Friday, January 08, 2010

Living life on purpose

In the first song of his valedictory album Brainwashed, George Harrison caught me up short with a line I've since come to realize is an old one, but it was the first time I'd heard it.

If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.

All of the self-help books I've ever encountered seem to come down to a few basic truths, and that's one of them. Expressed more positively, it's simply: Know where you want to be, set a goal to get there, and act on the goal.

The Earl Nightingale and James Allen pieces I referenced the last couple of days, use agrarian examples to make their point, Nightingale referring to a farmer and Allen to a gardener. Their point: If you want to grow flowers, or corn, you till the land, plant the seed and do what's needed to bring the plant to fruition — weeding, watering, etc. And you'd better plant in the spring if you want the food by the end of the summer.

Their point is that the mind is like the soil, and goals are the seed. You set the goal and do what's needed to bring it to fruition. And you'd better set a deadline if you want to reach the goal. Without a specific timeline, you have no way to know whether knee-high by the Fourth of July is a sign of coming success or of impending failure.

The farmer analogy works well because most people understand how hard farmers work, with a single-minded purpose — grow the corn, keep the cows milked. Setting your mind and going for a goal is not easy. As my friend John Newman reminded me the other day in an e-mail, have you ever tried to think about just one thing for two minutes straight? It's pretty much impossible; your mind has a will of its own and will skip off on a tangent. Keeping eyes on the prize is a simple concept, but not an easy task. If it were easy, everyone would reach the goals they set.

Allen takes it a step further, however, suggesting that everyone does reach the goals they set — and because most people don't set goals, they reap what their minds sow (or failed to sow). "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." Allen says:
Man is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions, but when he realizes he is a creative power, and that he may command the hidden soil and seeds of his being out of which circumstances grow, he then becomes the rightful master of himself.
And on a subject that recurs frequently here:
The will to do springs from the knowledge that we can do. Doubt and fear are the great enemies of knowledge, and he who encourages them, who does not slay them, thwarts himself at every step. He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure.
We all face doubt and fear on a daily basis, and manipulative men and women encourage us to be afraid so they we will buy into their self-serving solutions. Refuse to be afraid — that is, refuse to let doubt and fear control you — and you're on the road to freedom.

As I wrote during the last election season, "Freedom is not about having the right ruler. Oh, wait, yes it is. Freedom is understanding that I am the boss of me." You can live a life without doubt and fear weighing you down; you simply have to live it on purpose.

Labels: , ,