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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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