When I look back at my life, I realize maybe we have got it all wrong. What we call as midlife is the exact point of time when life really begins for most of us.
Think about it; our youth was about the extrinsic motivators, you were heavily depended on external pointers to tell you if you were doing a good job. Till 40, most of us went through phases where our life, its happiness and direction depended on external approval, whether it was about our grades, jobs, possessions, looks, or our earnings. There was the pressure to find the steady significant other, to have the perfect children, to reach stability at work. All valid, all with their own place in a social world yet all very external. And often even disconnected from our internal world.
Is this it? Welcome to Midlife
Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself: how much of all those years were really about you? At one point, the experience of our lived years brings us the wisdom to ask: “Is this it?” By now, we have tried most of the above-mentioned external motivators, sometimes succeeding, other times failing. Either way, we feel, there is something amiss.
Welcome to Midlife; where you begin the journey to answer the key question in life: “Who am I, Why am I alive?” Welcome to Midlife; finally, you have the freedom to choose yourself, for yourself. We now seek meaning and connection and if we direct ourselves courageously at this exact juncture, it will become the most transformative phase of our lives.
That brings us to the question if I have not found it yet, how do I find my purpose now? I would like to think that on a starry night, strange thunder clouds appear and a celestial being floats down and tells me: “Nuthan this is your purpose”. But rarely does purpose just land on your lap like that. Instead, the purpose is found through choices, understanding and perseverance. It comes from grit and habit. Our purpose comes from our authentic need for meaning.
Are there benefits to purposeful living? Oh yes, once you choose to lead a life of purpose, your resilience to stress increases, your brain is more agile and ageing slows down compared with a life that has no drive. Studies have shown that even when the brain was damaged with Alzheimer’s, those who had purpose were less affected by it.
Journaling your way
So are you ready to kickstart the process that will lead up to your purpose this very month? What you will need to do is journaling. Write a page or two daily for a month until a sense clarity flows through you. Here are the areas you need to reflect on.
Mondays are about History
Your personal history holds the key to finding your purpose. Have you noticed patterns or bursts in your life? It could be that you suffered from bullying and abusive patterns from various quarters, or maybe you have had your inner circle and strangers tell you how you have helped them with your poetry. Maybe you experienced a string of bad relationships or maybe you inspired many to explore this beautiful world. Painful or uplifting – whatever has moved you deeply is an indicator of where you may be able to create value for yourself and others. Most victims I have worked with turned on to lead a purposeful life because they redefined their negative bursts and patterns to create empowerment.
Tuesdays are about Dislikes
By now you would know what you do not want in life. Earlier our need to please others and to belong may have made us do things we dislike. Most likely we are now more independent and can afford to do away with the chores we dislike. The Indic system gives a lot of importance to what needs to be eliminated when we are seeking an answer. The pages you write on Tuesdays are your list of what your purpose is not about. In my case, it would be a small talk.
On Wednesdays meditate over your Energy
Pay attention to your energy. What activities, interactions, topics and causes give you more energy? What drains you? What soothes you? Somewhere in the list of what gives you energy is where your purpose is. Maybe your purpose is to be madly in love with the one who continues to light you up all these years later. Maybe your purpose is to help underprivileged children.
Thursdays are all about Kindness and Goodness
In the ancient Indic system, the right time to seek was already defined; it was Midlife and the ultimate purpose was self-realisation. The life prior to it was all about education and duties. This phase of life is called Vanaprastha and two words that highlight the journey are kindness and goodness. If these two words were to direct your life, where would you go? Who would you become?
Fridays are for Passion
This is one of the most important words while searching for purpose. Ironically, the root of the word passion means to suffer. What are you voluntarily willing to suffer for? What means so much to you that the suffering is insignificant compared to the joy? Write also about what you cannot do without (eg. I cannot do without my dog). This will help you understand the healthy boundaries you need to set in the long run if your life and your purpose seem to clash.
That brings us to Saturday and Sunday – experiment with what you have realised over the week. Learn, research, take notes, but most of all, enjoy.
In a month, at the most, your writings will converge into a fuzzy image – draw it, write it, frame it. Soon it will become your reality. You have your why, you will find your how.
If I can wish for you anything under the stars, it would be a purposeful life, love and deep sleep.