The 10 Obstacles to Finding and Fulfilling Your Purpose…and How to Overcome Them
In part 1 of this series, we discussed the Top 10 Obstacles to Finding and Fulfilling your Purpose, by looking at the first 5 hurdles you may face. In this second installment, we will explore the remaining 5 and again look at The Belief and The Truth of each.
Image courtesy of Josh Sniffen on Flickr Creative Commons
- Lack of clarity/focus
The Belief: In our digital world, our attention span has shrunk to a ridiculously short measure. As a human race, we generally have had this problem, but it’s certainly become even more prevalent recently.
Microsoft conducted a study from 2000-2012 that resulted in the discovery that our attention span has dropped from a fantastically low 12 seconds, all the way down to a paltry 8 seconds.
Know what that means? That goldfish now have a longer attention span than we do, clocking in at 9 seconds.
The problem is that when we talk about clarity and focus, are we really talking about staying on task? Or is it something else? I think it is.
Productivity is the problem. Don’t get me wrong, I think clarity and focus are essential and important. But in the end, what we really want is to accomplish a result, right? We want to “Get Things Done” and be “Highly Effective People”. We use clever little tactics, simple to do lists, and all sorts of planners, goal sheets, and schedulers which at the end of the day, sometimes work and other days not so much.
So what’s getting in the way?
The Truth: In short, clarity and focus ( for most of us) can be learned. Productivity and achievement too. And the way that it’s learned is by looking at a couple of different factors that contribute to our success as a species.
The first is intention. As evolved beings, we have the ability to reflect on our past and project into our future. These are wonderful and helpful functions of our minds as it’s really useful to remember where food is, and to realize that at some point later I’ll be hungry. Comes in handy.
But when it comes to productivity, these traits can actually get in the way. In the broad scheme of getting stuff done, reflection and projection greatly overshadow the presence of now. So the next time you find yourself of task, simply ask yourself “would reacting to the interruption that just came at me help or hurt what I want to finish?”
The second obstacle is prioritization. And I don’t mean that in the traditional goal setting way of “make a list of what you want to get done, and list them in order of importance…yada, yada, yada.” Been there, tried that, and honestly it works marginally well.
What works better is considering the importance of finishing the task at hand before starting another. What’s at stake? What will happen if you don’t get it done? And what will happen if you do? This type of thinking is key to saying “no” to the good, and “yes” to the best.
Frame your activities in such a way that you are always intentionally doing the most important task in front of you right now. And avoid swimming circles in the bowl.
- Health Issues
The Belief: Health issues come in a variety of forms: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and even Financial, and Spiritual. I count my lucky stars that I’ve never had to go through any major physical illness, but as I always want to be honest here I have to confess that I’ve struggled with depression for most of my adult life.
Not long ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about the death of Robin Williams, and she noted that it must be hard for people struggling with it to cope. She then said, “you’ve never had that” to which I somewhat shocked her and admitted that I had.
For nearly 20 years. And still do. I guess it was a shock, and may come as such for those of you that know me well, that often it’s a daily battle. Some days are much darker than others, and some seem to go just fine.
But I don’t share my story to find pity. Instead, I share it to illuminate a truth.
While many of us do encounter some sort of health issue, it can do one of two things. It can either destroy you or define you.
The Truth: A diagnosis never killed anyone.
It hasn’t. I promise. It’s the disease, or actions related to the disease that has. (Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. If you’ve been diagnosed with any sort of illness, seek treatment. Period.)
What I’m trying to say here is that if you’ve been given a diagnosis of some illness, how are you going to decide to handle it? Are you going to let it destroy you? Or are you going to use it to define you?
When I was 13 years old, my grandfather was diagnosed with emphysema and given 6 months to live. He became angry, and bitter, and essentially laid down to die.
But he didn’t die. Not within 6 months at least.
Actually he made it almost another 2 years.
But it was nearly 2 wasted years. I say nearly because as often as I could I would bring dinner to my grandpa and sit and talk while he ate. I learned quite a bit about him in those little chats.
How he was called “The Shadow” growing up (he was only about 5’7″, and stood in everyone’s shadow),
And about how he grew up delivering newspapers in his neighborhood.
About how it was pretty tough going back then, and he learned a lot out on the streets.
And how he tended bar for at a bar for some local news anchors, and later at the airport.
See, my grandfather was waiting, but I was listening. And as far as my own mental health issues, I know that some are watching and listening to me.
They’ve seen how optimistic and happy I am. How confident and in control I seem. How I’m a happy go lucky person. But the truth is it’s because I choose to be that way. That’s how it’s defined me. I won’t let it win, though some days the depression scores quite a few points. I won’t let it beat me and I’ll never let it keep me down. I fight every day to be who I choose to be, not merely to manage, but to overcome.
(I feel like I should share here that if you are struggling with a mental disorder, seek help. I did, and it was a huge first step in the right direction. It was actually through visits to multiple psychologists, psychiatrists, and other specialists that I came to embrace my current attitude toward life. So if you are struggling with similar issues, seek professional help. Please!)
If you’re struggling with a health issue, someone is listening to you too. Maybe someone close, maybe someone you’ve never met but has watched your journey.
Your life isn’t over when you’re given the bad news that someday you’ll die. That actually happened the day you were born. If anything, embrace it as a new opportunity to live fully again, and don’t waste a single day. We’re listening, and we’re watching.
- Everyday Busyness
The Problem: Man life gets busy. It’s easy to be trite and say “it’s just a season”, but looking at my 60 something parents and in-laws, I wonder how long this season lasts?
