Clarity of Purpose


A Zen master once asked me, ‘Why do you eat?” I replied that I eat to sustain my body. I then asked him why he ate. He smiled at me with twinkling eyes and said, “I eat for you.”

Why do you eat? What are your goals, your intentions? What are your purposes?

Surely we all strive to survive. That is the ego’s job. As social animals, that we strive to be included and valued by others. We may also strive for pleasure, comfort, or power. Everyone wants to make a certain amount of money at least to survive. Yet some people strive to make as much money as possible so that they can consume as much as possible, have as much status and prestige as possible, or have as much comfort and convenience as possible. Their purpose is to ease an inner “dis-ease.” This “dis-ease” could be a sense of emptiness or lack of meaning, boredom, or a sense of deficiency—of not being enough just as we are. Usually it is a deficiency of love.

At the root of all egoic drives is fear: fear of discomfort, rejection, loss, or failure. When we are enslaved by fear rather than being informed by fear, our purpose in life becomes restricted to serving our fear-driven ego without regard for the greater Life of which we are a part. We become selfish and self-serving. Our fear snuffs out our love.

A well mind is a mind that is fear-informed but not fear-enslaved. A well mind lives out of love. Then we can live for a higher purpose that is greater than we are. When our purpose is to love, then we are fulfilling Life’s mandate that we nurture Life.
How do we move from fear to love so that we can live for our higher purpose? I recommend the following practices.

• Every morning, reflect on your higher purpose. What is your unique way that you love, that you contribute, that you nurture Life? Visualize it concretely. What specific actions are you going to take this day to fulfill your purpose? Commit to being kind and helpful. Commit to your higher purpose every day, all day. Be intentional and disciplined about it.
• Acknowledge and address your fears. Awareness and acceptance are the keys to change and growth.
o If you are afraid of rejection, relieve others of the burden of having to love and affirm you by loving and affirming yourself.
o If you are afraid of harm, do what you must to minimize the risk of harm while accepting that some distress in life is inevitable. Life is hard. When distress comes your way, say, “of course.” Expect it and accept it. If there are painful realities about yourself or your life situation that you are avoiding, face and embrace them. Stop hiding from your pain.
o If your fear is of losing someone or something dear to you, do what you can to nurture what you fear losing, while accepting that loss is an inevitable part of life. Make peace with this reality.
o If your fear is of failure, embrace failure as the road to success. Life’s greatest lessons come from our mistakes and failures. Commit to “failing forward.” Don’t play games to avoid taking accountability for your life.

Be very mindful of your intentions, moment by moment as you go through your day. Be radically honest with yourself. Why are you doing what you’re doing or saying what you’re saying? If you are serving a necessary survival purpose, such as working to make money, that is fine. But also note if you are also serving your higher purpose. Get very clear on your purpose this moment. While it should be fear-informed, it should also be love-informed.

Ultimately living life out of love, for a higher purpose, is what fulfills us and gives us the capacity to savor life. Living for your higher purpose promotes healing, recovery, and growth.

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