This one is coming from the heart.
Last week, after a particularly challenging coaching session with a client, I wrote this on my Facebook page:
“Never confuse urgency and drama with meaning and purpose.”
So many people are focused on “winning” and “making a mark” and “getting” and being “Type A” and, then ask me to help them find out why they are so unhappy and unfulfilled and struggle to identify their life’s purpose.
I can tell you something. They’re making things a lot more difficult than they need to be.
Because I believe every human being has the exact same purpose in life.
It’s to be a force for good in the world.
And although we share the same purpose, we derive our own personal meaning from how we decide to do good.
One person might be a force for good in the world by teaching. Another by cleaning streets. One might find meaning in helping people become prosperous, another in curing illness.
The overarching purpose is to do something good. In large and small ways. All the time.
I am never doing good if I cheat you, scam you or otherwise take advantage of you. Never. Not in business. Not ever. People who conduct their business this way may find that they get a big score at the outset, but rarely ever create a lasting, truly lucrative business. See Bernie Madoff, for example. You do better when you’re focused on doing good.
Now, tyrants and despots often justify their bad acts by saying they are acting in the “common good.” Ethnic cleansing, silencing dissidents and controlling the media comes to mind. You can probably come up with some other examples yourself.
But when anyone is hurt, good is not being done. When harm is done, we’re acting in direct opposition to our life’s purpose, so it’s no wonder that tyrants and despots often wind up being hung by their ankles with body parts stuffed into their mouths by the very people they were trying to “protect.”
Now we know what meaning and purpose are all about — let’s look at urgency and drama.
Just because something’s urgent, doesn’t mean it’s important. If I get a flat tire, it’s urgent but it’s not really important. I can pull over, jack up the car, replace the tire, go on my way.
Or I can choose to make it a drama. Boy howdy, can I. How about I call my brother, my sister-in-law, my neighbor, my son, my best friend and the local radio station to announce that I Have A Flat Tire and invite them to join the pity party with me? I can then regale the folks at the supermarket, the dry cleaners and the smoothie shop with the story of My Flat Tire. Watch me work the story at the office!
I get all wrapped around the axle.
And a twenty minute inconsequential period extends into hours, maybe even weeks of drama.
Which takes time and attention away from my real life’s purpose.
Cuz I’m not doing good. In fact, I’m just creating needless motion that uses up my energy.
Which is what I hear from my coaching clients. For years and years they have allowed urgent matters to masquerade as their life’s purpose, and accepted drama as a substitute for meaning. They’re addicted to the high fructose corn syrup adrenaline rush of drama, and have completely lost their taste for the true sweetness of real meaning.
When you’re hip to your life’s purpose of being a force for good, you can find meaning in the smallest things. Like holding the door open for the pregnant woman pushing a stroller. Like giving up your seat on the subway to the elderly man with the cane. Like smiling. Easy things you can do every day.
Big things can hold great meaning, too. Like mentoring that young man at work. Or being generous with well-deserved raises to your best people despite the economy. Or finding a vaccine for cancer. Challenging, time consuming things that can take a whole career to accomplish are ripe with meaning.
Since this is my own personal manifesto, let me go a step further. I believe you already know this. I believe people are, at their core, good. We only get stuck when we get in our own way and confuse urgency and drama with meaning and purpose. So step out of the way. Deal with that which is urgent, because we all face things that need attention. But attend without drama. Fulfilling your life purpose means being who it is you are at your core — good old you — and doing what good you can in each moment.