Purpose and Time are two very connected concepts for me. While time is infinite as a universal element or concept, time is finite for humans. Time is the only resource in the entire universe one can never get more of, no matter how hard you try, no matter how privileged or lucky you may be. When one day or one hour or even one of life's precious moments passes — it’s gone forever. You can never get it back. You can never make or manufacture more time.
And so I wonder — why aren’t we more intentional with our time? Why don’t we aim to make our time spent roaming this planet, among our friends, our loved ones and our community, deeper, more meaningful, and more impactful? Why do I spend more time seeing live music than I do working on a plan and purpose for my life? Why do I spend more time watching sports than I do planning out the year ahead for me and my family? What's going on? And what does it mean?
From the earliest age I can remember, I lived my life in one of two modes: survival mode or bootstrap mode. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, with varying degrees of drama and abuse on the regular, survival mode and bootstrapping was how I learned to navigate the world. My biological father was (and still is) absent — a lifetime addict, narcissist, and just not a safe person for me. My mother spent her life in super co-dependent relationships. As it turns out, she lived her life with a closet full of secrets. And later in life, as the secrets eventually came out, she unraveled. Amidst her co-dependency, secrets and dysfunction, she drank herself to death. I had a couple of step fathers too. Both were abusive, but in different ways. One was more physical and at times pretty scary, while the other was mostly just loud and threatening. Fun stuff.
Thankfully I did have two amazing sets of grandparents who all lived nearby and were very involved in my childhood and early life. My grandparents, and a few others, were a light for me. They gave me a sense of safety and hope. They modeled strong values and they encouraged me to be great.
All of this to say — the idea of having a purpose for my life wasn’t anywhere on my radar. I was trying to not get hit in the face while eating dinner. The idea of having a purpose never even entered my mind… and I would wager there’s a lot of kids out there like me. I mean, I didn’t take SAT or ACT tests in high school. I honestly believed community college was the only option for me. That’s literally what my mom and step dad told me. But I digress.
The truth is, I’ve come to realize that I’ve lived most of my life, or at least the first 35 plus years of it, without any real purpose or intention. It’s hard to have purpose when survival and bootstrapping is all you know. And as I reflect back today, I see my first 35 years sort of like a boat without a rudder. I was headed in various directions and trying really, really hard to do stuff — but I was getting blown around by the winds of circumstance and I was getting carried here and there by the currents of life. I woke up each day, going through the motions of life, doing most of the things I thought I needed to do — but without any real plan or purpose. Simply put, I had some dreams — some dreams about what I wanted to do with my life. But dreams without an actual plan are just dreams.
And so about a year ago I decided to get serious about this stuff. Over the past 12 months I’ve devoted most of my time and focus to developing and understanding who I am, and more specifically, what my core values and my highest purpose are. I’ve gone so deep into this stuff that I recently created an operating manual for my life. Sounds pretty nerdy, right?
The operating manual is a relatively simple, two page document, where I declare who I am and outline my state of being. It includes a Purpose statement, clearly describing my highest level of intention. I’ve also developed my own core values to help act as a compass and help guide important decisions I have to make. I’ve created a list of the key activities and disciplines I need to regularly practice in order to be healthy, well, and to be in “good” operating condition. Things like how much sleep and exercise I need, and how much time away in nature with my family I need, how much alone time I need, meditation, etc. It also has a few photos of Jeana and the kids, for the full visualization effect. Like this:
The operating manual also includes a brief, two paragraph bio, describing my history — my upbringing, how my operating system was initially programmed when I was a child, what my journey has been like thus far, and what I intend to change and do differently, as I grow and evolve forward in life.
And lastly, I’ve made a list of a few things I want to do or accomplish during my existence on this planet — a bucket list, for lack of better words. Things like run half marathons, slay big fish with a fly rod, write a book that helps people, build a company that contributes positivity and good to the community and to the world. I also want to see my grandchildren graduate from college (while holding Jeana's hand), and live abroad for a year with Jeana. Raising two kids into healthy, functional, wise, free thinking and independent adults is also at the top of my list.
And if that isn’t nerdy enough for you, I spend 3-5 minutes reading this operating manual — every single day. It’s the first thing I do every morning. It helps me get centered and focused for the day ahead and gives me intention for what I will do with my day.
For more than 30 years I never thought much about these sort of things — purpose, intention, and the interconnectedness of purpose and time. But now I find myself a little older, and maybe a little wiser, and I have this new awareness of how finite time truly is. And I have this new realization that living life without purpose and intention is sort of like hiking without a trail, or traveling without a destination.
And so I’ve installed a rudder on this boat — and I look forward to all of the possibilities, experiences and destinations I intend to explore.
A smart person once said, “If you talk about it, it’s a dream. If you envision it, it’s possible. But if you schedule it, it’s real.”
Keep it real, y’all.
--> This essay is part of a new series published in collaboration with The Western Writers League. It would mean a lot to me if you took the time to read my peers’s works as well.
Why I Play by Chris Corbin
Drive by Mario Schulzke