Restoring (or Finding) That Sense of Purpose
Research has shown that knowing your sense of purpose adds up to 7 years of extra life expectancy. But finding your purpose can be quite challenging since it can be an abstract and ambiguous phenomenon. That true calling lies at the intersection of three important areas: your strengths, interests, and what benefits others. When these three forces are all at play, you are doing what you were born to do. Of course it is important to have a clear understanding about each of the three components, so let’s break them down.
Strengths: We are all born with, or have developed, talents and strengths that distinguish us from other people. We simply do some things better than most people do, and it is important to know what these things are and to lean into them. Research shows that applying our strengths is connected to greater work satisfaction, engagement, and productivity, and using them to our advantage makes us happier and more successful, too.
You probably have a sense of what you do well, but a great place to dive deeper and crystallize what you do best is by taking the Strengths Finder Assessment. This costs $15 and requires about 30 minutes of your time. If you are serious about this self-discovery, it is a worthy investment. Alternatively (or additionally), you can take the VIA Character Strengths survey (free with log-in) to discover your top strengths.
Taking one or both of these tests, along with your gut feel, will yield an excellent understanding of your signature strengths and how to leverage them. It is through this process that I learned that some of my top strengths are my focus, determination, and analytical nature.
Interests: This might seem like an obvious one, and certainly unique to every individual. But even identifying personal interests can be tricky. We’re often told to pursue our passions, but many people do not have pre-existing burning passions. The reality is that passion often doesn’t just exist--it needs to be developed.
Therefore, a better approach is to start by thinking about anything that you are interested in or enjoy doing even remotely. Take the time to write these areas of interest down, and then add to the list whenever something makes you happy, curious, or intrigued to learn more. Over time, trends will appear and you will have a good sense for what you truly enjoy doing.
If you get stuck, start by designing what your perfect day would look like, from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep. Even thinking about how you choose to spend your free Saturday afternoons gives a good indication of your interests. I have discovered that I love reading and writing, especially about personal improvement and philosophies of life.
What Benefits Others: Now that your top strengths and interests have been identified, you are already light years ahead of most people. Uniting just those two forces, whether as a profession or hobby, can ignite your happiness and success. But to truly find your calling and purpose in life, it is important to leverage those areas for the greater good.
Hopefully, you are one of the lucky ones already operating in your sweet spot. But if not, often just combining your strengths and interests will naturally unearth a path to help others. And perhaps by now you have already had some ‘a ha’ moments. You don’t need to only consider major global issues--your family, community, school, city, company (or other group or organization that is important to you) are also in need of your unique contributions. Don’t forget that people are in need of entertainment, humor, relaxation, education, beauty, social gathering, and other simple joys.
For example, if you’re a particularly patient person, and you enjoy spending time with children, you could focus your efforts on mentoring or coaching. Or maybe you’re a doctor with a passion for travel, so you seek out opportunities to volunteer your medical services abroad. Or perhaps you are great with numbers and interested in money markets, and therefore are well-suited to help people accumulate wealth and save for retirement.
Go Find Your Calling: We all want to wake up in the morning with a clear sense of purpose that guides and gives meaning to our lives. But your calling won’t necessarily just “call” out to you. You will likely need to search for it. By following the steps outlined above, you can find and nurture it. Your true calling will emerge as you combine your top strengths and interests with what benefits others.
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Getting to a Flow State
We’ve all witnessed someone performing at the peak of what is possible, and it’s an awe-inspiring sight. Maybe it’s a politician delivering a transcendent speech, a singer belting out a performance that will echo through the ages, or an athlete playing so well they’re basically infallible. In these situations, chances are you’re witnessing a human who’s entered a “flow state”. Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who for years headed the department of psychology at the University of Chicago, originally recognized and named the concept of flow decades ago. He outlined six key factors that define it:
One of these thinkers, author, journalist, and entrepreneur Steven Kotler, offered tips that anyone can use to experience more flow in their lives. Kotler has been studying and writing about the concept for three decades. He’s the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective. For starters, Kotler recommends taking on challenges that ever-so-slightly exceed your skill-set, as these require extra attention. Moreover, this forces you to learn to be comfortable with being outmatched and a little uncomfortable.
