Wha is my purpose in life?

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    We all ask ourselves that don’t we.
    Sometimes I think my purpose or usefulness cannot be found in the workplace as I have a sad track record of failure there.

    I have some record of success in close friendships and relationships. Occasionally I show good warmth and empathy to people, listen to their problems. They receive the authentic version of Jack. I don’t pretend to like them. I do take interest in other people and its not fake. I try not to be fake. Maybe that is my talent.
    I was hoping I had other talents though. I sometimes fantasise about being a writer. But I feel such a wonker, admitting that now to you.

    Do you believe in suffering? Suffering as a way of becoming either a nicer person or having more wisdom?
    I think suffering can be unnecessary and unhelpful. Just making us have a negative approach to life. Becoming bitter and twisted.
    I wonder how many of those migrants entering Hungary?Germany now will be happy in the future. Will their current suffering lead to later happiness? No guarantees I think.
    I see some tough migrants in my workplace. They do the same job as me, receive similar abuse from the line manager but manage to raise a smile and even appreciate having a job at all. I wish I could be as appreciative as them. Guess I’m a spoilt brat after all. People who suffer extreme abuse such as those captured by ISIS, how can they forgive their abusers? I would be absolutely seething with revenge. There are some truly heroic people in the world. Apparently Mandela was one, but what about those women who were abused sexually. How can they recover?
    Is our purpose in life to suffer in some area, and by doing that become more compassionate towards our fellow human being? If suffering leads to more compassion in the world, then I agree it is a good thing indeed.


    Dear jack:

    It is very telling of the sad state of affairs that NOT being a fake is seen as a talent, as you wrote. Isn’t that something? A baby is authentic, as we suffer in our early childhood we lose that authenticity and then it seems like being authentic requires a talent. We are born authentic. It does not require talent.

    Only when we lose it then it requires a lot of work… and maybe talent, to bring some of it back.

    As to your last sentence about suffering being a good thing- no, never- never to me is suffering a good thing. Authentically speaking, suffering is a bad thing and we instinctively move away from it. Unfortunately when healing, it is necessary to become aware of the pain that is already there.



    seems like none of your suffering was useful to you.
    As to mine, well I have to say some of it was useful.
    I can at least appreciate how tough some jobs are, and how resilient some people are to do them. Turning up day after day for more punishment. Or maybe it doesn’t seem like punishment to them. They just do it. Don’t think how hard it is.
    My problem may well be that I don’t know what true suffering is. I try to imagine how hard it would be to recover from child abuse, a victim of a paedophile. Those people must find it hard to raise a smile about anything after that. And what about ex soldiers. The trauma must be horrendous. And they are expected to reconnect to normal society, as if nothing ever happened.
    True healing is a remarkable thing. I hope you heal from those old teaching battle scars, Anita.

    The Ruminant

    My advice to you is: think less, do more. You know the saying about idle hands? It’s kind of true! A person who is focusing on doing something can not focus on how empty their life is. Even meditation is “doing” something.

    If you want to write, start writing. Write as much as you can and don’t concern yourself with whether or not what you produce is top notch. It would be very unlikely that you’d just decide to become a writer one day and then immediately produce a masterpiece. You need to create and destroy over and over again to get to where you want to be. If it brings you joy, just do it! It could also be that being a writer is not what you actually want, but you love literature. Then start a blog where you review books you’ve read and write about what kind of thoughts and feelings were raised by them.

    Suffering doesn’t have to be good or bad. It just is. It is a fact of life. Some people will have to go through a lot. Ironically, you are causing suffering to yourself by comparing your life to another person’s life. We’re not in a competition of who’s suffering the most 😉 Just because you haven’t been abused doesn’t mean that you are spoiled. People also have to go through a lot of suffering in ways that nobody else will ever understand. People generally give compassion under particular circumstances, but if you’re seemingly well-off, you’re not allowed to complain. Their suffering doesn’t matter to the society, and as such it creates a different kind of painful experience to that person.

    The thing is, people get hurt and heal constantly. It’s not just particularly traumatic situations that cause wounds. Just by smiling and being a kind person to others, you might heal wounds without even knowing it. Acknowledge people and their presence and they will feel better.

    I think that your purpose will become clearer by actively doing all kinds of things and sensing how you feel about doing them. If it feels off, don’t do it. If it feels right, do that!

    …and how’s this for a thought: I haven’t been to TinyBuddha for a long time. Today I decided to look what’s going on here. I came across your post and decided to get active again. We’re not always aware of the impact we have on others, so perhaps you are constantly fulfilling your purpose and you don’t even know it?


    The ruminant
    thanks so much!!
    I’m relieved to hear life is not a suffering competition. 🙂
    Nice of you to say that I may be fulfilling my life purpose by just starting/replying to a forum thread on the Internet.
    But I agree that when we are fully present for others, we fulfil our purpose as empathic human beings. We need to be there for each other. We need to support each other. Life doesn’t come with a “how to ” manual”. The Bible might help us be good people but it doesn’t detail how to be assertive and cope with intimidators/manipulators and people with nasty agendas in the real world.
    Maybe the meaning of our lives is supposed to be mysterious. We only get hints, clues that we might be heading in the right direction. We can never be absolutely sure that what we are doing has God’s blessing or whether Buddha thinks we are completely delusional.

