I stumbled upon the above question in a book by Matthew Kelly. He explains that we don’t need people who are willing to die for a cause – the age of martyrs has already come and gone – but what we could really use are dedicated people willing to live for a cause.
Living…that sounds easy enough. We are living now, right? Well, some might argue that we are dying if we are not moving in the direction of achieving what we want to achieve and becoming all that we are meant to be. As one of the wisest men I’ve ever heard speak said, “If you’re not moving in the direction of your goals, you’re moving away from them.” In the same way, if you’re not living for a cause, you’re living for nothing! Don’t let your life go to waste.
My cause can be described in a variety of ways. Perhaps the dreamiest way of putting it is with the words “World Peace.” If inner-peace is possible, as we have all likely experienced at one time or another, then World Peace is achievable too. When was the last time you experienced inner-peace? When did you not have a care in the world? You were probably flowing completely in the moment, without thinking about the past or the future. You were just being. Perhaps you were laughing, smiling, admiring Nature. We’ve all experienced those moments that don’t seem like the passing of time but rather an eternal paradise – that is until someone coughs, our phone rings, or we start to think about the haircut we really need. Then those moments pass away.
If we can experience it once, we can experience it again and again – it’s simply a matter of tuning our awareness to the beautiful things in life. So long as we are aware of beauty, living in the past or the future serves us no purpose, and we can bask in the glorious present.
One of my favorite ways to tune into the beautiful world is to sit outside and focus on my hearing. I will listen to the loudest noise first, for about a minute, then moving my focus to the second loudest noise, I will continue the process until after about 5 minutes I’ll be focusing on my breathe, and then finally tuning into the beating of my heart, the softest of sounds.
This hearing exercise helps me become aware of some of the awesome activity that is happening around me all the time but occasionally is forgotten because of the over-stimulation of our modern culture. We live in a world with a lot of noise, and we rarely taking time to appreciate each layer of sound that hits us. When we slow down, relax, and listen, we heighten our own awareness and grow in enjoyment of the here and now. Inner-peace, anyone? If only for a few minutes, it is there!
Really though, perhaps your cause isn’t World Peace. Maybe you are more of a Feed the Hungry or Clothe the Naked kind of person, which is great! There are all kinds of needs in this world, and certainly each one of us is not only capable but called to make this world a better place.
In Matthew Kelly’s book, he distinguishes two key characteristics of Saints – people who he considers worthy examples to follow. The first quality they all have in common is a singleness of purpose. With a singleness of purpose, they enable themselves to align all of their thoughts and actions to work towards fulfilling that purpose. Imagine if everything you did was committed towards the same ultimate end. That kind of thought and action-orientation would increase our effectiveness to levels like we wouldn’t believe! If we take time to decide on our singleness of purpose, not only will we grow in effectiveness, but we’ll also rise above many of the pesky first world problems like boredom, laziness, and greed, that might otherwise sink our ship and lead us to become less than we are meant to be.
The second quality shared amongst the Saints and nearly all “successful” people is that they have good habits. Our habits are those things that we do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. In many ways, our habits shape our lives. If we practice good habits on a daily basis oriented towards fulfilling our singleness of purpose, there is no telling what we are actually capable of.
Going forth, please consider these questions. They are big questions so are not meant to be answered in a couple of minutes, unless of course you already know. They are good questions to think about every day, and as you think about them more you will notice increased clarity in thought and action. You also might start to realize how incredible you really are. 🙂
1. What are you willing to live for? What is your singleness of purpose?
2. What are your habits?
3. What is a new habit, which if done every day, would definitely increase the quality of your life? To help think about this question, consider dividing your life into four categories: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. What is a positive habit you can start doing to improve yourself in any of those areas?