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To Discover Your Purpose, Follow Your Joy! Really, That Simple?

Yes, that simple.

Courtesy of Laura Pratt @ Unsplash

And yes, I do believe this is applicable to all aspects of life in that if given a choice, who among us would prefer to walk into a hostile office, an angry home, a lifeless restaurant, or a drab supermarket? Given a choice, most of us would prefer to walk into a space where people are joyful, genuinely engaged with whatever they are doing, and welcoming of others.

Simple, but of course, not easy. Simple simply because we’ve all in fact been focusing on the wrong angle when it comes to answering the big life question that many had obsessed over for millennials, aka “the meaning and purpose of life”!

I think passion is great but over-rated, and can in fact be dangerous because it consumes, not sustain. I think strength is critical, but can become a mechanistic and reductionist constrain that discourages exploration beyond the “strength zone”. I think curiosity is necessary but can be at times too fleeting and perhaps even superficial.

But Joy! I believe comes from somewhere much deeper, somewhere as old as stardust itself. And therefore carries with it, an eternal regenerative force that like water, is life-giving when it flows freely.

As with all things true and eternal, you can’t manufacture joy. It can only be invited by virtue of your attention.

The more you pay attention to your joy, the more it will reveal to you your purpose.

But how?

By choice.

Decades of neuroscience strongly suggest that the best way to reinforce any pattern of thinking, doing, being is to tell yourself to stop it. Counter-intuitive though it may appear at first encounter, the best way to break a habit is to ignore it, and literally starve it to oblivion. In other words, focus instead on strengthening the new habit, i.e. feed the neural pathways of the new habit so it gets bigger and stronger. The key word here is actually, feed.

New neural pathways are “fed” when glucose (from the food we eat) is directed to it. And the only way to do that is ATTENTION. When you pay attention to something, you are feeding the neural pathway. Do it often enough, and it becomes a habit. And so, what I am proposing for you to pay attention to, is your JOY. Understood by me as that which you want to say “Hell Yes” to! A simple invitation that I find makes more sense than follow your heart or listen to you your gut because much of that is habituated.

I imagine the State of Joy to be a place where all of Earth’s natural laws are suspended, where all things seem effortless, and where time does not exist. And in this State, you’re no longer obsessed with results because the is-ness of the “state” is the source of contentment. Holding all things lightly and being able to see the humour in everything, the most beautiful serendipity of being in this state is how big our hearts feel! So big that it seems we can embrace the whole world as if it’s the most natural thing to do!

A cautionary note though is in order at this point. For as much as there will be those who want to bask in the warmth of your joy, in my experience, there will be situations where:

  1. Like the fox who calls the grape sour, some people will be irritated, and perhaps even outright angry, with you
  2. Like a vacuum, some people want to suck your joy for themselves
  3. As misery loves company, some people will exclude you on account of you being bad company (go figure!)

Which is to say that to heed the calling of joy is no easy path, but it will always gift you with immeasurable resilience because you know you are on your way home. It is my experience as I began to follow my joy, that moments of hardship are threshold moments between the person I am, and the person I am called to be. It gifts me with faith to stay and witness the gift of my own becoming, and not rush through these moments that hold the greatest promise of transforming me.

In parting, I would like to ask one simple question, “dare you choose to follow your joy?”

And invite your curiosity as to what kind of organisations, homes, civic communities are possible when all of us … follow our joy.

Important note: Self-serving hedonistic addictive pleasures is not to be confused with joy, as those can clearly be manufactured.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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