“Life’s up and downs provide windows of opportunity to determine your values and goals. Think of using all obstacles as stepping stones to build the life you want.” – Marsha Sinetar, writer
“Xena looked twenty six, but was only sixteen.”
Xena was a ‘walk in’ client who arrived at my office one day at lunch time. I was stuffing my face with humus and pita bread when I heard my reception room door open. Knowing there has been no one there a few minutes ago and no one expected for another hour, I went to investigate.
Xena was sitting quietly in my reception area. Xena was a tall, dark haired, beautiful, Asian woman. Xena looked twenty six, but was only sixteen. She introduced herself with a maturity beyond her years. But, it was in keeping with her looks. It was like she had walked out of a fashion magazine, like the ones you see in your physician’s waiting room.
Xena told me she had walked to my office from the local hospital where she had spent the last week in the psychiatric unit as a result of a suicide attempt…her second attempt and second stay in the hospital in the last six months.
“…kept her in a foggy, emotionless state which hampered her learning to deal with her life.”
She told me she currently stayed with her Uncle Joe, her Mom’s brother, who lived handy to her parents. She added the medications from the hospital staff, who she said were very kind to her, weren’t helping. She felt tired all the time and couldn’t think ‘straight’…they just weren’t helping! So, she had decided to take matters in her own hands and seek out other options…the web offered up my name and here she was.
Xena had a younger sister, Li. Her parents had emigrated from China twenty years ago. Xena said they were very quiet, conservative people who worked hard to make a future for their children. She loved her parents but found it impossible to live with them. She said her mother was a modern woman while her father was a traditional, old fashioned man.
She told me with the demands of high school, the demands of her boyfriend and the demands of her parents, she felt overwhelmed, and then depressed. After her first hospital visit she thought she would be OK by taking her medications. But, she said they kept her in a foggy, emotionless state which hampered her learning to deal with her life.
“And, it’s been going on for the last three years.”
I asked her what was her biggest challenge right now? She surprised me by saying,
“My boyfriend I can deal with. He’s just anxious to take our relationship to the next level, but I’m not ready yet. And, my parents are just being parents…trying to get me to live by their standards and not my own. I think we can work that out if they will sit down with me and discuss it calmly.”
“Is there a ‘but’ here, Xena?” I asked.
“Yes Ken, there’s a big ‘but’! I hate school but love learning! I have been picking subjects that interest me but the classes and projects are really boring. I don’t see how they can be connected to my future…whatever that might be. I get overwhelmed with the options out there, I can’t seem to find a focus for my studies. And, it’s been going on for the last three years.” she said, the desperation and disillusionment spreading over her face.
“Xena, I can see why you are getting discouraged and depressing yourself. Let me ask you a few questions so I can get a clearer context to your challenges. OK?”
“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.” – Benjamin E. Mays, educator
“… everything …has a purpose in our universe…”
“What’s your highest value in life, Xena?”
She looked at me in complete bewilderment for a minute before responding,
“I have no idea! But, I do know I like creativity, having fun and being in control of my own life!”
“Then, I guess you probably don’t know your second highest or third highest or even tenth highest value either?” I added.
“Not a clue!” she said, half smiling.
“You probably know from your school physics, maybe biology or even chemistry that every thing in our universe, every cell, organism, substance, rock, tree, mountain or valley has a purpose in our universe, eh?” I asked her.
“Yes, I remember, especially in biology, how every part of the human body has a specific function or purpose, without exception. We may not know what function it serves yet, but our teacher said, it has to have a role to play or it wouldn’t be there.” she countered.
“So, what’s your specific purpose in being here, right now in 2016?” I challenged her.
“I repeat…not a clue, Ken!” smiling again at me.
“…we can’t see the connection between our present activities…and our life purpose and values.”
“Xena, motivation comes from inside us, not outside us. When we know our purpose and values, we know what motivates us because we know what is most important to us. If we consciously focus our daily activities on our purpose and within our values, we become energized, and inspired in our work, in whatever form that work takes. Can you see that?” I asked.
“You’re talking about Stephen Lewis’s AIDS work or Tom Cantley, that guy on the news who is rolling a six foot ball across Canada to bring awareness to testicular cancer…people who try to bring attention to some health or social issue which is important to them, eh?” she replied getting the idea.
“Xena, they are perfect examples of just what I’m talking about. When we depress ourselves, it is usually because we can’t see the connection between our present activities, like school subjects, and our life purpose and values.” I said.
“Let me understand this! You’re saying my school subjects are boring because I don’t see the connection between them and my purpose and values…is that it?” she asked, warming up to, and connecting, the idea to her situation.
“Yes, Xena! That’s it exactly!”
“…if I know my purpose and values I have a ‘kind of mental vaccination’ against suicide?”
“So, taking it to the next step…if I could connect my school work to my purpose and values I would find school more interesting and be more motivated to learn…is that the idea, Ken?” she asked, putting the concept together and running with it.
“That’s it exactly, again!” I replied enthusiastically.
“And, if I could connect my parent’s hassling me to my purpose and values, I would also be more motivated to deal with it…is that also true?” she asked taking the idea even further.
“Yes!” I replied, impressed with her quick mind.
“So, taking it to the next step…if I could know my specific purpose and values I wouldn’t be depressing myself and spending time in the hospital under a medication regime, correct?”
“You would be much more clear about the direction your life needs to be going for you to value yourself and your time…so, with little, or no, need to engage in your former depressing behaviours.” I replied.
“Are you suggesting to me if I know my purpose and values I have a ‘kind of mental vaccination’ against suicide?” she asked.
“We are built to conquer environment, solve problems, achieve goals, and we find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve.” – Maxwell Maltz, scientist
“We have tended to infatuate life and resent death… now, we are learning to appreciate both…”
This young woman was a deep thinker, full of insight. It reminded me of the old Biblical adage, ‘out of the mouth of babes comes truth and wisdom.’
“I think those are wise words, Xena. And, the only exception I’ve noticed is when the sick or elderly suicide. In this case, it is purposeful for them at that point in their life because it honours their highest values. And, currently Canada is struggling to make this legally available.”
“Are you saying at some point later in my life I might choose suicide because at that time it respects my highest values and is purposeful for me…and I will be able to decide that legally and get medical assistance.”
“That’s the direction we are heading in many parts of the world. We have tended to infatuate life and resent death. Now, we are learning to appreciate both life and death, and their role in our evolution.”
“So, to appreciate my life and my death, I need to know my life purpose and my highest values. In that way, I will be motivated each day regardless of what actually happens…whether it is my school work or my parents hassling me because I will be able to connect what is happening to my purpose and values! Does that sum up accurately?” she asked, her face brightening with her new awareness.
“An excellent summary! If you’re ready to uncover your life purpose I have seven questions for you. Your responses will assist us in identifying your purpose. To uncover your highest values I have thirteen questions for you. And, those responses will show you your top ten values in their order of importance. Are you ready to begin, Xena?”
“Ready and eager to begin!” she said smiling.
Xena did the work she needed. She was out of the hospital within the week. She decided to study business and connected each of her school subjects to being a business person. She resolved her relationships with her parents and boyfriend. She went on with her life knowing her life purpose and highest values. As she finished up her work she presented to me as an inspired, committed and purposeful individual.
Watch out world, here she comes!
“’Tis the set of the sail that decides the goal, and not the storm of life.”
– Ella Wheeler Wilcox, writer
Until Next time…
Now you know, you need to know your life purpose and highest values to be able to set a clear direction for your future and to understand the value of your present activities. Then you will have the motivation, the gratitude, the certainty and the love you need to design your own destiny.
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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