What is my purpose on this earth? When I think about it, I am reminded of Henry Ford’s definition of success: to do more for the world than the world does for you. If I take these words to heart, then my purpose is to leave the earth a little better than when I came into it. This could be the whole world, my community, or my family. How large I choose to make my scope will determine how valuable I am to the world.
This has not always been my belief. As a young adult, I lived solely for myself. My selfish intentions were my priority. Rather than a contributor, I was a consumer only concerned with obtaining my base desires. I was only a small speck in the universe. A little dot with hardly an effect on the other dots.
But then things changed. The first catalyst was marriage. I had to consider somebody else. The transition was not easy for I was still a very selfish boy. But in time, I learned the hard truth that if I only pursued my own interests, my relationship with my wife would not last. Therefore, I changed. Just a small bit, but still a change.
I went from a dot to a segment interacting with another dot. My universe doubled from its previous state.
Then came fatherhood. My paradigm shifted yet again. The segment became a triangle. My universe expanded. My interests became even less selfish. Now, I was tasked with expanding each leg, tasked with more than developing my own point but the other two points. How can this triangle fit into the puzzle of the universe? How can it grow, be dynamic, and robust? Someday, my son will go off and find his own geometry in this life. What can I do to influence the pattern?
When it comes down to it, our job in life is people. It is to connect the dots and strengthen each segment. This is our purpose. How many connections can we make? How can we improve the dots around us, so the segments are strengthened? How can our own dots be made more desirable to connect with others?
All We Can Do Is Try
In peer-to-peer relationships, all we can do is try. We can try to make stronger connections, improve others, and ourselves, but even our best intentions are not always well-received. We cannot make others improve or have strong connections with us. The simple fact is that not everyone wants to same things as we do. Some relationships cannot be strengthened. Some dots cannot be connected.
Should this trouble us? Indeed not! Once again, all we can do is try. We can want the best, intend the best, but we cannot impose our will upon others.
Then what should we do? Should we give up? Of course not! Maybe it is a sign that our approach is not the best one. Maybe we should try a different tactic. A teacher should not give up on a student who does not understand the content. Instead, the teacher should leave behind the cookie-cutter approach and implement a different method. This will require creativity but will also benefit both the teacher and the student.
What Stands in the Way Becomes the Way
Our path is not always straight. It is not always sunny days and pleasant breezes. We are often met with obstacles that have the power to stop us dead in our tracks. We could give up. We could tell ourselves that what we have chosen is too difficult, and it would be better to not even attempt to proceed.
Not all obstacles can be attacked in the same way. Like the teacher and the student, some obstacles require different approaches. For the obstacles that stand in our way, we must start with the logical and see if it works. Often, this requires many attempts, many failures, and many trips back to the drawing board. But no matter how many setbacks, we cannot give up. We must remember that everything we want lies on the other side. We must attack and overcome that which stands in the way.
In a sense, people are our proper occupation. Our job is to do them good and put up with them. But when they obstruct our proper tasks, they become irrelevant to us—like sun, wind, animals. Our actions may be impeded by them, but there can be no impeding our intentions or our dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.20