Kotler also urges setting a proper scene. If you know you’re a morning person, take on complicated tasks in the morning. If you thrive at night, do them at night.
And when you do take up challenges, concentrate on them completely, removing as many distractions as possible. No smartphone, no television, no multi-tasking. “Flow only shows up when all of our attention is in the right here, right now,” Kotler said. It also tends to show up only if we are sufficiently motivated by the task at hand. Driving this motivation is curiosity, passion, purpose, autonomy, and mastery, Kotler said.
“When we’re curious about something, we don’t have to struggle. We don’t have to burn a lot of calories trying to pay attention to it.” Curiosity can lead you to become passionate about something, which can in turn drive that thing to give you purpose. The activity itself becomes fulfilling. It is the means and the end.
“Once you have purpose, the system demands autonomy,” Kotler further explained. “I want the freedom to pursue my purpose. And once you have that freedom, the system wants the last of the big motivators, mastery. Mastery is the skills to pursue that purpose well.”
So delve into activities--be they work, hobbies, sports, parenting, etc. – that truly drive you, and focus on them entirely when you do. You might find yourself entering into flow more often, which will in turn make you more productive and successful. “We’re all capable of so much more than we know. It’s the largest lesson in 30 years of studying peak performance has taught me,” Kotler said.
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3 Rules for Getting Everyone to Understand You
You take a deep breath, ask what everyone thinks, and realize that you’re getting the look. You know the one: mouths slightly agape, heads tilted in anticipation, and a squint like everyone just endured the world’s most strenuous eye exam. Everyone is more confused now than before you began talking. Whether from public speaking or just having a heart-to-heart, life is full of these types of conversations. You’ve been there, I’ve been there, and Alan Alda has been there.
Though best known for his role on the 1970s sitcom M*A*S*H, Alda is a public speaker, science enthusiast, and long-time advocate for better science communication. He has interviewed scientists as the host of Scientific American Frontiers, won the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award, and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.
In that time, he has developed a playbook of strategies to help people engage in conversation and voice their ideas clearly. If these tips can help biologists explain genetic drift, physicists Hawking radiation, or linguists anything about Chomskyan linguistics, then chances are they can help us express our thoughts and feelings when we need others to understand them the most.
1. Make no more than three points - The human brain can only store so much information in short-term memory. The oft-repeated number is seven items (or chunks). That number comes from research in the 1950s and has been reinforced in our collective subconscious by the fact that so many things happen in sevens. Consider that before the advent of cell phones, people spent lots of time memorizing seven-digit phone numbers. However, follow-up research suggests that short-term memory is far less robust, maxing out at a meager three to five items. It can only hold so many topics and tangents, and once it’s at capacity, it needs to erase old information to upload anything new. Alda agrees. He advises you to limit your conversation points to no more than three, allowing you and your partner to focus on the thought at hand while avoiding disruptive additions.
2. Explain difficult ideas in three different ways - As Alda said in his interview: “If I have a difficult thing to understand, if there’s something I think is not going to be that easy to get, I try to say it in three different ways. I think if you come in from different angles you have a better chance of getting a three-dimensional view of this difficult idea.”
One way to tap into this strategy is through metaphor. When Barbara Oakley was writing her book A Mind for Numbers, she reached out to professors who were highly ranked for their teaching skills. She discovered that across disciplines, the best professors were metaphor tacticians. They analogized key concepts or difficult ideas to better explain them.
According to Oakley, metaphors work by building on existing neural patterns established from previous learning. Those existing patterns then help create new neural networks for incorporating the new information. A physics teacher, for example, may explain the mind-boggling concept of the expanding Universe by comparing it to how raisin bread expands as it bakes. Such a metaphor helps students connect the cosmologically large with something previously experienced on Earth.