Between kids having to be carted all over the place (we are both a hockey and irish dance family, so we travel a bit), countless activities, school functions, work, play, chores, and just finding the time to sleep, we are often left with mere moments of clarity while standing in the shower for 3 minutes to reflect on the most important aspects of our lives.
But they have to go to all the practices, activities, events and spend time with friends or they won’t grow up to be normal!
And I have to get these last few emails sent, the report ready for Tuesday, empty my inbox, and make my to do list ready for tomorrow or I won’t get the promotion that I’m working for!
So with all this stuff going on, when do we find the time to invest in ourselves? What do we give up to carve out that time? And isn’t that kinda selfish?
The Truth: No. No, it’s not. And none of that stuff that we all throw out there as justifications for our overwork are true. Wanna know why? The inbox is never empty, the kids will grow up just fine if there not living in the back of the car, and the house is just gonna get dirty again tomorrow.
We can’t keep doing this to ourselves. We can’t keep this pace and expect things to work out in the end. We’re killing ourselves and it’s really starting to show.
Constant running wears us down, but even more tragic it steals our focus (reread the last section if needed!). I know that’s probably no shocker to you, but it goes even a step further than wearing us out.
It’s actually killing us. Living life on a constant cycle of go, go, go has been connected to health issues in nearly everything from cognitive function to sexual dysfunction. Our stress induced pace has been shown to lead to increases in obesity, coronary heart disease, blood pressure, and immune system health.
So it’s pretty stupid that we’re killing ourselves to make everything work out in the end, but in the end we’re just to beat up to actually enjoy it.
So what do we do? Simple. Just say no.
Trust me. Try it out. The next thing that someone asks you to do, just say… no. You don’t even have to mean it. But it’s crazy liberating when you do. It just makes you feel better. It’s the opposite of that stressed out, tight chest feeling you get when someone throws something at you when your day is already packed. It’s awesome.
And to address the question I can here you asking, can I really say no? Yeah. You can. Really, trust me. You can. It’s a short word, two letters. And it works. Sure you might have some short term angst, but in the long run it’ll work out. It always does.
Give yourself permission not to kill yourself before your time.
- Loss of love
The Belief: This challenge also takes many forms. From divorce to death of a spouse or loved one, loss is something that can stop us in our tracks.
We’ve all lost someone special in our lives. For me I can name countless people that, when learning of their death, it really affected me. I had 2 friends die from different circumstances between the age of 12 and 15. As mentioned, I watched my grandfather slowly die. I’ve seen people one day, and the next they’re gone.
It’s never easy. But there is something you can do to help incorporate their presence in your life to find meaning.
The Truth: Everyone that has ever been in our life for aby amount of time, is going to leave a mark.
The thing about this hurdle is that there really isn’t an easy answer when they leave, regardless of how or why. I can tell you that it’s healthy to grieve and to take the time to mourn any type of loss.
I once read a study that explored the contributing factors of people living to see the age of 100. A surprising result was that, in one way or another, the most common practice that each of the participants stated that they learned to mourn.
Think about that for just a second. Of people living to, and past the age of 100, they attribute their longevity to the PRACTICE of mourning. They LEARNED to mourn.
For me, that’s remarkable in that the one thing that we will all experience in our lifetime is some sort of loss of someone we love (or in the case of divorce, loved).
And the one thing you can do, is learn to grieve that loss.
So give yourself permission to do so.
The Belief: I touched on this one in Part 1 of this series, but it’s big enough that it needs it’s own category.
Let down and failure are an unfortunate fact of life. It happens to all of us. Whether its a previous relationship, a previous unmet goal, or a business venture going belly up, failure sucks.
And it hurts the most when you feel like you’re in it all alone. When you look around and see people succeeding, doing fun things, enjoying success. It can feel like you’re on a stranded island watching cruise ships just sail on by.
The Truth: Here’s the thing though. As I heard a good friend say the other day “If it ain’t fatal, it ain’t final!” (Props to you Eddie Feliz, you’re a true rockstar!)
It’s really true though. If what’s happened up to this point hasn’t killed you, then you’re actually in pretty good shape!
So instead of focusing on the negative situations and events in your life, look up from your own belly button for a second and think about all the things you DO have going for you. And you know that there are some.
If you’re reading this, you are in the 1/3 of the world that has access to the internet.
If you’ve got access to the internet, than that tells me you have access to some sort of power (roughly 12% of the world still does not).
If you’re still reading this, it means you’ve likely got a place to sleep and some food to eat (about half the world has one, but not both of these)
Considering that most of my audience is in the US, you are among the wealthiest 5% of the world population.
And staying on that thread, if you’re in the US, you have access to healthcare if and when you need it (all political discussion aside, about 1/3 of the world still have little to no access)
So that’s really just 5 things that I’ve ascertained just from the fact that you’re reading this blog that put you, at worst in the top echelon of the world population. How far could you take this little exercise?
Well, give it a try. Do you have a family, drive a car, walk down the street without fear, go to the grocery store when you need something, or pour a glass of water whenever you want? The good stuff is all around us. We just need to be keen on looking for it.
So things didn’t work out. I’m sorry, I really am. But don’t let previous failures keep you from trying again. Or at the very least trying something new or in a different way. There are tons of stories of “failures” that just kept going until they made it work .
After all, problems are just opportunities that don’t have a solution yet. Go be the one to find it.
Putting it All Together
To summarize this series, we all come up against considerable challenges to living our life on purpose. We’ve discussed:
Getting over your past
Lack of clarity and focus
Loss of a loved one
Failure, or letdown.
But now you are armed with ways to confront those obstacles, overcome them, face the truth of the matter, and begin to become who you were meant to be. These posts will not ensure that you’ll never encounter them again, but if and when you do, you now have the knowledge needed to get out of your own way.