Always be arcing back towards what you want to be known for, for your heart's desire, for what gives you the most joy.
Finding your purpose sounds like a really daunting task, and I have run away from that phrase for my entire life. But figuring out what my life is going to be about is easier to do.
Let's do some simple math around some of the big things my life COULD be about.
- Marriage and Kids (or divorce and kids, as in my case)
- Career in… (today it's marketing, tomorrow it's writing)
- Passion doing (today it's playing tennis and playing music)
- Great at doing (marketing, writing, relationship navigation)
Today I would not say that my life is About writing, but it's going that way. Even this post is another step in that direction. I am leaving behind a trail of words, songs, phrases that I hope, in the long run, define my full and happy life. My life today IS full and happy, but I'm still "working" at a number of things I'm good at, and a little bit passionate about, but they are not my life's work. Oh, those heavy phrases again. I'm not so much into "life's work" as finding my passion and letting that define my purpose.
I believe that my creative life is a celebration of the spiritual life I lead. I believe in God. And in that belief comes my understanding that my celebration of the human spirit (song, poem, drawing, anagram) is a celebration of God, or my God-given talents. And, of course, it's a lot more than talent, we've all got talent. My life well-lived is about commitment and tenacity. I will continue writing no matter what. And in my early 50's I'm quite confident that I'm writing better than I ever have. Stories I wanted to tell in my 20's and 30's are now within my narrative powers. Reading over my first novel, I'm excited to retell the entire tale from a more mature, more convoluted perspective.
If you are the narrator of your life, what's the first line of your movie?
Here's a run at mine: "In 105 years, John McElhenney never quit writing songs and poems. He finished a new song hours before he fell asleep for the last time. Here's the last recording of Mr. McElhenney, a joyous love song to his wife."
What's your narrator going to say about your life in 20 years? Can you begin working towards a few of those ideals now? Can you arc your career closer to your passion? In my case, I am a writer. And while I've shied away from being a copywriter, I have made a fairly good living writing words and building strategies for companies. I'd rather put my words to use for more enlightening subjects, but hey… we all gotta eat.
So how does my life stack up so far in my four categories?
- Marriage and Kids (35% of my time)
- Career in… (50% of my time, working)
- Passion doing (5% of my time playing or writing)
- Great at doing (10% of my time writing and building my empire)
It is my hope that I can continue to angle my life and work towards the 4th quadrant in my system. As I am gearing up for book proposals and screenplay submissions, it is a big harry goal to write as my job. One breakaway title and I could do it. But I must keep my momentum up even without the fame and fortune. What I have in my court is that tenacity. I'm never going to stop writing. And as long as I keep getting better, my writing in 10 years is going to be amazing.
Do what you have to do to make a living and support the lifestyle you want to live. But always be arcing back towards what you want to be known for, for your heart's desire, for what gives you the most joy. That's the goal in life worth pursuing.
- Letters to a Young Poet – Rilke
- Write Time: Guide to the Creative Process, from Vision through Revision-and Beyond – Atchity
- Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, 2nd Edition – Goldberg
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Joyce
- The Artist's Way – Cameron
- Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace – MacKenzie
- Sonic Highways (show) – Dave Grohl and HBO explore music
- The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
- Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting – Jimmy Webb
image: artist at work, creative commons usage