Purposeful living

Illustration of a tree with roots and a bird circling overhead

Our days on earth are finite and before we know it we have grown older but not wiser. With increasing materialism, our value systems regrettably go for a toss. All we are concerned about is how to enjoy ourselves to the hilt. For instance, there are some who spend most of their time before the TV. Others are either busy playing video games or in front of the mirror admiring themselves. Work is just a means to earn in order to pander to their self-interests. However, these pursuits eventually do not give a feeling of achievement or satisfaction.

How do we go about managing our lives so that we live purposefully? We first need to introspect about our core value system. Do we have a desire to be closer to God and to our fellow men? Do we wish to tap our potential to the maximum extent possible in such a way that it has a positive impact on our lives and that of others? Too much of self-love does not give room for loving others. It makes sense to plant seeds today for a good harvest tomorrow.

The next step is to assess and list our strengths and shortcomings. If I am weak in maths, I should not aspire to become a chartered accountant. If I sing off-key, I should not dream of becoming a singer. Delusions of grandeur are signs of the ego. At the other end of the spectrum, baseless fears of venturing to do anything denote that a person is unrealistically critical of himself and lacks confidence. We need to be realistic in our self-analysis and could perhaps even ask a close friend or relative to give us their honest opinion.

We need to define and list out our goals and aspirations so as to avoid aimlessness. Comfort zones must be left behind and the focus should be on solutions. If Sheela aspires to be a doctor, she should do her homework thoroughly. What are the grades and subjects she should focus on to get the requisite percentage? What are the reputed colleges? What are the fees structures? Will she or her parents be able to afford the fees? If not, what are the scholarships available? The net is a vast source of information. Guidance could also be sought from professors and those who have succeeded in becoming doctors.

Rome was not built in a day is a trite saying but so true. Be focused on your goal and go towards it slowly but surely. Famous inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell have taught us that failures are but stepping stones to success. So don’t be discouraged by them. Instead learn from your mistakes and forge ahead.

It is unfortunate that our system of education focuses on learning by rote. We need to develop curious, creative and out of the box thinking. At the tender age of 6 years, James Watt was idly watching a kettle boil and he saw that steam caused the lid of the kettle to rise up. This ultimately led to his improving the mechanism of the steam engine invented by Thomas Newcomen. James Watt’s steam engine was a major force of the industrial revolution. The increase of pollution levels due to automobile emissions led to the invention of electric cars. If you are working in a company, think of how your routine job can be more productive.

List out inspiring quotes and read inspiring books. Emulate your hero’s sense of purpose and drive to achieve his goal. Choose your friends wisely. Avoid those who could introduce you to destructive habits such as drugs and gambling. Surround yourself with pals who think positively.

I remember reading in the newspapers years ago about a young student from IIT Powai whose legs were amputated due to a medical condition. He radiated positivity and happiness by repeating the words “I am so lucky”. The photograph in the newspapers showed a beaming boy surrounded by his happy classmates. He had no room in his thinking for self-pity.

Where there is a will there is always a way of leading a purposeful life. The story of Deepa Malik is one of boundless courage in the face of adversity and is an inspiration to all of us. An operation to remove a spinal tumour left this gutsy lady a paraplegic who was paralysed from the waist down. Undeterred she went on to become India’s first medallist at the Rio Paralympics, swimmer, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. You are the master of your own destiny. A purposeful life does not depend on external factors but on how YOU face them.

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Monica Fernandes
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Monica Fernandes

Monica Fernandes is a freelance writer from Mumbai for whom writing is a satisfying hobby. She writes for several magazines including The Teenager Today. She has authored a book for teenagers entitled Towards A Fuller Life published by Better Yourself Books.