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Finding Your Unique Life Purpose
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Feb 03, 2010
One of my favorite movies of all time is Unbreakable, a film by M. Night Shyamalan. What I love most about this film is its suggestion that if you are not doing what you are meant to be doing with your life, you will wake up each morning with a little sadness in your heart.
I realize that every person's life is made up of countless conscious and subconscious experiences, and that it can be self-limiting and even depressing to think that there's just one thing that each of us are meant to do really well.
Still, I think it's natural to marvel at someone doing something with such sensational skill and passion that it is natural to think that he or she has discovered a unique life purpose.
Case in point, if you have a few minutes, please watch the following video of Jeong-Hyun Lim, a 23-year old Korean and self-taught guitarist:
This video originally appeared on youtube.com about two years ago, and to date, it has generated over 65 million views. I think it's safe to assume that all of us can recognize this young man's greatness with a guitar.
When I watch this video or view a highlight reel of Michael Jordan or read "The Catcher in the Rye," it's natural to feel that Jeong-Hyun Lim, Michael Jordan, and J.D. Salinger found their unique life purposes, even if their extraordinary public works are tiny snippets of their lives.
But maybe, just maybe, the special skills that we recognize in these and other public figures do not represent what they feel are their greatest contributions or experiences.
After watching Unbreakable, I spent a few years trying to figure out what my "one thing" was. What was I put on earth for? What was my one special talent?
I think that most people think about this issue at some point in their lives. And if a clear answer doesn't appear, it's possible to become discouraged, especially when we see so many celebrities who appear to have found their own special talents.
I believe that a lot of people in our world are chronically depressed because they feel that they haven't found their unique callings. Maybe this is the result of the way that today's mainstream media continuously teaches us that we are not beautiful or financially wealthy enough. Maybe it's just a normal part of the human experience in any age.
Is it possible that being steadfastly kind, even when others are not, can be a person's special calling in life? How about being known among family and friends as someone who would never divulge another person's secret? What about the ability to consistently overpower our pride and acknowledge when we are wrong or when we behave badly? And how about trying hard to prevent others from feeling bad about big or tiny things? Do any of these character traits qualify as forms of true greatness?
When we hear about finding a unique life purpose, it is usually in the context of discovering a vocation or physical skill that typically attracts widespread respect and admiration. How good would it be if our society began to recognize certain character traits as being displays of true greatness?
Examples of people displaying admirable character traits:
A worker at a store who personally escorts you to the item you are looking for instead of pointing and verbally describing how you can struggle to find it yourself.
A gardener who sees a worm on his walking path and takes the time to gently move it to safety.
A parent who never stops working hard to prepare healthy meals for his or her family.
A friend who consistently listens with her heart and has the best interests of her friends in mind.
A parent who never disciplines in anger.
Wouldn't it be great if most of the world's people found it natural to think that such people have discovered their life callings?
To consistently display any of the character traits described above requires a similar level of commitment, effort, and practice that elite athletes, musicians, and other artists put into being great at what they do. If only the world would regularly teach us that we don't have to become Olympians, Hollywood celebrities, published authors, millionaires, or anything else to find our unique life purposes and to feel fulfilled.
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