Archive for the ‘Purpose’ Category

This is a another guest post from Quinn Maclaren. Quinn is a freelance writer, was published in The Oasis Journal, and is currently building content for a site of her own (Ed – Coup De Quill is live). (By the way, if you have an idea for a guest post and would like the exposure, please contact me, I would love to hear from you.)

It seems I talk to more and more people of all ages who, like me, feel they are missing out on something in life. We do not find satisfaction on the job. And at home, more and more of our free time is spent in front of the television. We retire at night with no real physical fatigue, but a weariness of mind that seems to prevent the introspection needed to determine what is wrong, or what should be done. Most of us have little energy for job changes, so we change the channel and hope for a better day tomorrow. We are waiting for something to happen to us instead of making something happen for ourselves.

Our society rewards multi-tasking and communication at the speed of email and fax. We are rewarded for quick fixes and little thought is given to whether we produce lasting results. We are taught that we must keep up with our neighbors and peers, and we buy bigger houses and cars, and take more elaborate vacations. But most of us, if we are honest, hear a small voice inside asking what we are doing with our lives, a voice urging us to live differently. Maybe your small voice, like mine, seems to get louder and harder to ignore each day.

My search for answers led me to George Leonard’s book Mastery: the Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment. This book was originally published in the early 1990’s, but this is not old news. If anything, the questions he attempts to help us answer have only grown more insistent, more urgent, in the intervening years. Drawing on Zen philosophy and his own practice of the martial art aikido, he shows us why we do not find fulfillment in the way we currently live, and how the process of mastery can help us attain a higher degree of excellence in all that we practice in our daily lives.

Leonard begins by identifying the three personality types that make mastery impossible. (I am a ‘dabbler,’ one who practices a new hobby or art until it becomes difficult, then drops it.) He then offers five keys to mastery, and explains each in detail, drawing on many aspects of his life and the lives of others for examples to support his theories. He knows all the ways we will throw obstacles up, and explains how to best circumvent them. The Zen philosophy underlying his process introduces the beauty and serenity to be found in daily tasks when ‘practice’ is seen not as something we do once in awhile, but rather is how we live every day.

I began my quest for mastery as a writer today while writing this post. Where will you begin?


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Everyone has some goals. Most people, at some point, have voiced specific goals, tried to work towards their goals, and come up short. Why?

The problem is, most people don’t set good goals. Bad goals are hard to follow and hard to succeed with. But what makes for a good goal?

A site called Top Achievement suggests you make SMART goals:

Specific – Answers six W questions: who, what, when, where, which, and why.
Measurable – You need a concrete test by which to determine success.
Attainable – You can do almost anything, but give yourself the time and resources to do it.
Realistic – Make sure the goal is something you are willing and able to complete.
Timely – Grounded in a specific time frame (and tangible: able to be physically experienced)

I made an effort to set goals last year instead of making resolutions, and I accomplished a lot. It’s important, though, to limit yourself; too many goals can dilute your focus. Also, limiting yourself to a few will insure that your focus is on what is most important to you, and passion can be a significant part of getting where you want to be.

This year, I’m setting goals for my next birthday (Jan. 15th). I’ve mentioned previously my aborted attempt at the 101 Things in 1001 Days project, but I’ve been working on narrowing down my list to the most important (S.M.A.R.T.est?) goals for the year, which are as follows:

  • Double my 20th birthday savings (=$4000)
  • Lose 20 pounds (=155lbs.)
  • Learn the basic guitar chords and a few songs
  • Publish a story or article in print
  • Sell a t-shirt design
  • Bike 20 miles in one day
  • Jog daily for a week
  • Participate in Lent

I’m pretty happy with the list. I think it’s a little on the long side, but many of the tasks are fairly straightforward, one time goals, and some goals (like biking/jogging) support others (losing weight).

Take a few minutes to think about what you’d like to accomplish this year and set those goals down in a concise, measurable way. I think you’ll find that when your goal is specific, the path to completing it becomes much more clear.

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Monday morning, and I think most of us could use a little inspiration to get us going.

Randy Pausch is an amazing person. If he had given this lecture just as a normal Last Lecture Series lecture, it would be impressive. Instead, this is the whole story:

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium.

He has to be one of the most upbeat lecturers I’ve heard, which is awesome. I wish I had a chance to take a class with this guy. Enjoy, and listen carefully.

If you can’t see the link on this page, you can watch it here, or see him reprise the lecture on Oprah.

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This is the first of four posts in a series this week. Think of it as a way to get things started around here, taking a broad look at some common topics I expect to come up. Of course, happiness is never that simple, but it will give us a place to start.

What does it mean to be a good person? What should be our aim in life? These are ancient and exceptionally difficult questions; I don’t claim to have answers to them. However, I do think, for most people at least, looking for and finding some partial answers to these questions is important.

Some people take their meaning from religion, others in secular concerns both selfish and selfless, some find a sense of purpose in their family or work, or in self improvement.

What works for you? I think this subject, more then most I’ll touch on here, needs to be a discussion. No one has all the answers. I hope, though, that I might be able to occasionally challenge you in just the right way to get you thinking about something new, or else provide some practical piece of advice that makes the process a little easier. The search for purpose, morality, and fulfillment, like the search for happiness, is a complicated lifelong journey.

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