Purpose: A Tale of Two Bridge Crossings

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”Medieval Bridge

“Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Did you know that to live a happy and fulfilled life there are two bridges you must cross?

One bridge sits over the mighty rivers and deltas that mark the major milestones of your life. The other bridge sits over the many small streams, creeks and marshes that you must cross everyday.

Both these bridges are beautiful old stone arch bridges that are built up over time, stone by stone. The arch of the bridge is held together by the pressure of the two sides coming together and the weight of the road surface and traffic that passes above the arch. In psychology, the pressure that holds the stone arch bridge together is interpreted as the clarity of our values and goals put into action with the challenges of life we face. But more about that later…

The Perils of Only One Bridge Crossing…

Ancient stone bridgeDid you know that some people think there is only one bridge to cross in life – the bridge over the small streams of life. People who only focus on crossing the bridge over the small streams of life become preoccupied with being ‘good’ and ‘nice’ and maintaining harmonious relationships above all else with a confidence and belief that this is all that really matters in life. They do not reflect on the bigger picture of life nor reflect upon their life goals and legacy but instead believe it will take care of itself through some form of ‘karma’ or ‘divine providence’.

Their experience of happiness may be superficially constant but beneath the surface can be punctuated by moments of doubt, confusion and crisis as their “goodness” drifts somewhat aimlessly over time. They may be unduly influenced by peers in their big life decisions or simply mimic the choices of those around them to preserve the status quo – often to their own detriment.

Medieval BridgeFor other people, the only bridge to cross is the bridge over the big rivers and deltas which we do not confront very often. Some people live completely obsessed with the big picture and agonise and brood on the meaning of their lives and worry about the future. They are unable to live in the ‘present moment’ and do not value the ‘small talk’ and ‘day-to-day’ interactions with others – which provide the foundations and stability for great relationships.

In becoming obsessed with the future, they may be overwhelmed with existential questions and either retreat further from friends and family into solitude and the reclusive shadows of their future vision or abandon the quest entirely and instead fill the void with material possessions, addictions, and (these days) social media distractions.

The Lost Opportunity For Happiness & Fulfilment

To only focus on crossing one bridge, be it the bridge over the stream or the bridge over the big rivers will not lead to enduring happiness and fulfilment.

To only focus on crossing the streams will mean you do not prepare adequately for the crossing of the big rivers. You need preparation, planning and clear vision to see the correct path to take. The lack of focus on the big rivers means that you do not know which path to take in the small picture and which obstacles you must avoid versus overcome along the way. Moreover, the lack of ‘big picture’ focus means you cannot see the opportunities that are wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing and in the end lead to dead ends and disillusionment.

To only focus on crossing the big rivers will lead you to live in a state of brooding and worry to the extent you are unable to cross the bridge of the daily streams that you need to in order to be fully present and live in the moment. When you are distracted and unable to live in the moment you may place unforeseen strain on your loved ones who may feel distant and uncomfortable around you.

The Need To Cross Both Bridges in Life….

So how do we cross both the bridges needed to live a happy and fulfilled life? How do we make sure we have goals, a vision and values to guide the big decisions in life AS WELL AS the focus and mindfulness to be completely present and purposeful in our daily interactions with others?

The answer lies in increasing our understanding of purpose in life – both in (1) what we know, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, in (2) what we do… to be continued…

Ride the Waves of Life!

Dr Pete

The Stress Surfer

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