I’m thinking about purpose this week.
Maybe it’s because I celebrated another birthday, or because I’m enjoying a life-long goal of traveling through Europe. Or maybe it’s because, in the midst of all the epic castles and regal mountain beauty, I was thinking about you.
Wellness Covers Many Things
Because I’m a licensed chiropractor, people tend to assume that I’m only concerned with bones. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, here at Fundamental Health Solutions, we consider ourselves wellness coaches, and that means that we concern ourselves with every facet of wellness.
As we have explored here many times, wellness isn’t just diet or just exercise, or even just your body’s functional performance. In my mind, wellness touches your diet, movement, sleep, work, relationships, faith, stress management, and even money. Wellness is all-encompassing, and when you are lacking wellness in any area, it pulls down your wellness level in every area.
In other words, “Think Right, Eat Right, Move Right, Live Right.”
With that in mind, I like to devote some of my “Wellness Wednesday” articles to matters of “the mental game”: attitude, faith, stress, relationships, and so on. After all, if you linger on stressful thoughts, it begins to affect your physical body. You suffer from gastrointestinal pain, headaches, joint stiffness, and so on. You’ve experienced that yourself at times.
So, since it’s my birthday, I’m enjoying a life goal, and I’m thinking about you, let’s explore how all three of these factors relate to purpose.
Why Is Purpose Important?
When Dan Beuttner and his team at National Geographic Society set out to understand the “Blue Zones” – those places around he world where a large number of people live past 100 years – they identified nine core factors that all these cultures had in common. The Blue Zones are found in places as far-flung as Greece, Costa Rice, Japan, and California, so it was surprising to find out that they had many things in common. Sure, healthy diet and healthy movement were parts of it, but they also saw that community, faith, rest, family, and stress management were also important.
Maybe most surprising to me was the fact that the people who lived to be more than 100 years old had a strong sense of purpose for their lives. Having a reason to get out of bed every morning helps to ensure that you will live longer. You and I have both seen where people retire and lose their reason to get out of bed and die quickly thereafter. It’s tragic.
The Importance Of Milestones
The calendar provides us some important milestones that we can use to judge our progress: birthdays, New Year’s Day, the first of each month, anniversaries, and so on. It’s in those moments that we can stop and look back over our last year and see if it matches up with the goals and visions we set for ourselves:
- Am I better father than I was this time last year?
- Is my practice growing the way I’d hoped?
- Are my relationships growing or dying?
- How is my spiritual journey going?
- Am I achieving my weight goals?
- Have I gone to the places I wanted to visit?
Of course, if you’ve set no goals for yourself (and many people don’t) you have no way to gauge your performance. If you don’t know where you’re going, you never know if you arrive. Which brings me to my second point.
Purpose Gives Me Focus
I am so excited to finally reach this goal of visiting these sites around Germany. If we hadn’t planned this trip in advance, we would never have seen the amazing things we’ve seen. We would have spent this time in the hotel trying to decide where we should go, or we wouldn’t have made it at all. Having a clear objective or purpose for your life gives you a way to know if you are even going in the right direction.
Not having a clear purpose is like arriving at the airport and not knowing which airplane to get on. But having a clear objective for this trip made the planning easy. I knew not to look at travel websites to China or Thailand. Someday, I will see those places as well, but that was not the purpose of this trip. By keeping a clear focus on my objective, I was able to rule out anything that didn’t fit.
There was a time in my life when I was considering a handful of career options. I could have pursued a medical degree, a business degree, or any of number of other options. The difficulty for many college students is the same problem they have reading the menu at the Cheesecake Factory: there are too many options to choose from. Unless you have a clear objective for what you want, you can vacillate among a hundred options until your head starts to spin. I have seen countless people spend their whole lives that way. They never get anywhere.
Purpose Makes Hard Choices Easier
There comes a point when you have to make a decision between good options. It’s easy to say no to bad options, but when you have a wide range of good possibilities, it’s harder to pick one.
