People whose lives are hanging by a thread usually hold on until after the holidays, so that they can be with family one last time. Then they die. People who manage to achieve their goals in the face of crushing setbacks get where they want to go despite overwhelming odds. And, people who are stuck in the most stultifying occupations somehow thrive in their meaningless routines because someone depends on them. Surely, there is a principle at work here. Maybe it’s one that we can use on a daily basis and not just when we find ourselves in dire circumstances.
Speaking of dire circumstances, I watched a video recently of downhill ski racer Bode Miller narrowly escaping a horrendous fall at a race in Kitzbuehel, Austria. He’s known for his ability to recover in situations where most other skiers give up and crash. I analyzed the video to see if I could discover his secret. This is what I found.
Miller’s attention is focused on where he’s going, not on what’s happening. If you pause the video at 1:14, you will see that even though his skis and his body are all over the place, his head remains in the same position that it would have been if his turn had gone smoothly. Where your head is, your body (and your skis) will follow.
The trajectory of our life is predetermined by the vision we hold in our heart and the willpower we muster to realize it. Our current circumstances must never interfere with or supplant our vision; they must never become anything more than problems to solve as we make our way toward the fulfillment of our life’s purpose.
Ah, but there’s the rub.
What if we don’t have a “life’s purpose”? Now, that is a problem. Without a life’s purpose, all we have left is our current circumstances. That’s no way to live. Before his retirement, Bode Miller’s purpose was to win ski races. It was a somewhat limited purpose, to be sure, given that an athlete’s abilities diminish with age. After he failed to win a gold medal at his last Winter Olympics, he was crestfallen, despite his overall stellar career. But, if we take this one moment in his Kitzbuehel race as a microcosm of the human experience, we can see the larger parallels in our own lives. We can see that “without a vision [a life’s purpose] the people perish.”
So, how do we find our “life’s purpose”? Here’s an easy way. Instead of asking, “What do I want?” ask instead, “What do I love?” What we want can be quite elusive, but what we love is easily summoned. And, what we love is inextricably tied to our life’s purpose. After all, what we love informs everything we do—if not consciously, then surely subconsciously. It is the basis for all of our divine guidance. What we love is what we find exalted on the altar of our heart, and our heart is that part of us that sits in the driver’s seat of our life-energies.
When Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” he meant that what we value (treasure) will by necessity become what we want. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s the reason that sales gurus tell you to emphasize benefits, benefits, benefits to your prospective clients. You must first establish that your product has value before you can get someone to buy it. No one buys something that has no value.
If you examine your life and find it lacking purpose, perhaps you need to rediscover your first love. What was it that first lit you up? Maybe it’s something from your childhood, or maybe from your high school or college days. Reconnecting with that could get you back on track. It very well could be the one thing that could get you through some current difficulty. At Kitzbuehel, Bode Miller’s head was oriented towards the finish line, and that kept him from crashing. Where is your head oriented? What is your vision? What do you love? Find that and all the rest is downhill.