cake? Maybe it was getting fired. Maybe it was getting arrested on false charges. Maybe it was smacking your girlfriend on the ass and calling her by your exe’s name. Doh!
Whatever your latest “layer” is, add some icing to that shit. The shit-layered cake is what it is. Spreading some delicious icing on it is making the best of it. It’s the cherry on top of a glass-is-half-empty that transforms it into a glass-is-half-full.
I’m not talking about wishful thinking or the empty placation of magical thinking. I’m talking about deep acceptance, a balls-to-bones, ovaries-to-marrow embracing of the shitshow, and then adding a little honest and authentic humor to keep yourself above water.
The flipside of this is getting ahead of the curve by choosing a shit cake that already has icing on it. This shit cake is the cake of doing what you love (see #1). Doing what you love is the icing. So the cake can be anything the Master Chef of Fate decides to cook into it—vanilla, cosmopolitan, shit—and you’re still going to eat it because it has icing. Because you love it!
Doing what you love is the thing. Money, success, failure, death; these are all merely side effects of doing what you love. So choose a shit cake with some icing on it. Then make the best out of NOT having your cake and eat it too. That’s where the purpose of your life will come from.
3.) What makes you lose track of the shitshow of life?
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman
You’ve probably heard a lot about Flow States and being “in the zone.” Thanks to Csikszentmihalyi, the idea of the “flow state” has become a vital aspect of our cultural awakening.
The optimal experience (or flow state) is gained through deep discipline in a particular field/art/sport that provides intrinsic reward, challenge, and feedback, thus integrating confidence, concentration, control, adaptivity, and connectivity. Time stops or slows down. Insecurities disappear. We stop caring about what others think of us. A creative unfolding of something larger manifests. Everything flows effortlessly in interconnected unison with us as its interdependent spearhead. In short: we stop thinking and begin doing. More importantly, we stop overthinking and begin self-overcoming.
But the hardest part is discovering that which makes us “come alive.” And the next hardest part is doing that which makes us come alive on a daily basis.
If, as Stephen Kotler said, “Passion exists at the intersection of three or more things you’re really curious about,” then it stands to reason that what we love to do also exists at this intersection.
Make a list. Be curious. Pinpoint your passion. Transform that passion into purpose. Practice your passion with purpose every day. Then learn to “come alive” while serving something bigger than yourself. And, voila, your life’s purpose unfolds.
4.) Your Grandchildren whisper into your ear: What is your legacy going to be?
“This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious human within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science… So much is at stake and so much depends on the psychological constitution of the modern human.” ~C. G. Jung
The 7th generation principle taught by Native Americans (specifically via the Iroquois Confederacy) says that in every decision, be it personal, spiritual, political or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our progeny seven generations into the future. So that our air is not polluted, our waters are not filled with plastic, and our earth (and the food we grow from it) is not poisoned. So that we don’t remain a profoundly sick society, and instead become more ethical than the society we grew up in.
We do it for our children, for our children’s children. We do it so that the next seven generations don’t have to suffer unnecessarily.
So when you discover what it is you love to do, and when you decide to do that thing day in and day out, and when you decide that you are going to make that your life’s purpose, make it something that improves the world. Make it something that is healthy. Make it something that doesn’t violate the golden rule or the nonaggression principles. Make it something that doesn’t pollute the air, taint the water, or poison the earth.
More importantly, make it something that builds something healthier. Something that can be passed down from generation to generation. Something progressively sustainable that adds to the healthy evolution of the species. Something that transforms weaponry into livingry, waste into compost, plastic into recyclables, divisiveness into cooperation.
Make it something that doesn’t make your grandchildren’s grandchildren want to climb into a time machine and go back in time just to kick your willfully ignorant ass.
5.) What’s more important, comfortable ego-centric surviving or difficult soul-centric thriving?
“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” ~Rumi
One thing that will help prevent the seventh generation from wanting to climb into a time machine just to kick your ass is channeling your purpose into something bigger than yourself.
As such, the answer to this question might mean reorienting yourself with cosmos. It might mean going from merely surviving to vitally thriving.
To go from merely surviving to vitally thriving, you will need a way to reroute routine, to un-habit your old habits and then re-habit with healthier habits. Health is a benchmark, as always. But health will only get you so far. It won’t get you outside the box, the comfort zone, the indoctrination, the cultural conditioning, or the mental paradigm. Only courage can do that. And only love can ignite a fire strong enough to make courage a factor.
You must be proactively self-overcoming and habitually self-improving to get ahead of comfort and routine. Getting out of survival mode and stepping into thrive mode is a way to do precisely that. It’s a way to align your values with something bigger than yourself.
When what you love to do becomes what brings more love into the world, then you know that you have achieved sacred alignment.
As Rumi said, “Love is the bridge between you and everything.” But he can only show you the bridge. You are the one who must walk across it.