What Are You Doing With Your Life?

An award-winning book defines the route to objective.

Posted December 26, 2018

The new year is as good a time as any to think closely about the perchild you desire to be. Are you spfinishing this life in the ideal means possible? And what is the best method to live your life?

There"s a big body of emotional study that addresses the question of just how to uncover interpretation, purpose, and also contentment. These research studies suggest to things like complying with our passions, living in the moment, prioritizing relationships, and serving others.


But according to August Turak, we don"t need research researches to tell us what we currently recognize about the ideal method to live. I recently spoke with August on the Think Act Be podcast around his brand-new book, Brvarious other John: A Monk, a Pilgrim, and the Purpose of Life. August contends that the challenge to living well doesn"t come from a lack of knowledge, but from our hesitation to embody the fact we currently have.

Here are excerpts from our conversation.

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Finding Our Purpose

Seth J. Gillihan: In the beforehand component of the book you explain a details comfort we have the right to find in sticking through uncertainty about how to live our resides. Can you define what you mean?

August Turak: We regularly use the ambiguity and the uncertainty around life’s purpose to not take action. It’s choose we’re waiting around for life’s purpose to hit us out of the blue somehow. But to me, this is all offered as an excuse. And what I’m really saying in Brother John is that we don’t all have different purposes. It’s not about us “finding our objective.” What I store coming dvery own to is that the factor why we’re all below on this world is precisely the exact same reason: Our function is to be transformed from a selfish right into a selfless perchild.

SJG: In the book you create, “The problem through life’s purpose is that we understand damn well what it is, but are unwilling to face the changes in our resides that a commitment to self-transcendence, to being the finest huguy being we might maybe be, would entail.” What are those changes?

AT: The many crucial readjust is making it our optimal priority. It’s not many type of people’s top priority. In reality, it’s normally not even articulated. But you can begin living your life where eincredibly day you’re asking yourself, for eextremely decision you make, “Am I making myself much better by doing this or worse by doing this?” That’s difficult, and also many world don’t want to live that method. They don’t desire to make those kinds of transforms in their resides.

And then the following thing you’ve obtained to start doing is the same point you’d do if you wanted to be an excellent footsphere player—you uncover a coach, and also you convince that coach to job-related via you. And then you have to uncover others who want to make the very same transforms. If you want to stop drinking, you join a group like Alcoholics Anonymous. If you desire to lose weight, you join a team. If you want to get to the gym eincredibly day and also you’re having troubles making it, you sign up with a team of 6 or salso people and also you make sure that you all acquire tbelow. We perform points a lot even more effectively when we have actually a area of world to work-related with.


The heart of August"s message is about relocating previous our innate tendency toward selfishness. Easier shelp than done! He and I invested a great part of our time exploring this idea.

SJG: Can you specify self-transcendence?

AT: I call it the end of selfishness. We think we want “I, me, and mine,” yet what we really desire is to have the ability to give ourselves amethod to something better, something good—something so noble and great that we can offer ourselves amethod to it totally and also without reservation. And that’s self-transcendence—the ultimate form of offering yourself away and shedding yourself and gaining rid of that selfish sense of self.

If you think about the word “self-consciousness,” it has all negative connotations. It’s once we’re thinking around ourselves so much that we can’t obtain out of our own way. Boredom and also depression are so distressing bereason all we have the right to think around when we’re bored or depressed is ourselves. So what I’m saying is that we just think we desire self-indulgence. But when are we the happiest? We’re happiest once we lose ourselves in thought, or we’re absorbed in a job. What’s "absorbed" as soon as we’re absorbed in a task? It"s our selfish sense of self.

Fear and also Commitment

In Brvarious other John, August defines his encounter through the title character that influenced the book. Brother John had actually liked to forego the merriment of a rare party at the abbey one rainy Christmas Eve to walk partygoers under his umbrella earlier to their rooms. August found this straightforward act of company both inspiring and disturbing. I asked him why it"s frequently tough to relocate toward selflessness, as soon as we seem to be so inspired as soon as we check out it.

SJG: So many civilization, including myself, are drawn to that principle, and say, “That’s exactly what I desire to do,” and yet it doesn’t seem to result in something different. Why is that?

AT: I think tright here are 2 factors for that. First of all, we’re taking care of huguy nature. It’s favor going to a retreat and also getting a “high,” yet we don’t follow through. What you must carry out in order to follow with is make commitments. It comes ago to the concept of gaining a teacher and joining a neighborhood.

And the second factor is, it’s terrifying! As I create in the book, Brother John terrified me. The mystics say that God is both damaging and fascinating, and also Brother John ended up being both for me. On the one hand also he was fascinating because he represented whatever I’ve ever before wanted. On the various other hand, he’s terrifying bereason he represents everything I’ve ever before feared. What if I do throw myself into being the finest humale being I deserve to maybe be? What if people start thinking I’m weird? What if civilization don’t desire to hang out via me anymore bereason I’m beginning to change?

So I was terrified that I was going to end up holding umbrellas for world, bored out of my mind, and also I’m never going to learn love, and it’s never going to be natural to me prefer it is for Brvarious other John. The hardest point in the civilization is trying to imagine the method it’s going to be when we acquire to the other side, and also you can’t possibly imagine that.

I usage the analogy of an alcoholic—once somebody who’s drinking heavily imagines being dry, it seems like it would be such a dark, dull way to live. Only once they perform control to come to be a respanning alcoholic execute they look ago and say, “Thank God I chose to quit.”

