As we wander the decades, most people strive to impart meaning and contribution into their lives. I doubt there are many people on this planet who haven’t wondered what their purpose in life is? This simple yet profound answer has the broadest possible range of possibilities when applied at the level of the individual. I’ve found that the simple answer to the question “what is my purpose in life?” is:
To discover for yourself what your gifts are and to share those gifts with the world.
There. Said it.
I’m not saying this is a universal truth, but it truly covers the bases for most people and definitely resonates with me.
Recently, I wrote how I had updated my personal vows to include:
“May I share my gifts freely and generously.”
I had realized that one place that I was falling short in life was in the sharing of my gifts. Enhancing my vows in this manner would hopefully help to ensure that the recognition and sharing of my gifts would be something that I would attend to.
Since this was personally important to me, I started looking at places where I was holding back. The most glaring place relates to music and songwriting. I’ve been writing songs for the past nearly 30 years but it’s all too rare that I truly share those gifts. For a time in my late 20s and early 30s I played regularly at open mics, BART stations and also some of my own singer-songwriter gigs at cafes and such in the San Francisco area. I also fondly remember busking several times in Amsterdam while traveling there back in the late 90s.
Over the past few years I’ve discovered the joys of sharing song around a bonfire. I also pretty much play music and sing daily, yet the part of me that tends to be more musically private and minimizing of risky exposure has tended to have its way.
Why the f*ck…?
I noticed recently how I have been keeping my life somewhat circumscribed within the boundaries of what I believed other people close to me would think. When I recognized that, I couldn’t help but laugh. What the hell difference does it make what so-and-so thinks of my art, my music, how I choose to live my life, who I date, how I do relationship, etc? It’s as if I have allowed myself to be subconsciously held in check by others whose opinions and belief somehow mattered to me. It really was very laughable! Why the fuck would I care what _____ thinks? Why should my belief of their perspective impact the choices I make?
This was an unfounded fear for several reasons:
- In reality, people I truly care about tend to be very supportive and encouraging and would hardly reject me almost no matter what I did.
- People who try to keep me in a minimized box are not really people that I want to actively have in my life.
- Most people, even very close friends and family, don’t in fact concern themselves much with my life. That isn’t to say that people don’t care or are rude or callous, but rather the reality is that every one of us remains primarily focused on our own lives and those immediately around us.
This last one brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:
“You’ll stop caring what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.”~ David Foster Wallace
And so that additional vow was born: “ May I share my gifts freely and generously.” If you’ll recall from my recent post (“Vows to Ourselves”), these vows all begin with the word “today,” implying that I am striving, as a daily practice, to live in light of each of my personal vows.
Fast forward to this past week
I took a much larger step of being public with my music than I have taken in a long time. For those of you who know me well, you’ll know I very rarely put anything on social media except links to these articles. In the interest of breaking the cycle and sharing my musical gifts more freely, I made a simple music video of myself singing a song which I had recently written called “One Road In, One Road Out,” and placed it out for the world to see on social media. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly supportive and I found it very encouraging to continue to be more forward and sharing with my music.
When something truly is a gift and your share it with the world, the world has a tendency to support you in continuing to do and share more of it. Gifts by their nature don’t necessarily have to be in the creative realms either. Perhaps you’re someone who has a knack for keeping things organized, or being encouraging and supportive of others, or entertaining, or mathematics, or parenting, or planting and making things grow. These are but a few of thousands of possible gifts.
I may not have a magic pill to help others identify their gifts, but if it’s truly a gift, it should flow naturally. We still need to put in our reps in honing the skills of our particular gifts, but that should be something we more naturally want to do. Although one can utilize these gifts for their work, if it’s really a gift, it shouldn’t feel like “work.” It should instead feel like something we simply want to do. It should flow. There may be resistance to sharing the gifts, but the gifts themselves should feel like they naturally flow forth.
I’d like to close by adding a prologue to the power of setting personal vows. Once I set the vow in motion earlier this year to “share my gifts freely and generously,” I suddenly felt accountable to myself and could no longer hide unseen behind shyness or fear. It is one thing to have certain standards we hope to live up to, and another entirely to actually vow to strive to be accountable to those vows. That self-accountability made it harder to keep my music quite so hidden.
So here is a link to the video I put together of the song I recently wrote called “One Road In, One Road Out.”