I’d like to share with you the stories of two men. The first is a Prince in a distant land. One morning he fetched his bow and arrow as was his custom, mounted his favorite horse, and set off for the forest. After coming to a clearing, he dismounted, tied the reins to a branch, and entered the bushes in search of prey. After a moment, he heard a rustle behind him. When he turned to look, he saw a stag. But before he could draw his bow, the magical stag spoke to him, saying, “What on earth on you doing for Heaven’s sake?”
“I’m hunting,” replied the astonished Prince.
“That’s not what I meant.” said the stag. “Heaven has given you the gift of life. Now that you have received it, what are you doing for Heaven?”
The above is an adaptation of a Sufi story. In it, the magical stag is trying to explain to the Prince that there is more to life than hunting or having fun. We have been given the gift of life for a reason. When we understand that reason, our life becomes infused with purpose and meaning. A Sufi sage, Rumi, has this to add to what has been said by the magical stag:
“One thing must not be forgotten. Forget all else, but remember this, and you’ll have no regrets. Remember and be concerned with everything else, but ignore this one thing, and you’ll have done nothing. It is as if a king has sent you on a mission to a foreign land to perform one specific task for him. If you do a hundred things, but not this appointed task, what have you accomplished? Human beings come into this world for a particular purpose, and if they forget it they will have done nothing at all.” (Jalal Al-Din Rumi, 1207 ~ 1273)
The story of the magical stag, then, reminds us that from time to time we need to stop what we are doing and ask ourselves, “Is this why I’m here?” Purpose brings more than clarity to our lives, for it also brings power. The Hindu sage Patañjali explains why this is so:
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and your discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” (Patañjali is said to be the author of “The Yoga Sutra” and the founder of Yoga. If he actually lived, it was probably around AD 200.)
Now, let’s consider the story of Wilf, the second man I promised to write about. Unlike the Prince, Wilf is not a man of means. Yet, whenever he can be of help, he doesn’t hesitate to act. No wonder Wilf always has a smile and something cheerful to say, for he is living a life of purpose. His purpose is quite simple: TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. And over the years he has made a difference in the lives of untold numbers of people.
Here’s a recent example. Rather than just give a couple of dollars to a destitute man, Wilf tried to make him less dependent on the generosity of others and more self-reliant. So, Wilf purchased and gave him ten copies of the “Outreach Connection” to sell. (The “Outreach Connection” is a newspaper sold by the homeless in Toronto. They pay 40¢ per copy and sell it for $1.00 each.) “Here,” said Wilf, “you can earn ten dollars by selling these papers for a dollar a piece. I will be your first customer. Here’s a dollar; let me have a copy. After you sell all the copies, use four dollars to buy another ten copies, and just keep repeating this as often as you’d like. I wish you good luck in your new business!”
We can tell what a person’s purpose is by noting their actions. The Prince, for instance, was only interested in amusing himself by hunting. He may have kept himself busy, but he was still idle, for as Socrates (469 ~ 399 BCE) taught, “They are not only idle who do nothing, but they are idle also who might be better employed.” In other words, although the Prince was spending time, he wasn’t using it in the best possible way. Had he thought like Ben Franklin (1706 ~ 1790), he might have acted differently. “The noblest question in the world is,” according to Ben Franklin, “what good may I do in it?”
If you haven’t already discovered your life purpose, all you have to do is ask yourself the same question. Here are other questions that will help you discover your mission or purpose in life. Who do I admire? What type of person do I want to be? What are my unique talents and how can I apply them to improve the world? How can I express the best of myself? How can I contribute to the world? How can I make it a better place?
Your purpose is not your job or any of the roles you play. Rather, your purpose shapes and defines everything you do. Choose your purpose carefully because you are only as noble, only as inspiring, and only as valuable as your purpose. It defines, shapes and creates you. Its importance should be obvious. After all, what’s the purpose of living, if you don’t have something to live for?
My life purpose can be described in five words: Explore, discover, learn, share, encourage. Here are some more examples of life purposes:
to make a difference
to lighten the burdens of others with humor
to inspire and motivate
to be compassionate
to be accepting
If you would like more help on how to discover your life purpose, please visit this article:
One more story before I end. In some far-off land, a woman looked out and saw three strangers standing in front of her hut. She went out to greet the strangers who traveled a great distance. “You must be hungry,” she said, “please come in and we will feed you.”
“Thank you,” said the tallest stranger. “These are my companions Wealth and Success. My name is Love. We thank you for your invitation, but only one of us can enter your home. Please ask your husband which one of us he would like to invite in.”
The woman was puzzled, but didn’t want to offend the strangers, so she agreed. “Husband,” she said as she entered her hut, “the three strangers standing outside are called Wealth, Success, and Love. Only one can be invited for dinner. Who would you like to invite?”
“Well,” said the husband as he scratched his chin, “if we invite Wealth into our home, perhaps our fortune will improve.”
“Yes, but,” said the wife hesitantly, “our daughter is starting school.
Perhaps by inviting Success, our daughter will do well in her studies.”
“But Mommy,” her daughter jumped in, “let’s invite Love so our home will always be filled with love.”
“I’m lucky to share my life with two clever women;” said the husband, “especially my daughter who is wise beyond her years. Okay, Sweet One, you are right. Go out and invite Love.”
The wife was bewildered as her daughter led all three strangers into their home. “But you said only one of you could enter.” she said to the strangers quizzically.
“Yes,” said Love. If you were to ask for Wealth or Success, only one could enter. But when you invite Love into your life, Success and Wealth will always follow.”
Well, dear reader, as you choose your life purpose, may your life be filled with meaning, and may Success and Wealth always follow you.