Try a new purpose on for size

You may recall that last week I introduced the idea of a “S.P.I.R.I.T.” acronym as a framework for a system that measures and lifts psychological well-being.

I was emboldened by the many enthusiastic reactions to that post, so this week we’ll explore the acronym’s second letter.

It means it’s time for a “P,” as it were.

The P in S.P.I.R.I.T. stands for Purpose, and incorporating a greater sense of this into your life can be transformative.

It really means you have goals, and a general feeling that your life has meaning.

It entails holding beliefs that give you purpose, and having aims and objectives for living.

Now, if these lofty definitions leave you needing a drink, I have good news.

For we do indeed start today’s conversation standing at the bar in one of the student cafés on the Stanford campus here in California.

Last weekend I took Glenn and Maria, friends from London, for a bite to eat after we’d chatted on the University radio station for a couple of hours.

Wanting a beer (perhaps unsurprisingly after that, needing one) there were three different varieties on tap, but none were familiar to us.

So we asked for samples, tasted all three, as you do, and easily decided who’d have what.

Sampling food or drink seems to me a bit like trying on clothes before you buy them: it’s amazing how quickly you just “know” if something suits you, the minute you see it in the mirror, or taste it.

It’s occurred to me that it might be handy to take this same “try before you buy” approach to many of life’s aspects, actually, including a sense of purpose.

Of course there are those in life whose path is deeply-defined and ever-evident, and more power to their purposeful elbows, I say.

For the rest of us, though, it’s not uncommon to go through times when we have less-clear goals, and a reduced sense of mission.

If this is happening to you right now, fear not.

I have a suggestion, associated with trying things on for size – which will also be fun.

I’ve drawn up a list of 10 mini-missions, each of which has at least the potential to feel meaningful.

Some may not be new to you. They could already be a regular part of your life, in which case I’d suggest skipping them.

But if they’re unfamiliar, or are simply not part of your regular current routine, please try not to scoff, but agree instead to experiment with a maximum of two in the next day.

When you do this, try to ask yourself three simple questions:

1. How did it make me feel to do this?
2. How meaningful did it feel?
3. How much would I like to do this again?

My goal certainly isn’t to equip you with a sudden sense of purpose on a par with someone who decides to up sticks to Tibet to become a Buddhist monk.

It’s more about a gentle method of experimenting with new ways to add just a little more purpose to everyday life.

Do feel free to create your own missions, but here’s a list of 10 to get you started (remember, pick a maximum of just two today):

a. Learn/remind yourself how to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation

b. Walk in nature, perhaps barefoot

c. Donate one good item you own to a local charity

d. Talk to/help someone in need

e. Pick up three pieces of litter

f. Call in to a neighbour’s to say hello, just for 10 minutes

g. Speak to a random stranger

h. Ask someone with a dog if they’ll let you pet it

i. Say a prayer

j. Spend five minutes alone in total silence

Try to suppress possible biases, using a genuine sense of openness and curiosity to select an item or two. Remember, this is just an experiment.

But do, please, share your insights – both positive and negative.

Having a greater sense of purpose is good for your spirit.

And for your S.P.I.R.I.T.

6 thoughts on “Try a new purpose on for size

  1. This has really helped me this morning to find some ‘get go’ again, just lately there’s been a bit of empty and some ‘purposeless ness’ about me, if that can be seen as a word(??!). My daughter has finally properly left home, and although there is ‘opportunity’ now, it’s getting on with stuff thats hard at times. ( i have an illness which can fatigue me too, so doubly difficult.)
    But thankyou, Jon, I am going to give myself a couple of ‘assignments’ and see how we get on… Thanks for writing this today.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Sue, and I wish you well with trying a couple of assignments. I can see that both your illness and the empty nest would present you with challenges, so it’s fantastic to hear your enthusiasm shining through in what you’ve written.

      I love the word “purposeless-ness.” Sometimes you just need that extra syllable. If it’s not already in the dictionary, it should be.

  2. Jon–I’ve loved and found helpful all your messages even going back to Moodscope–however, feeling like a bit of a curmudgeon two things troubled me today. I don’t usually comment–however, the concept of “needing a drink” was troubling to me as it is usually alcoholics who “need” a drink and encouraging folks with mood disorders to be sampling beer may not be so healthy.

    Also I would caution all of us who live in the northeast of the US to be careful about going outdoors barefoot unless your feet are sprayed with DEET–I am just recovering from a tick illness myself.

    1. Sorry to hear about your tick-related illness, Gayle, and thank you for the reminder that it’s alway, always sensible to be cautious and aware when you’re outdoors. There are parts of the world where I think it’s quite OK to go barefoot, and others where it’s not. So, thanks.

      I’m also grateful for your comment about my sentence concerning “needing” a drink. I used the phrase light-heartedly, and perhaps shouldn’t have.

      I’m sorry I made you feel troubled. Definitely not my goal in writing this post.

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