Essay #7: Exercises for Clarifying Individual Purpose and Potential

To understand why the following exercises might be of value and not just silly, imagine awakening from a deep sleep of amnesia and finding yourself in unfamiliar surroundings without any clear memories or habits to guide you the way most of us are guided through each day throughout our lives.  What would enter your mind first?  Probably the two questions, Who am I? and Where am I?  Then after making some progress with those questions, you might begin to probe how things got the way they are, what your past was like, and especially what you’re supposed to be doing right now.  Finally, after clarifying those important details, you might settle in for a longer consideration of the more profound question, What is my purpose and potential?

The human condition is not all that different from the above scenario of awakening from a deep sleep of amnesia.  As young children we awaken to the reality of belonging to a family, community, and culture where we grow up and acquire a solid sense of identity.  However, our sense of self, our values and beliefs, are largely products of the culture, community, and family that we happen to be born into.  Truly knowing our unique selves, and knowing how we fit into a larger reality, usually comes later in life and can be facilitated by contemplating these four questions:  Who am I?  Where am I?  What am I to do?  What is my purpose and potential?  This self-knowledge can be a vital component in the pursuit of wisdom.

The following exercises may be helpful to visit many times over the course of a lifetime.  Just as what was important in our lives during kindergarten evolved into something quite different when we were teenagers, so our lives continue to evolve through different stages of development.  If we’re doing life well, then our individual purpose continues to unfold new potential throughout our lives.  These exercises may help to clarify this.  You’ll probably want to do them one at a time over a few days.

Exercise #1:  Who am I?

Spend some unhurried time contemplating this question and journaling what occurs to you.  Don’t stop with your name!  Don’t even stop with every fact you can think of about yourself.  Delve into your innermost thoughts, feelings, inspirations, aspirations, interests, desires, passions, and secrets that make you who you are.  What potential do you see within yourself?

When you feel finished, read through what you’ve journaled and highlight a few responses that seem most significant or surprising.

Exercise #2:  Where am I?

Spend some unhurried time contemplating this question and journaling what occurs to you.  Yes, you have a specific physical address, but consider your surroundings.  How many people live in your area?  What kinds of diversity do you notice among these people (races, cultures, worldviews, lifestyles, predominant ages, etc.)?  Is the population of your area growing?  If so, is it growing sustainably?  What other nonhuman beings are here with you?  What geographic ecosystem surrounds you?  How does, or should, the natural environment affect your lifestyle and the human community in your area?

Now consider where you are in a larger context.  How is the world stage set right now?  What is the “spirit of the times?”  How much harmony and sustainability do you see?  How well is diversity respected?  How well do you fit into what you perceive as the mainstream views of your culture?  Overall, are you more optimistic or pessimistic about the future?  What directions do you feel are needed for a more harmonious and sustainable future?  What needs do you see in the community and world around you that match your potential?

When you feel finished, read through what you’ve journaled and highlight a few responses that seem most significant or surprising.

Exercise #3:  What am I to do?

Spend some unhurried time contemplating this question and journaling what occurs to you.  To know what you’re supposed to be doing, you need to know where you’ve been.  What has your life been like up to now?  How has your past shaped who you are?  Then consider where things are headed for you.  What direction is your life going?  What goals do you currently have?  (Note that the last two questions may yield very different responses.)  What in your potential would you like to accomplish or experience by the end of your life?

When you feel finished, read through what you’ve journaled and highlight a few responses that seem most significant or surprising.

Exercise #4:  What is my purpose and potential?

Spend some unhurried time contemplating this question and journaling what occurs to you.  Give yourself plenty of time to contemplate both your prior journaling and your inner knowing regarding why you are here.  What have you felt drawn toward?  What ignites your interest and passion?  What are your deepest thoughts and feelings about the meaning and purpose of life?  What is your unique purpose and potential?  What opportunities do you see in the world around you for expressing your potential?  What steps can you take, both now and in the future, to unfold your potential?

When you feel finished, read through what you’ve journaled and highlight a few responses that seem most significant or surprising.

Exercise #5:  Final reflection.

After you’ve completed all four of the above exercises, devote more contemplation time to going back over your previous journaling.  Pay close attention to what you’ve highlighted from each exercise; perhaps write some or all of the highlighted sections into a new journal entry.  Look for patterns and themes, and add any new insights.  What immediate goals can you set for yourself based on this final contemplating and journaling?  What will you begin to change or express in your life?

© 2015 Gary Stogsdill

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