Quick–what is your life’s purpose? If you think you know what it is, then you are more evolved than most people! If you don’t know what it is, then this book will help you to name it and claim it. I can tell you this: If you are constantly trying to be your ultimate self, if you are always making an effort to “move on up a little higher,” then you will find your purpose. And if you find your purpose, then the road you take to achieve it is your mission.
Most people call this “success.” If “success” is a term that feels more comfortable to you than “purpose,” feel free to use it. Whatever you call it, know that it is yours alone to claim. It’s not your mama’s, your man’s, or your best friend’s. It’s a goal that is unique to you. You are one-of-a-kind, a divine original; your purpose is yours alone. And when you accomplish it, it will belong to you. It’s your soul purpose and your sole purpose.
Purpose is when someone finally decides to dedicate herself to pursuing the craft of acting rather than following the well-intentioned advice of family to get a “secure job” at the post office. Because it’s not their
destiny, other people may not be able to understand your passion, let alone support it. You’ve got to believe in it for yourself. And then, believe me, when you do accomplish great things after following your own heart, all the naysayers will suddenly get amnesia: “Who me? I never said you couldn’t do that!”
If we seek our purpose, everything else we desire will fall in line. We’ll have success, because no one will be better able to do what we do. We’ll have love, because we won’t feel the need to depend on others to fulfill us. We’ll have health and happiness, because we will always be willing to pursue our optimum fitness and wellbeing.
Following our ultimate purpose is the new way of defining success for the third millennium. “Being happy” is how futurist Faith Popcorn sees success in the years ahead. And isn’t that the ultimate? Popcorn further describes how we’ll be “cashing out, caring for kids. It’s going to be the Women’s Era. We won’t separate leisure and work as much as we used to.”
magazine once polled readers for their definition of “success.” The answer: Good health.
With these trends in mind, I offer in the pages of this book a new guide for women to discover this exciting, more healthful reality. If you were the type of student who always got the “crib notes” instead of reading the entire book, you can check out the following cheat sheet of what is covered in the seven chapters of this book right here. But if you want the lasting pleasure that comes not from just scratching the surface, but from going deeper into your ultimate self, I invite you to read the rest of the book for the details, how-tos, and secrets of finding your purpose and minding your mission.
Here’s how I spell out my seven soulful secrets of P-U-R-P-O-S-E:
S e c r e t O n e : P I s f o r P u r p o s e
A lot of people are afraid of pursuing their purpose. They think it means they have to be perfect, flawless. Or they feel it will require them to be squeaky clean, straight, square, corny. But perfect by whose measure? Maybe your purpose requires you to be totally eccentric in order to achieve it. For example, if you’re a creative person, your style of dress or hair or way of pursuing your art may be so unique that you are regarded as being out of the mainstream. But the world needs that. We need a lot of tributaries–not just the mainstream.
We can’t always be what others want us to be. We can only be ourselves. When you are following your heart, when you are being true to your nature, you are pursuing your purpose. In this chapter, you will learn:
• How to find your purpose
• What the difference is between purpose and mission
• How to get other people to mind their own mission and leave yours alone
• How independent thinking is the key to being your best self
• How to love your work and your life
S e c r e t Tw o : U I s f o r U l t i m a c y
Together we’ll explore what makes a woman go from ordinary to extraordinary. What makes her soar to great heights? The achievement of being your ultimate self–what I’ll call "ultimacy”–comes from getting to know yourself–and loving what you learn to know! It’s self-motivation that makes you “keep on pushin’ ” even when the going is tough. Ultimacy means living your life in the state of being your ultimate, best self. It’s reaching your utmost and celebrating the many facets of yourself that start with the letter U, such as being:
• Unbought and unbossed–as former Congresswoman Shirley
Chisholm would say
S e c r e t T h r e e : R I s f o r R e l a x a t i o n
First, check out the stress test. Find out just how stressed you are–or aren’t! See if what you are experiencing is “good” stress or “bad” stress. There’s a difference!
We’ll talk about how to have an “adventure in bed,” how to give yourself permission to relax and recharge by lounging around in bed once a week. You can have your “adventure” all day, or just get an extra hour of rest. We’ll talk about what you desire, or need, to de-stress.
The latest status symbol is not a luxury car or a big house with a pool. It’s something money can’t buy: I am talking about sleep. “Forget about stock options, the ultimate perk for the truly successful is now eight hours’ sleep,” an article in The Wall Street Journal
Well, I’m going to tell you how to get it even when you feel harried, stressed out, overworked, and underappreciated–in other words, normal. Whether you’re a married mom trying to balance the two extremes of a high-pressure job and family responsibilities, or a single, child-free woman with a full plate of long working hours and elderly parents–or someone in between–you can find balance. We are all searching for the same thing: peace, quiet, alone time. Having been a young, single (party-heartying) professional and then a career-driven (too-pooped-to-party) mom, I know the pressures firsthand. And over the years I’ve fought hard to counteract them; so it’s my pleasure to share with you what’s worked for me. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s getting my R&R on! You can do it, too. In this chapter, you’ll learn how.
S e c r e t Fo u r : P I s f o r Po s i t i v i t y
When we are positive, we believe, we hope, we expect, we achieve. Shaking off negativity and anger, we are more likely to be confident, to see humor in our situation, and to act assertively. These are qualities that make change happen.
And as change within or around us is happening, we can step back occasionally and celebrate.
