The Four Purposes of Life

A thought leader and friend of mine, Mark Henson (CEO and Founder of Sparkspace in Columbus) recently shared a unique form of a book review, and I’m borrowing his idea this week to share with you my key takeaways from Dan Millman’s powerful book, The Four Purposes of Life (New World Library 2011). Let me know if you like this concept, and I hope you find these key points and quotes meaningful and valuable on your leadership and livingshipTM journey.

Four Purposes of Life: 1. Learning Life’s Lessons; 2. Finding Your Career and Calling; 3; Discovering Your Life Path; and 4. Attending to This Arising Moment.

Learning Life’s Lessons

“Lessons repeat themselves until we learn them.”

“We learn and grow through challenges, and every adversity has hidden gifts.”

“But are we humans here on Earth to live the easiest possible life? Or are we here to grow stronger and wiser? I believe that St. Augustine knew the answer, which is why he said, ‘Lord, I ask not for a lighter load, but for stronger shoulders.’”

“Our greatest single challenge in every area of self-improvement is transforming knowledge into action – turning what we know into what we actually do.”

“Einstein proposed that imagination is more important than knowledge.”

“The school of reality teaches us to accept, value, and learn from our emotions without trying to fix or control them – and without letting them determine our behavior.”

“In service we find the master key to a meaningful, purposeful life that connects us to one another, and to our world.”

Finding Your Career and Calling

“Your career refers to a service you perform – trading your time, effort, attention, knowledge, skills, and experience for a salary or other income and benefits.”

“Your calling refers to a personal interest, attraction, inclination, drive, or passion that is usually (but not always) of a higher order. It isn’t just something you want to do, but rather something you need to do, something that captures your imagination, touches you deeply and absorbs you, whether or not you can explain why. A calling may (or may not) earn an income or become a career.”

“The primary difference between a career and a calling is that we pursue a career primarily for income and a calling primarily for innate satisfaction.”

“It doesn’t ultimately matter whether your career and calling are united or are two separate parts of your life. In an ideal world, career and calling might merge – we would feel drawn, as if from above, to do the work we do each day. But this is the real world, where not every calling becomes a career or every career a calling. Most of us go to work, put in our time, enjoy aspects of our job, then look forward to doing what we do for love alone during our discretionary time.”

“Life is not about success or failure – it’s about stretching yourself. How will you ever know your limits until you’ve tested them? And how do you test them unless you’re wiling to fail brilliantly?”

Key Leadership Qualities: Inspire by example; offer support; motivate by pointing out a higher purpose; appreciate the value of mistakes; encourage collaboration rather than competition; empower others.

“Fulfillment eludes us until we find meaning, purpose, and connection.”

Quote from Oprah Winfrey: “You have a sacred calling; the question is, will you take the time to heed that call? Will you blaze your own path? You are the author of your own life. … Don’t let others define it for you. Real power comes by doing what you are meant to be doing, and doing it well.”

Discovering Your Life Path

“The third purpose begins with the precept that we are each climbing a mountain toward our highest potential but by differing paths.”

“Even after we gain insight into a problem, change can be slow and difficult – two steps forward, one step back. Knowing that we have a fear of elevators or of enclosed spaces, the dark, or insects – or even discovering a key incident when it all began – doesn’t necessarily enable us to ride up to the sixtieth floor or relax in a small, dark closet with someone’s pet tarantula.”

“Insight isn’t enough. At best it provides a map, but we still have to make the journey. As I said earlier, just thinking about doing something is not the same as doing it. We know we’ve learned a lesson in the school of life only when our actions change.”

Attending to This Arising Moment

“Each moment is a gift. And as the proverb goes, ‘One moment can change a day, one day can change a life, one life can change the world.’”

“All you have to decide is what you will do right now.”

This moment is all you need to manage. This is your moment of power.”

“To the extent that you pay attention to the moment, you will have fulfilled the promise of the fourth purpose of life.”

“So changing your behavior changes your identity, moment to moment.”

“And in random moment, silently ask yourself, ‘What is my purpose in this rising moment?’ Then do whatever needs to be done, in a wondrous and changing parade of purposes that shape the story of your life, and of all our lives.”

Click here to purchase The Four Purpose of Life!


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