I recently heard a TED Talk by Corrine Vigrieux, the founder of the GPS company, TomTom. She talked about a time when they had $1.8 billion in the bank and lots of really good ideas on the table. They could have gone 40 different ways because their company was full of really smart innovators. But in order to stay successful, they had to focus, and that meant they had to say “no” to some really exciting possibilities. She said it was like “killing puppies.” The ideas are so exciting and so promising, and they look at you hopefully, like adorable little puppies. You would enjoy them all, but you can’t possibly take care of them all. You have to focus.
That’s why it’s so important to have a clear view of your purpose. If my purpose in life is to be a surgeon, it makes no sense to hire an agent to pursue an acting career. It sounds exciting, and I might be good at it, but if my life purpose is to perform surgery, it would be counterproductive to give attention to acting. Maybe there will be time to try it as a hobby, but it can’t be allowed to compete with my life focus. China would be interesting, but spending time researching it won’t get me closer to Germany.
Thinking About You
You would think that, surrounded by the mountains and castles of Bavaria, I would have left behind all thought of Naples. I won’t lie: there have been moments. This place really is amazing.
But I found myself thinking about work almost every day.
I know that, on vacation, you are supposed to leave the office at the office, so we have made a conscious effort not to dwell on the financial pressures of running a practice, but I couldn’t help but think about my patients at times. We saw one building that we knew several of our patients would have loved to see. We saw an older woman touring the Nueschwannstein castle that was having some difficulty walking, and I could see that her pelvis was out of alignment. I wanted to help her.
Why would I allow myself to get caught up in thinking like a chiropractor on vacation? Because it is part of my purpose. I can’t help it; it is important to me to help you improve your mobility, stability, and motor control. I want you to enjoy relief from chronic pain; to live your best life. It’s not a job; it’s my purpose. Educating people on how to enjoy their best wellness is my calling in life. It’s where I find fulfillment. Operating in my God-given purpose gives meaning, shape, and clarity to my life.
Calling is a funny word. We tend to link it to religious ideas, as if only pastors and missionaries have a “calling.”
I read this recently and wrote it down, but I don’t recall where I saw it (forgive me, Internet):
“Max Weber wrote that a calling is a ‘task set by God.’ All individuals have their own particular callings, reflecting three realities: (1) their own God-given abilities; (2) the world’s need for the services their callings provide; and (3) their enjoyment in serving society and God in their own special ways. Much like any noble purpose, a calling is both meaningful to the self and important to the world beyond the self. Christian theologian Frederick Buechner writes, ‘The kind of work God usually calls you to do is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. . . . The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’”
There is a variation of the same wisdom in The Road to Character by David Brooks:
“In this method, you don’t ask, What do I want from life? You ask a different set of questions: What does life want from me? What are my circumstances calling me to do?
“In this scheme of things we don’t create our lives; we are summoned by life. The important answers are not found inside, they are found outside. This perspective begins not within the autonomous self, but with the concrete circumstances in which you happen to be embedded. This perspective begins with an awareness that the world existed long before you and will last long after you, and that in the brief span of your life you have been thrown by fate, by history, by chance, by evolution, or by God into a specific place with specific problems and needs. Your job is to figure certain things out: What does this environment need in order to be made whole? What is it that needs repair? What tasks are lying around waiting to be performed?”
How About You?
So, here we are.
No, not in Germany or Naples, but in this moment in time. Together. I believe you and I have a purpose individually and collectively. Our paths have crossed for a moment in time to impact each other. I am here to help move you down your path, and you are here to help me move down my path. Our purposes direct us, but also interact. It’s mind-blowing to think about.
The God who formed these gigantic mountains around me also crafted a life plan for each person. We have the right to follow it or walk away; He adjusts everything else around us to accommodate our free will. His plan is always adapting to our individual choices, but He is big enough to make it all work out.
It’s breathtaking to think about.
I am just a stone on the path, but I was put here on purpose and my assignment is to determine why and perform that purpose to the best of my ability.
So it is for you. I pray that you identify it and complete your assignment. That’s where real fulfillment lives.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES (or PURPOSE) is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas