Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver
I have been fascinated by life paths since I was little, and used to have this song on replay as a teen (I was an unusual kid :/). My understanding of meaning back then was spun from threads of scripture, L.M. Montgomery books, Simon & Garfunkel songs – and, dare I say it, wishing upon the first star of the evening!
And while it can be lovely, important, mind blowing and fun, to search and to dream and to stumble upon purpose – there is something else we can do, something that is available to us no matter our mood or circumstance (unless we are drugged or drunk) –
We can deliberately create meaning in our lives
As long as we are alive, we respond to life’s moments: the everyday, the joyful, the terrible.
(And we all do our best, given the resources we have)
But what if we chose, in small ways during the day, to deliberately wield our ability to respond, on purpose?
These need not look “instagram amazing”, or even feel pleasant
Very often they will be ordinary everyday moments of action, taken in line with our values. (For example, making warm Milo for the children, giving the cat insulin and making a phone call that I’ve been dreading, are a few of the things I have done this morning that were meaningful in some way).
Things you can experiment with to create more vitality
- Volunteering, or random acts of kindness, can be a delightful source of vitality and purpose.
- Experiencing awe and wonder can offer a lovely “side-door” to experiencing richness and vitality. One of my favourite things to do is to bundle up when it’s new moon and the sky is dark, and look at the stars; writer Geneen Roth keeps a pair of wellington boots next to her door for this purpose!
- If you feel your life is relatively on track, creating more vitality may simply mean soaking moments in a little more – rather than zooming along, as I know I do at times.
- Rituals such as lighting a candle when you sort your diary out on a sunday night, or simply brewing your tea mindfully once a day, can be ways to create a little more meaning and richness in your life.
- If you have a spiritual or religious tradition, is there a way you could revive or reconnect with this?
- Whenever you can, practise making space for difficult thoughts, feelings, urges – in the service of letting your values guide you in life, rather than your thoughts and emotions. So that you can get meaningful stuff done, no matter what your mind might have to say about things!
- Do check out Dr Nic Hooper’s diary for valued action, here! (this is not an affiliate link).
- Maybe at the end of the day, with gentle curiosity, thoughtfully sift through the day’s activities. Notice where you felt you were living on purpose, with meaning, and how that felt; notice what helped, and what didn’t.
- The #365daysofcompassion hashtag on Twitter is an excellent one to follow, for some daily encouragement on this path. It is curated by Chris Winson, @chisi_98.
- Above all,
Be gentle with yourself always, you are doing the very best you can right now
Often, especially if we are going through a rough time, are anxious or depressed maybe, we need to ask ourselves questions more like these, posed by Fiona Healy O’Neill on twitter not long ago:
“What would it be like to treat this moment as enough? What would it be like to let go of being “good”, to let life flow, to be as I am & love as I love? What would it be like to trust more & care less?”
And sometimes, when you’re in those darkest of dark spaces,
All you may be able to do is to let grace carry you awhile
It can be this simple, this beautiful, and this hard.
This post on the “Working with ACT” blog is excellent, please do read it. It offers a grounded, rich and practical perspective.
- Man’s search for meaning by Viktor Frankl. One of the best books ever, but perhaps don’t read it if you are currently going through a very dark time.
- Finding your own north star by Martha Beck, the best life-coach in the world imho, and who may be an ACT therapist in disguise! and a wonderful read.
- Your life on purpose by McKay, Forysth & Eifert. Also an excellent read, all the more powerful having been written whilst the authors were each going through very difficult times personally.
- Working identity by Herminia Ibarra (this is work- and career-focused).
- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (have a few boxes of tissues handy for this one).
- The bull’s eye exercise
- List of values by Russ Harris
- Valued living questionnaire
- The life compass worksheet