I recently had to make some very important decisions that would have consequences well beyond my immediate concerns, and I was feeling overwhelmed. Stuck between a rock and a hard place I wondered, “What is the point?”. But while I pushed away what I decided was a depressing and unhelpful thought, I never imagined how crucial that question would be to getting unstuck.
I wonder if you can relate? If you are feeling stuck and finding it hard to take the leap, it’s not unusual. We’re geared to seek comfort and familiarity and to avoid discomfort. A common way of managing the anxiety, frustration and confusion of being stuck is avoidance and staying safe. These are protective mechanisms rather than personal failures. But while avoidance and staying safe can be helpful short term strategies, they often lead to a life characterised by boredom, stagnation and disconnection. We loose touch with what light us up and brings joy in favour of certainty.
I hope the steps I used to find clarity and purpose may help you too if ever you are wondering what’s the point?
Solutions for clarity and defining purpose
Step 1 – Engage logic
Back at my search for clarity, I went to my go-to strategies. Engaging logic, I made a list of pros and cons for each option and ended up right where I started – undecided! I then consulted several people whose opinions I value and trust and found their perspectives helpful. They even added some considerations to my list – yet I still lacked clarity. So frustrating! The logical list was valuable, but not enough. I was feeling truly stuck and needed more than just logic. Serendipitously, a break from deliberating helped me to answer the question, “What’s the point?”
Step 2 – Discover what the point is
I was taking some time to NOT think about my dilemma and was reading a book by Paul Hardisty called “Turbulent Wake”. In his search for meaning, the main character asks himself, “What did I know about and truly care for the most?”. As I read these words, my heart beat faster and I put down the book. I gave myself the space to deeply consider those two things for myself. What do I know about (and want to continue learning about)? What do I care for the most? The answers that came to me were vital in my decision.
What I know about, and want to continue to learn about, is human behaviour and emotions. I’ve spent a life time discovering why we do what we do. I need to know this to effectively overcome limitations and embrace a life that feels meaningful and fulfilling – not just for myself but for all who want to do the same. It’s my why and I love it. But while there are many ways I can utilise this information, what I care for the most helps me to clarify which direction to go with it. What I care for the most acts as my compass and sometimes I leave my compass at the last fork in the road. So reconnected with my clarity by going through a list of values and prioritizing by importance. What I care for the most is freedom, compassion and self care. These are my top values, and for me to make an effective decision, I need to take into account what allows me to continuing living to these values.
Step 3 – Follow motivating emotions
By this stage I’ve engaged logic by making a list of pros and cons and establishing criteria, and I’ve reconnected with my meaning and purpose. So how does emotion fit in? Discovering what’s the point, also known as finding your meaning and purpose will light up positive emotions, if you have hit the mark. When I think about freedom I feel a sense of expansion and excitement. When I think about compassion I feel love and understanding for myself and my companions in this crazy life. For me, self care is an active expression of compassion. When engaging in self care I feel proud and grateful to give myself permission to do it, in the hope it gives others that same permission.
Emotion often trumps logic so we need to form an alliance with our motivating emotions so we can fuel more positive emotional states. Our emotions contain valuable decision making data. So I asked myself, when I’ve made this decision, How do I want to feel? What do I need to provide the conditions in my life where these positive emotions can thrive?
An example of when these three steps came into play was when my husband and I were looking for a house. We had a set of criteria based on our needs. This is the logic component and included considerations such as number and placement of rooms, location, materials used, etc. Our “point” of our new home was to provide a shared sanctuary of comfort and love. The emotional criteria was that it had to spark excitement in both of us that the home would fulfil our hopes. While there were a number of properties which matched the logical criteria they failed to incite the hope and excitement we wanted to feel. When we first saw our current home, it ticked the logic boxes, it tapped into our why and fuelled motivating emotions. We stepped out on the balcony, looked into each other’s excited, lit up faces and said in unison, “This is it!”. Snap!
So how did I go with my dilemma? Using the three components, I was able to make my final decision with clarity and certainty. Nothing is perfect but I am moving towards what gives me most meaning and purpose in a way that allows me to feel good about what I’m doing, using my values as a compass.
“What’s the point?” is a great question if we actually answer it and don’t get stuck in it. Engage your logic and make a list of your criteria for a successful outcome. Reconnect to what lights you up and what you value the most and make a commitment to move towards this (even when there are challenges). Keep remembering your why and picture what you want to achieve so you can keep accessing those motivating emotions. Emotions such as excitement, passion, hope, joy and fulfilment. To avoid falling into apathy remember the value in shaking things up a bit. While change can be scary and challenging, there is excitement in growth and potential. Embracing your meaning and purpose reignites the spark that lights you up from the inside.