“I am so happy to have Jerry Lopper as a contributor having enjoyed his insightful blog: PurposefulGrowth.com. I was immediately touched by the following post because I also experienced having to sneak home from elementary school to avoid being beaten up by local bullies. Jerry’s wisdom on increasing clarity about one’s life purpose makes any challenge a relevant opportunity for growth. Please leave a comment and check out links to additional posts on this topic at the end.” – Rob
By Jerry Lopper
When I was eight or nine years old I was bullied and tormented by a group of old neighborhood kids. Borrowing from Dr. Pennington’s Find the Upside of the Down Times, that decidedly down time in my life was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Each day as I walked home alone from school I was afraid these bullies would be waiting for me. I took to cutting through alleys and going out of my way to get home safely. I was intimidated and afraid, but for some reason it never occurred to me to either 1) stand up to them, or 2) tell my parents or teachers
Instead, I went it alone, stayed out of their way, and felt awful inside all the while.
How in the world can I view this frightening time in my young life as something good that happened to me? Of course, it wasn’t a positive experience as it occurred, adversities never are, but having lived through it I learned something very important to my life and happiness—my true life purpose.
All Our Life Experiences Offer Clues
As a pre-teen I wasn’t concerned with life purpose; that quest for meaning in my life wouldn’t begin for many years. But when it did begin, all my life experiences, both positive and negative, would be crucial to finding the true reason for my being—my life purpose.
Just as we learn from our mistakes, we can learn about the life purpose born within each of us by examining our behaviors and feelings during periods of adversity. During adversities we revert to automatic behavior. This behavior is ideally shaped by life purpose, but can also be shaped by cultural upbringing, which was the situation in my young life.
An Example: My Purpose in Life
Fast forwarding to my life purpose will clarify the role this particular adversity played in my life. After many, many years of self-reflection and inner-journey work toward finding my life purpose I’ve succeeded in reaching a clear understanding of who I am at my best—another way of looking at life purpose.
My life purpose is to be peaceful, unconditionally loving, courageous and unafraid of failure and rejection, continuously growing, and using my insights and other strengths in the service of others, while allowing my life to unfold as it will.
When I’m aligned with my life purpose—being peaceful, unconditionally loving, courageous, etc.—I’m filled with positive emotions, such as joy, happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction. Our emotions are a fail-safe indicator of alignment with life purpose. The more positive the emotion, the better aligned we are with true purpose. Conversely, the more negative the emotion, the more we’re misaligned.
Referring back to my life purpose, notice it includes “to be peaceful” and “courageous.” My reaction to being bullied was anything but courageous. In fact, I was cowardly, skulking around to avoid my tormentors and any ensuing conflict. My feelings at behaving in a cowardly, conflict-avoiding manner were highly negative feelings—fear, intimidation, isolation.
Emotions Indicate Purpose Alignment
Strong negative feelings are as good an indicator of life purpose as are strong positive feelings. They shout out “This is not who you are!” While being peaceful is a core component of my purpose, being courageous is also a core component. My lack of courage resulted in strongly negative feelings despite my peaceful approach.
While this one difficult experience itself didn’t provide clarity of my life purpose, it definitely contributed. All significant life experiences, both positive and negative, offer strong clues to true life purpose. Don’t overlook your down times as you work toward finding out who you truly are.
Finding Your Life Purpose Through Adversity
Here’s a summary of the process. Focus on some adversity in your life right now, or recall a past down time in your life. Recall the circumstances. Recall your actions. Now delve below your actions to recall the qualities or characteristics describing you at that time. Finally, recall how you felt about who you were being during this time. Were you proud? Disappointed? Ashamed?
Positive emotions indicate you were aligned during that time with your true life purpose. Negative emotions point out you were misaligned, so your purpose is the opposite of the qualities you were displaying.
Any one adversity won’t give you a complete picture of your life purpose, but it will contribute. Taken together, your life experiences resulting in strong emotions offer the clues you’re looking for in finding your purpose in life.
The down times can indeed be some of the best things that ever happened to you.
For more from Jerry on finding your life purpose, please check out each of the following:
Jerry Lopper is a freelance writer, author, and personal growth coach. He is the Personal Development Topic Editor at Suite101.com has published over 600 articles and five books, and operates several websites devoted to personal and professional growth and development.
A former Technical Manager in the telecommunications industry, Jerry is an Associate Member of the International Positive Psychology Association and holds a BS degree in Engineering and an MBA, with coach training by MentorCoach.
Please sample Jerry’s personal growth resources at PurposefulGrowth.com.