The 6Ps: Purpose is Long-Term
This piece is the fourth post in a series on the “The 6Ps for Profound and Positive Living". You can find all writings on the subject by searching 6Ps in the search bar.
One big question I love to ask clients regarding their clarity of purpose is: “What do you want people to honestly say about you when you’re gone?” While some may think this is a bit morbid for reflection, I find that it often engages others to truly take the long view of their lives. I have found that by writing our own eulogy with integrity and intention, it can be an extremely powerful tool to get clear about how to live it as fully as possible.
In my own eulogy, there are five core 'terminal' virtues and qualities that I want my friends and family to think of when they reflect on my life. These virtues are: compassion, humility, kindness, generosity, and being purposeful. I came to these five through my own reflection on the qualities of those I admired most in the world and who I wanted to most emulate. I also knew that most of them do not come naturally to me and that to truly be these, I had to intentionally practice them as much as possible. (I am hoping for at least another 30 years of living as I need lots and lots of practice time!)
After I chose the five virtues, I thought about what it would take for these qualities to truly reflect what others came to see in me. A quote that I often draw strength from comes from the great business researcher and author Jim Collins who wrote in his book, “Great By Choice” these powerful words, “Greatness, it turns out, is a matter of conscious choice and discipline,” and so, I have taken the first step by consciously choosing these five qualities to aspire to live my life by. Then, the heavy lifting began as I created and work to practice daily disciplined habits for these qualities to fully take root in me.
Take generosity. It’s the kind of thing that probably comes easy to many, but for me that certainly isn’t the case. My parents lived through the Depression and my mother in particular was extremely frugal and passed on that frugality to me. I have often lived from a mindset of scarcity instead of abundance and the notion of “if I give you something I have, I no longer have it for my own” is deeply ingrained. And it is really hard to give to others when you live from a place where you don’t have enough and believe you aren’t enough. Becoming more generous has become very important to me since it supports my efforts at not only being a better human being but also in transforming my identity from “I’m not enough” to “I am enough”.
A real example of the shift that I am hoping for in my life about generosity was in funding our children’s college educations. Even though I felt strongly that my four children should go to great colleges, I felt reluctance when it came to paying for it and I would take every opportunity I could to remind them how much of a financial drain it was. Obviously, that wasn’t very generous and I am embarrassed looking back on how my words hurt my children. And while they have forgiven me, it still makes me cringe for all the times I brought up the financial hardship. So I know it requires great intention and lots of practice for generosity to grow within me. (I am hopeful that the process is akin to the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas” when his small heart started growing larger!) By the way, when you live from a place of abundance instead of scarcity, you also experience much less anxiety and open yourself up to even more joy and happiness.
My wonderful friend, John Bonviaggio, had something significant to say about this using a quote from Bud Wainscott, “What you keep you lose, but what you give away is yours forever.” Think about the power and truth of that quote. There are no U-hauls behind the hearses and we cannot take all the stuff we accumulate with us when we die. However, when we live from a place of deep generosity, the impact of our lives on others is magnified and passed on to those we have been generous to.