For years, I’ve traveled around the country speaking with people about the quality of their lives. If there is one question I am asked over and over again, it’s this one: “How can I discover my life purpose and make a difference in the world?” When I hear this question, I know it usually means two things. First, the person asking the question is probably unhappy with his or her circumstances. Second, their soul, the very essence of who they are, yearns to be expressed in their life more fully.
We all want to make a difference in the world. We want to know that our lives matter, that our presence on Earth has meaning and purpose. When I’m asked by clients to help them figure out their purpose for being here I offer the following reply: Each one of us has a Divine assignment — an important mission to fulfill. The assignment consists of two parts. First, you must make your personal and spiritual development a top priority by following your own unique path toward healing and growth. Second, as you develop a strong character by doing this work, you are also charged with improving the world in some way.
Start with strengthening yourself
There is a reason why your personal work comes first. When you make a conscious commitment to our own inner development, you take a giant step toward making a greater contribution to others. Though it seems at first glance to be selfish to focus on your own life, when you realize that we are all connected by a greater power at work in the world, you begin to understand how fulfilling your individual assignment directly benefits others. As you focus on strengthening your integrity and character, you make your greatest contribution to humanity.
The first step toward fulfilling your Divine assignment is to take a leadership role in your life. Accepting this role means relinquishing the “follower” position that so many of us have found comfortable and safe. You must become the leader of your own life.
Take ownership of your life
When you’re immersed in the pain of your discontent, all options seem to disappear. For example, if you are a single parent who works full time, cares for your children, and struggles to pay your bills, you may feel hopeless about changing your situation. When you can’t see your options clearly and you’re totally frustrated, it’s only natural to feel like a victim of circumstance. When you claim ownership of your life, however, you stop giving your creative energy to outside sources and start using your internal resources to move you in the right direction. You begin to see every circumstance as an opportunity to grow. When you view life from this perspective, you always have options. For example, you might decide to use the situation with your divorce and children as an opportunity to practice asking for and receiving help.
Here’s some good news that should motivate you: When you take ownership of your life, you engage a powerful Divine force to support your efforts. This force will bring you exactly what you need to make the changes that will improve your life. And you don’t have to believe it for it to work. Time and again, I’ve seen the strongest disbeliever be given the gift of an open door at exactly the moment he or she needed one.
You’ll have a great opportunity to practice using your creativity if you’ve heard yourself say:
- Things always turn out wrong for me.
- Yes, but…
- I need someone to bail me out.
- Life is not fair. This always happens to me.
- You don’t understand. This has nothing to do with me. It’s _______’s fault.
- I don’t want to be a grown-up.
- Why bother?
- I’m just not a lucky person.
- I can’t help it. My situation is unique.
If you recognize yourself in the above phrases, don’t worry. Self-awareness is the first step on the road to reclaiming ownership of your life. You simply need a reminder of how powerful you really are.
Your thoughts are like magnets
What you focus your attention on shows up in your life. When you focus your emotional and mental energy on a particular thought, you draw the physical manifestation of that thought toward you. For example, have you ever noticed how, when you learn a new word, you begin to see that word everywhere? Or when you start wearing a new color, it suddenly seems as though everyone is wearing it? These are small reminders that your thoughts shape your life!
Apply this concept to an area of your life that you’d like to change so you can strengthen this new belief even further. For example, if something isn’t working in your life, stop, envision a new outcome and consistently return to this image when your mind fills with fear or resignation. Once you have a new image, focus your mind intently on it, to the point when you actually can feel what it would be like to experience the new reality in your life. Then, answer the following questions:
- How would your life be different with this new outcome?
- How would this new outcome serve you?
Then write your answers to the above questions into one specific, positive sentence. It may take you several attempts. Then copy this sentence into your journal at least 15 times.
Although these exercises may seem simplistic, I’ve seen them work in my own life and in the lives of my clients. I invite you to put your skepticism aside and give it a try. When your analytical mind tells you that this exercise is crazy, just smile and let the thought go. By owning the creative power of your thoughts, you recognize that your negative thinking brought you to this point. With this realization, you 1) stop for a moment and breathe; 2) assess the situation; and 3) shift your perspective, knowing that you can create a different outcome by thinking different thoughts.
As you begin to see your life from the viewpoint of an artist, recognizing that your outer world is simply a reflection of your inner world, a world that you dictate, you’re ready to adopt what I call a “self-reflective reflex.” This reflex means that you begin to view your world from the perspective of “everything that occurs is a result of my intention and therefore an opportunity for me to develop my spiritual character.”
With this perspective in mind, you naturally begin to view each life experience through the lens of the questions, “How can I use this situation to serve my personal growth?” Then, you can decide to reevaluate the direction of your life’s work instead of seeing it as life handing you a raw deal. Of course it’s important to allow yourself to experience and express all of the feelings that accompany these types of situations. The point is to move beyond blame and criticism to a more empowering position — one where you recognize that you have the creative power to use any situation to your advantage.
Taking ownership of your life and recognizing that your thoughts directly influence your life experience is the first step in making a conscious commitment to your spiritual evolution.
This article was excerpted and edited from Stand Up For Your Life by Cheryl Richardson. Copyright by Cheryl Richardson. Reprinted by permission. Cheryl Richardson is a professional speaker who has designed and presented programs to universities, Fortune 500 companies, and educational conferences. Her work has been covered widely in the media including regular appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show along with The Today Show and CBS This Morning. Stand Up For Your Life is available at bookstores everywhere or through the author’s website,www.cherylrichardson.com.