    Next week I have to decide whether to quit my current job or stay. It is a nightmare with my line manager micromanaging me, belittling me in front of clients and colleagues, lecturing me like a child. She has no idea how to communicate respectfully. I’m not the only one being harassed.
    I have enough savings to last another 6 months and bills are minimal. I can afford to quit but…how soon can I get another job?
    How much do I want to front up to the same job next week and take more punishment? Not much. Truth be told, not at all. Am I running away? Am I still a child who can’t face his responsibilities?
    All I know is life is too short to stay at jobs you hate. Hating your job puts you in a bad mood for your free time. I can’t relax and forget about work after work. It consumes me.
    Worst case scenario? Wife leaves me and we have to sell the house (which is paid for by the way) I become homeless, my health declines, I stop brushing my teeth and I get fully blown depression or some other hardcore mental illness. I get mugged and kicked by other vagrants and slowly die a lonely, pathetic death in a cold, lonely laneway. Yes it is comical the way I think, isn’t it. I admit that at least.
    But tell me Ruminant, can I help you with any of your issues?


    Dear Jack:

    Did you say you toy with the idea of being a writer? I am not sure if you wrote that but I want to tell you I very much enjoyed your worst-case-scenario description above- hilarious! And I am humor challenged, so my appreciation for your humor and your writing!



    thanks anita
    yeah anxiety can actually be a talent. How’s that?
    I’m always thinking worst case scenario instead of best case scenario.
    I get anxious about being anxious, worry about worry,
    humour is the only thing that saves my day but often it is only me who is laughing,
    people with high self-esteem can’t understand humour from those of us with self-deprecating low self-esteem.

    The Ruminant

    Dear Jack,

    Leaving behind a place that is clearly destructive to you is not leaving behind responsibilities. You are responsible of your well-being, first and foremost. It is more likely that you will follow the path to depression if you accept others treating you poorly and start to believe what they are saying.

    Could I suggest that you look into the works of Nathaniel Branden? Especially his book “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem”. Self-esteem is fleeting and sometimes we feel like we are worthy and sometimes we don’t. He has some great examples of the mindset of someone with poor self-esteem and someone with a healthy self-esteem. It has nothing to do with who you are as a person. Any person with any kind of background can have good self-esteem or poor self-esteem, and your self-esteem is ever changing. He also says that you can never have too much self-esteem, as it is similar to having a great immune system; it is there to help you deal with life’s ups and downs. He also talks about living purposefully and has exercises that can help in finding who you are and what you want to do.

    I agree that you can not continue to accept someone treating you in such ways. It is of course easy for me to say to just leave your job, but if the situation can not be solved in other ways, then perhaps it would be for the best. That said, if you can, you could also look at your manager as someone who clearly has issues and to not take them personally. They are her issues, not yours.

    You can’t control what your wife does, but you can control whether you choose to continue brushing your teeth 🙂

    As for my issues… The one problem that concerns me the most at the moment is that I’m the team leader in a small team that consists of students. There is one young girl there who is possibly the most passive and shy person I’ve ever encountered. She has opened up to me and talks to me now, but I don’t know how to manage her, as due to her inexperience she doesn’t know what she wants to do and she doesn’t really take initiative. I worry that I’ll assign jobs to her that she’ll hate, but if she doesn’t participate, she’ll never get involved enough to get anything out of the study program. I don’t want to micromanage her, but unless she steps up and takes control of her own fate within the project, I might have to. How would you handle that?


    Thanks again for your time and patience.
    You will be surprised to hear that I discovered the existence of that Branden book only 3 weeks ago. it is not readily available at my library (in Australia), I do seriously want to buy that book soon though. It looks a classic I should’ve purchased ages ago.

    re your issue
    Seems this girl has least improved under your wing. (at least opened up to you)
    Any way of grading her tasks from doable to slightly challenging to more challenging?
    Time for a heart to heart? One of those tough conversations, where you need to be honest about your own feelings “Look I’m trying to help you but you don’t seem to be taking initiative. Do you want to do this or not?”
    Any way of throwing her in the deep end and letting her make mistakes?
    This is what I wish my manager said to me ” Jack , the only way you are going to learn is get in there and fail, without anyone to catch you. We’ve all made mistakes so I encourage you to have a go. Try to believe in yourself!”
    Then maybe I am expecting my manager to be a kind of nurturing teacher. I can’t expect her to care about my progress. She has to worry about the big picture. Getting the job done!
    I’m not sure exactly your context so my advice might be way off the mark.
    Thanks again.

    The Ruminant


    At least The Book Depository has the book and they have free worldwide delivery. Audible.com also has an audio book version of it. I think you should also be able to ask for your library to order it. It definitely is a classic and for a good reason. Unlike many other self-help books, it has a very solid basis and structure. He knows what he’s talking about.

    Thank you for your advice. I think I should be able to grade tasks from easy to more difficult, though I’m also new at managing this type of project. We’re all there learning. I was thinking that I’d make a list of tasks that we have to get done, and allow people to choose their own. They are then responsible of that task. Of course I’ll be there to help, as I do have more experience and I actually do like to be a bit nurturing to others, but like you said, it is important to try to do things without someone constantly holding your hand. Failing isn’t going to ruin anything and now is the time to try, because when we are all in the business world doing what we are learning now to do, everything is going to be much more demanding. Once again, thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate them.


    I think even if people take an interest in our issues/our problems, it is enough, even if they don’t give great advice.
    But of course here I was lucky to get good advice as well from people like yourself, Ruminant.

    I just discovered free audio version of six pillars of self esteem on youtube. 3hours!!
    Maybe not available in the U.S.

    The Ruminant

    Everyone wants to feel acknowledged, seen and heard. That’s why, even though others might not acknowledge your pain, you can always acknowledge and accept it yourself. It really does give an instant relief.

    Great that you found the audio! I have the audio book myself and have listened to it a couple of times. Actually, just listening to it helps as well, because it feels like someone understands the effects of self-esteem so well and things start to make more sense. Again, it’s acknowledging the pain and being understanding about it that gives the soothing feeling.

    I hope you’ll get something out of it!

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