Action and also Grace

Getting over ourselves needs us to resolve a seemingly impossible problem: How perform naturally selfish world transcfinish themselves? The answer, according to Brother John, begins via action.

AT: You need to begin by just acting on confidence. In the beginning you may need to perform a little teeth gritting. It’s favor the guy I describe in the book who decides to have actually a baby, and also all he deserve to think about is having to eliminate the sporting activities car and get a minivan, and buying even more life insurance, and the baby’s going to keep me up at night, and also dirty diapers will be stinking up the location.

But he provides the commitment and also he grits his teeth and also he states, “I’m going to go for this,” and he puts one foot in front of the other, and then 9 months later his wife hands him this brand-new baby boy, and somepoint magical happens and he falls madly in love with the baby. And currently transforming a diaper, quite than being a nasty chore, becomes a blessed privilege.

We forget that there’s a thing dubbed grace, and grace have the right to concerned us at the most unlikely time, from a direction we didn’t recognize existed. And it deserve to turn the life that Brother John leads from a consistent effort into an effortmuch less privilege.

SJG: If you follow specific accounts on Instagram or Twitter, there’s an endmuch less stream of inspirational quotes and images and also concepts. It renders me think that we’re addicted to inspiration—we keep going ago for more and more, yet in a method we don’t transcend incentive to turn it right into somepoint even more systematic.

AT: I think you’re absolutely appropriate. There’s all the difference in the people between making a commitment and becoming committed. It’s choose the old story of the ham and also eggs—the chickens are connected but the pig was committed.

And actually it doesn’t intend you’re not going to have actually inspiration—it becomes a procedure of incentive causing a deeper commitment, and also a deeper commitment causing even more impetus. So it’s not like it’s inspiration-less, however you have comparatively lengthy periods of committed action, which are rewarded through an occasional incentive. But we constantly desire it to be the other way about.

A big body of research study supports this principle, including classical studies from the 1950s and also "60s mirroring that our actions can form our attitudes and also feelings. This principle is additionally the structure for behavioral activation, a extremely effective therapy for depression that concentrates on altering habits, which then affects thoughts and also emotions.

Old scriptures additionally capture this principle, as once Jesus sassist, "For wbelow your treasure is, tright here your heart will certainly additionally be" (Gospel of Matthew 6:21). In other words, we care many around the things in which we invest our sources. I"m not as acquainted via various other confidence legacies but my understanding is that the same idea is found, for example, in the Bhagavad Gita"s instruction to perform one"s prescribed duties even in the challenge of doubt and also misgivings.

I proficient this action → feeling attach this week as I was composing this short article. We had bought our middle son a guinea pig for Christmas, and I was keeping her in my office until Christmas Eve to keep it a surpincrease. I"m typically extremely jealous of my time and room, and also yet as soon as it was my duty to save this bit creature alive, I felt incredible affection and concern for her. I started to think about her when I wasn"t through her, and couldn"t wait to make an additional pilgrimage to my office over the pre-holiday weekend to check on her, clean her cage, and also carry her parsley and also carrot tops to eat. Investing my "treasure" (my time and also energy) in this guinea pig readjusted my feelings towards her, which reinrequired my continued initiatives to look after her.

Tiny Steps Toward Transformation

I as soon as spoke via a college student that explained an development in his expertise of what it indicates to discover function in life. "I supplied to think it had to be something "epic,"" he told me, "yet then I realized it can be the easiest things. I have the right to uncover a sense of objective in taking out the trash, or cleaning my room." August and also I explored our tendency to look for grand also, once-and-for-all transforms, which is normally not just how it works.

AT: We want catalyst that’s so powerful that from currently on we’ll never need to problem about it again—something that"s going to put us on a totality different path. And periodically something choose that might happen, yet the majority of of us are going to need to make these small commitments. We don’t tfinish to realize that so it’s frequently it’s around the tiny points that include up.

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It’s the same as via fitness—we desire to go to the gym and burn 500 calories in 12 minutes. But now they’re teaching us that if you put on among the Fitbits and also take the stairs, stand also while you’re on the telephone at your office, walk roughly your desk while you’re on the phone, carry out little exercises—if you do all these little bit things, lo and also beorganize by the end of the day, you look dvery own and also you’ve burned 4000 calories. And you ask yourself wright here you shed it, and also it was a tiny of this, a small of that.

And that’s the means life really works. It’s a becoming process, and self-transcendence functions specifically the same means. You have to make a commitment.

Universal Message

My religious background is in Protestant Christianity and also August"s story is collection in a Trappist monastery, yet the concept of transcfinishing ourselves and also finding function obviously is bigger than one confidence legacy. I asked August about its appliccapacity.

SJG: Brvarious other John obviously is a Christian—it doesn’t take a psychologist to realize that. Is this a Christian message? Or even a religious message—this concept of transcending yourself?

AT: When I created this for the essay contest, I actually believed the reality that there was any spiritual connotation to my essay was going to kill it. Some of the even more standard reviewers wish I had actually “pounded the table” for Jesus, bereason Jesus is not mentioned in my book. As I composed in the book, what we’re talking about is self-transcendence—it’s what the East calls “enlightenment” and the West calls “conversion.”

August writes in his book that "this miraculous transdevelopment, rejuvenation, or inner alchemy ... is the fruit of our commitment to the authentically purposeful life." And the opportunity of self-transcendence, exemplified humbly and powertotally by Brother John, "has nopoint to do through being a monk and also is obtainable to us all."

My full conversation through August is available here: How to Transcfinish Selfishness and Live a Life of Purpose.


Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and writer specializing in mindfulness-focused cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). 




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