Translated by: Zeynep Sen
Edited by: Christine Taylor
It’s said that our lives flash before our eyes at the moment of our death. So, it would be pretty upsetting if we were to realize that achieving our life’s goals had been possible in that one moment. You could realize that the “you” that you know is not the real you, that the real you has finally shed all of its layers and revealed itself. Your ego, the energy that you carry around with you throughout your whole life will not follow you into the grave. Though does that mean you’ve made an error and have been cheated or is it just a naked, plain truth you’re not used to considering?
We all have individual life purposes that are specific to our unique beings. Sometimes we doubt whether this exists. We wonder if life really has a purpose or if it should have one. Why are we alive, if we’re going to die anyways? Do we figure out our life purpose later on in life or is it predetermined at the hour of our birth? It seems that when it comes to this topic, we can come up with more questions than there are answers. Could our life’s purpose be to discover our life’s purpose? And what role does our ego play in all this?
You’ve probably asked yourself this question in the past: Why am I alive? This question pops into our minds when we run into a dead-end when things aren’t going as planned… The answer to this question is incredibly personal. Some of us might feel like we have no purpose. Others might find answers that satisfy us for the time being, latch on to it and throw ourselves into our work. This keeps the individual alive and gives them strength. But once these people achieve their goal, they’ll hit another dead end: they’ve achieved all they’ve set out to do. Either that or they’ll gear up to fight for more. The path we choose is often shaped by our ego. The things we want to achieve, the organizations we want to belong to, the objects we want to possess or even people we want to be with…
The idea that happiness is a goal that must be attained throughout all parts of our lives is a dangerous one, simply because it’s not realistic. We all need to agree that finding happiness cannot be our sole life’s purpose. One cannot find happiness by just looking around for it and happiness is not an emotion that can give one purpose. Saying that our life’s goal is to be happy is to live according to our ego.
You might be wondering: “How can wanting to be happy, be a bad thing?” Though consider what “wanting to be happy” means for our ego. It can mean having a good career and financial gain, a car, nice clothes, an apartment, success, a pleasurable relationship… The ego is in the background of all of these accolades. Yet none of these things are permanent; they’re made up of things that give us a fleeting sense of pleasure. We get used to these things when we obtain them but after a while, they stop being enough and we yearn for more. “You can only satisfy your ego temporarily. You’ll therefore always be seeking more, buying more and consuming more”.
While happiness shouldn’t be the end goal for our life’s purpose, it can be a tool to prolong our lives. So how do we cultivate happiness? By practicing acceptance, compassion, gratitude, and sharing moments good and bad with those we love. The aforementioned feelings and emotions are devoid of ego; they are not fleeting and there’s no need for us to chase after them. That is to say that we don’t practice gratitude to be happy, happiness automatically follows gratitude, almost like a gift.
“I would be very happy.” That’s your ego talking again. It’s my ego presenting me with a goal, despite knowing that it’s impossible to achieve. It’s a pit I can never climb out of.
So, let’s make a deal; it’s not possible to be rid of our egos. Our egos will always be a part of us. The moment that you notice your ego, however, you’ll begin to shed the protective layers of ego that you’re wearing. Many of us believe that the voices in our heads are part of ourselves, when in fact they are the many shades of our ego.
For centuries many philosophers, scientists, and theologians have tried to answer this question, yet no conclusive, all-encompassing conclusion has ever been reached. Some claimed that one could not have a life’s purpose. Others said that “our lives’ purpose should be to discover our lives’ purpose”. Yet others said it was divine worship. There have even been those that said that it was “just to live.”
The one thing we may all agree on is that our biological purpose is to stay alive and ensure the continuation of our race. One instinct which seems to hold true is that our personal goals can give shape to our own self-imposed life purpose. Whether we realize it or not all of our choices, from choosing the right university for us, choosing a spouse, putting in the work to make money, wanting to have kids, and the way we decide to raise them all serve towards those personal goals. We spend our lives weaving a tapestry of wants, preferences, and goals unique to us and yet sometimes we decide that we don’t like how it’s turning out. So, we unstitch and try to re-weave it, based on the whims of our ego. In doing so, we miss out on the chance to explore this tapestry we’ve spent our lives weaving and truly enjoy it. By the time we notice this, it’s often too late to do anything about it, for we no longer have the time.
Who we are as an individual isn’t always immediately clear to us. We discover this in time, as we develop and learn more about how we behave, act, feel, and react in certain situations. With regards to how our egos evolve alongside us, we can never be without our ego but can only become more aware of it. Our life’s purpose could, therefore, be to create a world where we don’t define ourselves with outside labels or the possessive relationships we have with others.
We have to acknowledge that we can never destroy our ego. What we can do is become more aware of our ego’s influence over our decisions, resist reacting base on those whims, and leaning into the discomfort that comes along with living in alignment with what you want, not what your ego requires. The more awareness we have of our ego’s influence on us, the more easily we’ll be able to make decisions and live in a way that brings us peace of mind and clarity.
If we fast forward to the hour of our death and acknowledge that death is the peeling away of everything that is not you, we’ll see that “the secret to life is “dying without dying” and seeing that death doesn’t, in fact, mean what we think it does.” So says Eckhart Tolle. Perhaps this could add to your thoughts on your life’s purpose and create more awareness around how your ego and life’s purpose can sometimes be intertwined, whether it be in a positive or toxic manner.
As always, for topics like this that can be interpreted and approached in so many different ways, we would wholeheartedly welcome your thoughts, reactions, and comments.
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