Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Nietzsche was clearly unaware of HerStory so I’ll gently improve his famous quote to, She who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” That beautiful curve in the added letter “S” bends to gracefully include the most impactful force in our planet’s history, women. Perhaps this opening edit will add a layer of gravitas to the subject matter at hand, purpose.
Although I do find myself enjoying the mental rallies that ensue in my head when I quietly posit to myself “why are we here?”, the objective of this piece is not on the meta-thematic discussion of purpose but more on the daily articulations of it. As the time for women is now, we as women can’t afford to loll or pass the day without purpose. Every minute matters. Every action executed impacts the rest of us. Every win is one for all of us. Therefore, identifying your why is critical as it directly or indirectly represents every woman you know today, every woman you are standing on the shoulders of, and every woman who will stand on yours.
The difference between a follower and a leader
When seeking life’s purpose or seeking a purpose-driven life, each day must have a goal. Women on the move already know the answers to the following question when they wake up; what will I achieve today and what will I give today? They know their objective the night before. So, from the moment they wake up, till their goal is achieved, every minute is spent working to attain the objective for the day. In fact, ask yourself right now, why are you reading this article? What is it that you wish to achieve from it? Is it furthering a major or small goal?
Being proactive about your day vs reactive is the difference between a follower and a leader. The leader dictates her life by pursuing her goals and takes the necessary measures to achieve them. The follower waits to be instructed and succumbs to a life without agency. This is the difference between a purpose driven life vs one that is dictated by others, circumstance or societal constructs.
An Anecdote about Agency
On the tennis court, my father taught my sisters and I to have daily goals, short term goals and long-term goals. One day we stepped on the court and just stood gathered at the net waiting for him to tell us the plan and the drills we were going to execute tirelessly. We just stood waiting to find out what we were going to be working on. He left us standing there and didn’t say a word. Several minutes passed and to our surprise, my dad asked us what we were doing that day. He asked, what we were waiting for. We said, “You. Aren’t you going to tell us what to do?”. I was 15 then and quickly learned what his exercise was all about. It was about us taking control of our careers, our lives and learning to not surrender it to anyone else. Freedom to dictate the course of your day is sacrosanct and must be exercised with responsible liberty. From then on, before each practice and match we would write down and express our objectives and goals. We would write what we were trying to improve, achieve, and how we were going to measure our work.
Knowing what you are doing each day, how you are progressing, and having the right to choose and plan it gives you agency. It gives you the ability to dictate your life on your terms. This is freedom and this is the first step to leading a life with purpose.
I realize today how privileged I was to have the baton of control exchanged so seamlessly into my hands. Women stand waiting like I did, waiting for lifetimes, hoping they will receive the chance to express their purpose on their terms with full self-determination. However, many don’t. Its become abundantly clear that women have to just take it especially when its not offered, as much as they can. “Just taking it” is as simple as having a plan and going after it.
Ok its not just as simple as that because I’ve seen and personally felt women and men ridicule me and other “woman on a mission.” However, I’ve also felt great satisfaction when they’ve congratulated me and then asked to work for me when my mission was accomplished.
How to find your purpose
I play this game with my husband and it drives him nuts but it’s a game that I play with myself as it really helps to get to the bottom of things. I turn myself into a 6-year-old child and quite literally ask myself “why” to every statement, idea, project I want take on, and goal I set for myself. This helps me find the reasons, my true motives and ensures a quality check on my intentions. I find some people stop playing the game and stop asking themselves subsequent whys when reasons like, “because I’ll be rich” or “it will make me successful” start popping up as answers to their initial “whys?”. Personally, my favorite people are the ones who get all the way to “because there’s no other way to live than to fully express my happiness”.
A Why Bigger than yourself
Having an objective each days is the expression of your “why”. Knowing why you are doing something and owning that why is the foundation for a successful life. This is how entrepreneurs create products and lead businesses seemingly out of thin air, this is how activists create mass movements, and how athletes come back from the grips of certain failure or painful injuries and find a way to win. Its because they know their why.
However, now more than ever, it’s important to have a purpose bigger than yourself and not exclusive to just your personal desires and personal ambitions. The future is fragile and a purpose driven life which conscientiously includes the needs of others and views humanity as one is critical to our survival.
Thus, the deep why goes beyond just yourself and a “successful” life. Having a deeper why is a scaffold that you can grab on to when the winds blow too strong and when those around you let you down. That deeper why helps you wake up in the morning and fight another day. It makes the purpose-driven life worth fighting for.
Don’t get me wrong, the most successful “women on missions” do rest! They rest before they are forced to and rest in order to better achieve their goals. Pulling away is just as important as staying in it to win it. However, its executed on their terms and by design not default.
We mustn’t take for granted the liberties we have achieved as women while we mustn’t stop pursuing more for the future and those not privileged to join some of our freedoms. I encourage you to play the “why game” with yourself with a gender lens, with an environmental lens and a vision that includes all of humanity because purpose gives life meaning and the inverse holds true too, life is meaningless without purpose.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
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