In remembering the 1960s, I recall the seriousness of our struggle, how dedicated so many Americans were to the goal of equality for all. I remember the marches and the protests, many of which I participated in. But I also recall a whole lot of partying. During that time, we may have had to lead a protest during the day, but we often ended up “twisting the night away.” Some of us counteracted and released our intense feelings of the struggle with an equally intense desire to party.
If pursuing our purpose is not a destination but a journey, then we need to take time from our constant striving to appreciate our accomplishments. You may not be able to give yourself an annual raise, but you can take yourself to lunch as an anniversary observance and celebrate yourself! You may not be able to give yourself a promotion, but you can buy yourself flowers for a job well done. And when you do get public recognition, how can you handle it with modesty, dignity, and humility? Turn to this chapter for tips on how to stay positive and claim the joy in your life.
In addition, you’ll learn how to:
• Laugh to keep from crying
• Keep a joy journal
• Get “up” and stay positive when you feel “down”
• Avoid negaholics
• Join a secret society of happy people!
S e c r e t Fi v e : O I s f o r O p t i m u m H e a l t h
I am convinced that one of the secrets of reaching our ultimacy is the commitment to seeking optimum health. It takes dedication to self-improvement, good health, and optimum fitness to reach our goals, whatever they may be. If we don’t have our health, if we don’t pursue the highest forms of nourishment for our minds, bodies, and souls, we fall short of reaching our highest potential and being our best self. I’ve come up with a prescription for optimum health that outlines what I believe to be the most important aspects of health and wellbeing, and how to achieve them. I condensed what could have been volumes of health information and fitness research into a few points of reader-friendly advice. They come down to self-improvement in the areas of:
• Healthy habits
• Good nutrition
• Physical fitness
• Weight control
• Health advocacy
What’s the number-one question of accomplished, achieving, busy women today? How can I work fitness into my busy schedule?
I’ll give you some answers, as well as tackle the second-most-asked question: Now that I have the time, how do I stay motivated?
The key to getting better, not just older, is self-improvement. And self-improvement is probably one of the biggest elements of optimum health. The pursuit of self-improvement doesn’t mean there’s something wrong that needs fixing. It means that a good thing can always get better, that we all need refresher courses in life. Think about this: Although Ford is a popular car, no one is still driving a Model T. Life involves change, and to adapt to it, we have to keep growing, to continue to learn, to expand our knowledge unceasingly, forever.
The “motor” that drives commitment to self-improvement is persistence and perseverance. Be sure to check out the tips on how to get your motor totally revved up.
S e c r e t S i x : S I s f o r S p i r i t u a l i t y
Spirituality is the foundation for all the secrets that have come before in this book. It’s the beginning and the end. It’s the basis for all our success because it involves faith in the unrealized, the hoped for. One has to believe
in one’s success in order to achieve it. And in doing so, one has added a spiritual dimension to the task.
Do you know the difference between spirituality and religion? The difference between prayer and meditation? Those are some of the things you’ll learn in this chapter on how to tap the power of spirituality to become your ultimate self.
In addition, I’ll discuss one of the most important spiritual values of all–compassion –and how caring for others makes us better people.
Peace, quiet, serenity, and solitude are all important elements of success, as much as team building, office politics, and job sharing. We’ll explore how to pursue those key elements when you have a busy, bustling life, bursting with children, a mate, a demanding boss, and relatives.
It all comes down to the way in which we end each day–the same way we start it–ever mindful of the divine spirit. Rest, meditation, and prayerfulness are all elements of our ultimate inner power. It is my prayer that this chapter will guide you toward the holistic health and high spirits you need to pursue the purpose you were born for.
S e c r e t S e v e n : E I s f o r E s t e e m
Love your Creator, then love yourself. Love yourself, then you can love others. When I was the editor of Heart & Soul
magazine, our researchers found that issues of self-esteem were at the top of the list of concerns of African American women. Like most people, we want to have the kind of self-love that protects us from being hurt by others. We all need to take care of ourselves, to nurture the loving spirit inside, and then let the reservoir overflow to others. We can’t give from an empty spirit, but we have so much to share when our spirits are full and healthy and our “cup runneth over.”
Not only do we aspire to have high self-esteem, we want to be held in high esteem by others: family, friends, lovers, the community. The morals, ethics, and standards we exhibit all play a part in the esteem we get back. Holding high standards in relationships can be the difference between loving, healthy relationships and difficult, even abusive, al-liances. Most important, in choosing and insisting on wholesome relationships in all areas of our lives, we take control of our overall health. Worrying about a dangerous relationship is not healthy for us or for family members, who in turn worry about us. But difficult as it may be, taking charge of preventing abusive situations, or getting out of those we find ourselves in, will lower our blood pressure, relieve us of stress, and allow us to soar.
In addition, in this chapter, I’ve provided a quick quiz to help you assess your self-image. There are also seven soulful secrets of self-esteem provided by some folks held in high esteem themselves.
So there you have it:
Finding your purpose is not a pie-in-the-sky concept. Like the love of the Creator, it’s as close to you as your breath. It manifests who you were meant to be. It’s being who you really are, not trying to be like any-one else or allowing anyone to define you. Reaching your full unique potential–whatever it is–is your purpose in life. And the path you take to do so is your mission. Enjoy the journey!
Excerpted from Seven Soulful Secrets: For Finding Your Purpose and Minding Your Mission by Stephanie Stokes Oliver. Copyright © 2002 by Stephanie Oliver Stokes. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.