3. Make important points three times - Repetition is a powerful communication tool because it helps us identify key information and transfer it from short-term to long-term memory. When it comes to learning, the best kind of repetition is spaced out. Whether you’re memorizing a phone number or a complex physics equation, revisiting and applying the information over several weeks cements it in your brain by developing and strengthening the neural patterns where the information is housed. This process explains why flashcards are such an effective studying tool. Anytime you repeat something, it signals that this information is important, so pay attention. It’s why song, speech, and soliloquy writers use repetition so liberally. Think Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the many soliloquies of Shakespeare, and, of course, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.”
Express your thoughts clearly through connection - But Alda warns that tips only take you so far and may harm your efforts if you try to script your conversations like a formula to replicate someone else’s masterwork. Instead, Alda suggests that the true heart of communication is connection. Your goal shouldn’t be to enthrall your audience with a creative metaphor, meaningful pause, or witticism. That’s rhetoric, not communication. “A tip is just an intellectualization of that, which might be okay to give somebody once they’ve got the grounding in the ability to connect, but it ought to come out of the connection. It shouldn’t be a checkbox that you tick off,” Alda said.
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Conscious Breathing - EXCERPT: Consider this: When breathing unconsciously, when you breath in, you are merely breathing in air, and when you breath out, you're just exhaling the metabolic wastes into the atmosphere. With conscious breathing, however, you use the mind via the imagination to supercharge that air you breath in with the subtle energies you create. FULL TEXT / VIDEO
Life Really IS Fair - EXCERPT: "Other people are none of your business. Forgive yourself for your unwanted situation, and karma is automatically satisfied." I mulled that over for months after that, and tried to forgive myself on many occasions, but it was hard. There always seemed to be something or someone else that needed forgiving more than me. Then it hit me. I was being a victim. - FULL TEXT / VIDEO
Health & Healing Hack of the Week
Perhaps one of the most obvious health hacks, the body positions and getting to the positions is the crux of yoga asanas. The inventor of yoga, Patanjali, notes that the asanas are only ONE of eight practices that make up the yoga universe. Unfortunately, in truncated modern parlance, "yoga" became synonymous with the physical practice. The asanas are meant to move the body out of its usual comfort range in order to expand that range, allowing for life force, or "chi" to flow into those less used positions, cleansing toxins and moving lymph fluids, improving health overall over time. Hence, one could say an asana is any motion of the body made outside its normal range, so doing any kind of stretch along with breathing into the position, is a valid asana. Coming out of the position to a relaxed resting pose is also part of the asana. Yoga is another great way to start your day. Use it along with "OM" for far-reaching benefits. -- From 25 No Cost Health & Healing Hacks by Boyd Martin)
Quantum Healer of the Week
Dorota Razmus is a vibrational healer, sound and light codes alchemist, channel for divine love and divine mother’s archetype. Bringing to you unconditional love vibration, new codes of light and knowledge to transform and heal deeply all levels of your being. Dorota was born in Poland. She has music degree in vocal performance ,studied classical and jazz. She lived in Australia where 35 years ago her awakening happend and many transformational changes begin. Now she is using her amazing gift of sound, singing--toning voice as energy tool, bringing Angelic channeled light--sound language to transform cellular, mental, emotional and etheric levels of her clients. She is working online with clients around the World. One-to-One transformational sessions, group classes, events and mp3 activations are helping many to heal and harmonize. It is vibrational work on many levels of your Divine Human awakening. Based in Europe, Dorota is inviting you to Costa Del Sol where you can meet live and heal during workshops and transformational Retreats. Dorota offers personal sessions of one hour. They are deeply a transformational healing via Zoom meeting. You can receive healing with all that seems to be your problem at this time. It is Loving and peaceful---a wonderfully healing session. You will receive arecording of your session. -- WEBSITE
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