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Finding Purpose

Finding Purpose

Finding Purpose

    At the beginning of the semester, I asked my students a simple question. See, I teach an unusual class, a core requirement that fulfills not just a social science or humanity requirement but also fulfills my university’s diversity requirement. In practical terms, that means that students working on satisfying their general education requirement can take just my class instead of having to take two classes to satisfy the same requirement.

    So I already know why my classes are packed every semester. I know why they’re there. And it’s pretty damn boring. So this semester I handed out cards and asked them to answer a question for me: what do you hope you learn in this class? I explained to them, you’re here for 16 weeks. 16 weeks that can be like a prison sentence, each of you just waiting for the warden to open the doors, give you your two requirement credits, and let you free – or we can find some way to make those 16 weeks worth your while, some way for each of you to leave this classroom with something of value to you.

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    When I went through the cards at the end of the day, there were a few people who’d taken up the challenge, but well over ¾ of them gave the same answer: I’m just here for the requirement. They chose prison over learning, jail over purpose.

    Wow. I mean, just – wow.

    Most people find themselves doing things for no real purpose at all. It’s just “what’s done”.

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    Think about that. How many things do you do that you “need” to do or “simply must” – without having any greater purpose of your own?

    Many things we think of as ends in themselves really aren’t ends at all – they’re means to an end, means to our own ends. Passing a class, keeping a job, cleaning your house – these are things we do (hopefully!) for a greater purpose – not just towards a goal, but tin pursuit of our own personal growth.

    But it’s easy – too easy – to lose track of that purpose and start treadmilling through our days as if getting through yet another day were the whole of life.

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    That path leads to despair!

    The remedy is simple enough – – a few calm minutes with yourself every week or so to reflect on what you do any why you do it. Maybe a chart or mindmap listing your major activities and your purpose in doing them.

    In the end, the key isn’t having the “best” or the “right” purpose (which only you could say, anyway) – the key is to lead a considered life, to find the threads that hold it all together and to be aware when the skein of your life slips out of your grasp.

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    How many things do you do every day that, if asked, you’d be hard pressed to explain why you’re doing them? How many tasks have no meaning at all for you, no real “fit” in the Big Picture of your life? Isn’t it time to start thinking about that — getting rid of the stuff that has no purpose, and learning anew to appreciate the important stuff whose purpose you’d forgotten along the way?

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    Last Updated on September 17, 2018

    Why Do I Have Bad Luck? 2 Simple Things to Change Your Destiny

    Why Do I Have Bad Luck? 2 Simple Things to Change Your Destiny

    Are you one of those people who are always suffering setbacks? Does little ever seem to go right for you? Do you sometimes feel that the universe is out to get you? Do you wonder:

    Why do I have bad luck?

    Let me let you into a secret:

    Your luck is no worse—and no better—than anyone else’s. It just feels that way. Better still, there are two simple things you can do which will reverse your feelings of being unlucky.

    1. Stop believing that what happens in your life is down to the vagaries of luck, destiny, supernatural forces, malevolent other people, or anything else outside your self.

    Psychologists call this “external locus of control.” It’s a kind of fatalism, where people believe that they can do little or nothing personally to change their lives.

    Because of this, they either merely hope for the best, focus on trying to change their luck by various kinds of superstition, or submit passively to whatever comes—while complaining that it doesn’t match their hopes.

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    Most successful people take the opposite view. They have “internal locus of control.” They believe that what happens in their life is nearly all down to them; and that even when chance events occur, what is important is not the event itself, but how you respond to it.

    This makes them pro-active, engaged, ready to try new things, and keen to find the means to change whatever in their lives they don’t like.

    They aren’t fatalistic and they don’t blame bad luck for what isn’t right in their world. They look for a way to make things better.

    Are they luckier than the others? Of course not.

    Luck is random—that’s what chance means—so they are just as likely to suffer setbacks as anyone else.

    What’s different is their response. When things go wrong, they quickly look for ways to put them right. They don’t whine, pity themselves, or complain about “bad luck.” They try to learn from what happened to avoid or correct it next time and get on with living their life as best they can.

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    No one is habitually luckier or unluckier than anyone else. It may seem so, over the short term (Random events often come in groups, just as random numbers often lie close together for several instances—which is why gamblers tend to see patterns where none exist).

    When you take a longer perspective, random chance is just . . . random. Yet those who feel that they are less lucky, typically pay far more attention to short-term instances of bad luck, convincing themselves of the correctness of their belief.

    Your locus of control isn’t genetic. You learned it somehow. If it isn’t working for you, change it.

    2. Remember that whatever you pay attention to grows in your mind.

    If you focus on what’s going wrong in your life—especially if you see it as “bad luck” you can do nothing about—it will seem blacker and more malevolent.

    In a short time, you’ll become so convinced that everything is against you that you’ll notice more and more instances where this appears to be true. As a result, you will almost certainly stop trying, convinced that nothing you can do will improve your prospects.

    Fatalism feeds on itself until people become passive “victims” of life’s blows. The “losers” in life are those who are convinced they will fail before they start anything; sure that their “bad luck” will ruin any prospects of success.

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    They rarely notice that the true reasons for their failure are ignorance, laziness, lack of skill, lack of forethought, or just plain foolishness—all of which they could do something to correct, if only they would stop blaming other people or “bad luck” for their personal deficiencies.

    Your attention is under your control. Send it where you want it to go. Starve the negative thoughts until they die.

    To improve your fortune, first decide that what happens is nearly always down to you; then try focusing on what works and what turns out well, not the bad stuff.

    Your “fate” really does depend on the choices that you make. When random events happen, as they always will, do you choose to try to turn them to your advantage or just complain about them?

    Thomas Jefferson is said to have used these words:

    “I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

    “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

    Your luck, in the end, is pretty much what you choose it to be.

    Featured photo credit: LoboStudio Hamburg via unsplash.com

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