Purpose, Dance Steps, and Everyday Life
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
We all need a purpose in life to really thrive and live a worthwhile life yet somewhere along the line a lot of people forget what their purpose was or maybe it’s not their purpose anymore and now they don’t know what their purpose is.
A couple of years ago I heard this conference talk by Wilford W. Andersen that just struck such a strong chord with me. It’s about purpose – the WHY to which we do things. He tells this story of this young doctor who worked in “Navajo Nation”. One evening he had an experience where an old Native American man came into the ER. The doctor quickly asked what he could help him with but the man said nothing. The doctor tried again, this time feeling a bit impatient, “I cannot help you if you don’t speak to me. Tell my why you have come to the hospital.”
At that, the old man looked at him and asked him, “Do you dance?” The doctor feeling puzzled thought about this question. He looked at the old man and wondered if this man could be a tribal medicine man who sought to heal the sick through song and dance rather than through medication. So the doctor replied, “No, I don’t dance. Do you dance?” The old man nodded. “Could you teach me to dance?” The doctor asked.
The old man said to the young doctor, “I can teach you dance, but you have to hear the music.” *
Andersen goes on to add this: “Sometimes in our homes, we successfully teach the dance steps but are not as successful in helping our family members to hear the music. And as the old medicine man well knew, it is hard to dance without music. Dancing without music is awkward and unfulfilling—even embarrassing. Have you ever tried it? …We learn the dance steps with our minds, but we hear the music with our hearts.”
He goes on to add that the dance steps are the THINGS WE DO – but the music is that sweet FEELING that brings about a change of heart, fulfillment, and purpose. While the dance steps do require action and work, it’s only through the MUSIC that we’ll experience JOY.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Do you hear the music in your life? Do you have a purpose guiding your actions and giving you music to dance to? If you’re feeling a little lost with this, let me give you a common example: The house.
The dance steps are going to be the dishes need to be done, that laundry is piling up and seemingly never ending, that kids need help with homework, fed, driven to activities, help with homework, taught chores, dispel kid chaos, etc. It’s the day to day things that we, as moms, do.
There were so many times that I did what needed to be done just because I knew the steps that I needed to take to do them. I didn’t enjoy them. I didn’t find joy in what I did and I certainly didn’t hear any music. In those moments I had forgotten my purpose.
I remember one specific example a few years ago. I homeschool my kids – all four of them. Actually, at the time it was only 3 of them because my youngest wasn’t technically in school yet but he was old enough that he got to follow the rest of us, seemingly wreaking havoc, while did what we needed to do. My older kids were getting older and were involved in quite a few activities that I needed to drive them to. The house seemed like it was ALWAYS a mess. The laundry really was never ending and I just started to become so done with it all.
I went through each day planning my school days only for kids to whine about school, “I don’t want to do that” (said in the whiniest voice possible), or they’d bicker with each other making the school day extra long and oh so fun (said in the most sarcastic voice ever). Then I’d go downstairs to see a messy kitchen that needed to be cleaned, a laundry room piled high with clothes that I was almost POSITIVE I had just washed. You know, when the kids really don’t want to put away the clean laundry so they just “hide” the newly washed clean laundry UNDER the dirty laundry and now it really is dirty and this only creates MORE work for the mama
I started to get tired and weary and I thought, “WHY AM I DOING THIS?” I was going through day after day doing the routine – doing the dance steps but I couldn’t hear the music. I had lost my purpose, my WHY. Without that WHY it’s hard to get through the trenches of life.
Then Brooke Castillo taught me this: There isn’t anything you ever HAVE TO DO. You don’t HAVE to feed your kids – really you don’t. You might WANT to because you love them and you want them to thrive and be healthy – that and you don’t want to go to prison for neglect. You don’t HAVE to clean your house – ever. You may want to because like Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Outer order contributes to Inner calm” – totally true.
In order to find your purpose, to hear the music again, you need to dig deep and remember your WHY. Why was I doing what I was doing? Was it still worth it to me?
I didn’t HAVE to homeschool. Why was I homeschooling? Could I remember why I started? How I felt?
Why was I feeling like taking care of my house was a redundant task? Could I remember how I felt when I first walked into that house? How in love I was with it?
Why was I spending my time driving my kids to their activities? Could I remember how I felt when I see them perform/progress?
What are you doing? Are you just going through the motions, doing the dance steps, but not hearing the music anymore? Asking these questions and really sitting with them for a while I not only found the answers to those questions but I found my purpose again. I could hear the music again and more importantly, I found JOY in them again.
What is it you really want? What is your purpose? If you don’t know try this*, write down 25 things you really want in your life. Things you want to do, places you want to go, professions you still want to attain, everything! But the trick is that every other one needs to be something you already have. It needs to be something you still want – but have already. Ex: I want to be married to my amazing husband. Something I already have – but still want it everyday. I want healthy children – something I have but still want everyday.
Do this. It’s amazing. It helps you see that you don’t HAVE to do anything – but that most of the things you are already doing – you find that you WANT to be doing those because you want the results that come out of them. That simple mindset shift is HUGE to changing how you feel, what you do, and the outcomes in your life.
You might not like stretching before the dance but you really like the dance and you know that stretch is going prepare you for what you need to accomplish the dance.
I don’t really like doing laundry – at all. But when I realized I didn’t HAVE to do the laundry and that I really like having a clean house and kids in clean clothes – I found that the joy is in accomplishing the work so I WANT to do the laundry. The music is there.
After doing my list and getting really clean on my thoughts and what was driving those feelings of frustration, resentment, overwhelm I realized I didn’t have to keep them. I could change my thoughts because now I had a clear purpose, a clear WHY. I did want to keep homeschooling, and I found new energy and motivation to create fun lesson plans – and I would love it – even if my kids groaned about school – that’s what kids do, no matter how fun it is. I could hear the music and feel the joy in what I was doing again because I cleaned up my thinking and found my purpose.
Yes, you can find purpose in doing the little everyday things. You can still hear the music while a screaming toddler follows you around all day. You can still hear the music while washing dishes for the tenth time that day. The music is there if you listen. Don’t just go through your day doing the routine dance steps. Take a few minutes and find your WHY and you’ll hear the music. You’ll feel the joy in little everyday things again. I promise.
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If you’re still feeling stuck and can’t find your purpose – I can help you. Schedule a FREE mini session with me! Pull up the contact pop up bar and find a time that works for you. I’d love to work with you.