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Personal Growth

What Difference Does it Make to be Purposeful?

Part of the Women Over 50—What Really Works? Series

Now that we are getting better at incorporating purpose into our daily lives, we have another really important aspect to face. Does it really make a difference and does it matter to anyone else?  Does it really mean anything to be living a purposeful life? Just as a reminder, my purpose is that I believe we are here to love ourselves, each other and our lives; master the business of life and turn our lead into gold.

I have spent the last 2 months on an amazing journey of self-discovery. I had been encouraged to “get back out there” and meet men, so I joined a dating app. This “dating experience” was a shock to my system.

I met someone who wrote great letters to me, we ended up talking on the phone non-stop for a few weeks, until I figured out he wasn’t real. His intent was to get me to send him money.

Now that isn’t really so shocking, as I have heard many stories about these scam artists who do this. What felt devastating to me was that, even though it was only a short time, I actually fell for his fake story. Which made me go deep inside and question myself in very new ways! What was going on with me that I would do that? Did I feel I was missing something?

>READ: WHAT (REALLY) GOES INTO LIFE OVER 50: DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT

I had been quite happily single for several years, so why did I suddenly get caught up in the “man hunt” syndrome again? And what did that have to do with my being a purposeful, inspired woman? I want to be open to relationships and connections, but for some reason, I jumped in too quickly and got caught up in a fantasy.

I’m writing about this because so many of us make up stories about other women we observe from a distance. 

I’m quite sure there are many women who see me from afar and assume that I have my life “all together” and that I would never get caught up in an experience like the one I just described. But it happened, and I could only go through the process of facing myself and learning from it. Part of facing it was a deep dive into a sense of shame, fear and self-doubt that I could actually be, even if briefly, still someone who could be scammed. Who could be taken advantage of?

new perspective

That’s not how I saw myself. I saw myself as someone out in the world, making a difference, doing what I love: inspiring women to grow and be their authentic selves. Was I being that when I believed a conman’s romantic overtures? Is it something to be ashamed of or is it just part of life’s lessons? And if we are here to learn lessons, at my relatively advanced age, is there an end in sight?  Will I have to keep learning, over and over what works and doesn’t work for me?

Is that what it means to be living a purposeful life?

If you are still reading this, maybe you’ve had some semblance of this occur in your life. Maybe you:

  • Found out a friend lied to you about something, but you believed it.
  • Worked in a company and felt things were going really well, but suddenly priorities changed and you were out of a job.
  • Found out about a deep dark family secret and now have to rethink everything about your family history and your relationship to it.
  • Discovered your husband had been having an affair.
  • Had an affair and thought it was a well-kept secret until someone found out and you were exposed.
  • Trusted someone to handle your finances but they actually mishandled them and you lost a chunk of money.

I could keep going with stories that would feel shameful, and probably lead you to the kind of soul searching I have been on. This is to say that we’re all on a journey and any one of those experiences could have happened to you. And when you’re shaken up when you are challenged to your core, it can easily make you question what is the purpose of it all.

How can you feel like you’re living a purposeful within yourself while in the middle of a journey?

What was amazing to me was how deeply I felt the panic and fear that if I could fall for a story like that, who was I? What value did I even have to myself, much less anyone else in the world.  That does sound like a pretty dramatic reaction, and I agree, it was. So, I had to dive deep into the why of the reaction.

living a purposeful life

When I don’t know what to do, I look for help. I got some book recommendations and plowed through them voraciously. Reading 10 books in 6 weeks led me to see more clearly what was going on inside of me. I kept reading because I wanted some relief from the panic feeling I had in my chest. Perhaps you are familiar with it: the sensation that you are at the edge of a cliff and you’re going to fall any minute.

As I read, my life and what I believed about it were becoming clearer to me. 

I had been in a fog and I started to see light, however, I still felt that sense of underlying panic.  Oddly, it wasn’t affecting my daily activities. I could still work with coaching clients. I could function perfectly well on a day to day basis. But I kept questioning whether being functional and feeling a secret sense of fear made any sense. How could I feel truly free to live a purposeful life if that feeling persisted?

The last book of the 10 was called The Transparency of Things: Contemplating the Nature of Experience by Rupert Spira. Finally, toward the end of the book, I found my answer. He pointed out that when we are going through a breakdown of belief systems and learning more about our true selves, we can suddenly be overtaken by feelings that make us feel like we’re going crazy.

And his suggestion was to stop trying to suppress the feeling, but to allow it. To live with it instead of trying to run away from it.

Those words broke the spell. He pointed out that the feeling was probably something I had been suppressing for so many years. And it was not going to be tamped down anymore. I had to face it and learn to live with it instead of fearing it.

>READ: HOW WOMEN ARE LIVING PURPOSEFUL LIVES

I realized it had a direct correlation to what my life purpose is and living a purposeful life. As a child in the 50s, we were taught to not feel. We were punished if we expressed our emotions too overtly. It simply wasn’t done. My fears about myself got turned into proactive, positive behavior.  I actually published a book about how I over-compensated my feelings of inadequacy by helping others more than I helped myself. (See: Confessions of a Recovering Helpaholic)

What is abundantly clear to me is that living a purposeful life is directly tied to authenticity. 

By facing my inner fears, allowing feelings to surface and be accepted instead of suppressed, and owning my ability to function and live well in the midst of change and challenge, I can actually be more purposeful than ever.

The result of all this is a greater sense of authority in my own life. To live it as it comes without so much judgment of what I or others do is right or wrong.  Was it wrong for that guy to fool me?  If he hadn’t, would I have gone on that journey to a new and quite fulfilling level of self-discovery? If he had been real, would I have continued to put off the process of freeing myself from the suppressed fear that was stuck in my chest just waiting to be released? Would I have been happier?  Better off?

I believe this is how I can best live a purposeful life: continue to be challenged, grow and learn.  That makes a big difference to me. And it is my experience that as I grow and change, the people I am in contact with get something of value from it.

Living a purposeful life does make a difference.

>READ: A PURPOSEFUL LIFE WILL HELP YOURSELF AND OTHERS

>READ: ARE THESE 3 TRAITS HELPING OR HURTING YOU AT WORK?

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