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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Seeking Purpose

In preparing for my memoir writing workshop at this Saturday’s Printers Row Lit Fest, I’ve been thinking about what writing prompts would generate the most interest among the participants.

Should I select a couple from the 167 in my book? Should I make up new ones? Maybe a combo of the two?

What helps—as it always does—is ruminating on all the stuff I’ve been reading this past week, both online and in print, none of which was specifically focused on writing. Well, except for this one article, printed in the Business Section of last Sunday’s New York Times.

“No Passion? Don’t Panic,” is written by Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. I was drawn to the article’s subtitle—“Finding a satisfying career path takes time, hard work and a little soul-searching”—especially as it took me quite a bit of time to stumble onto my path.

And so I was curious to see what she had to say about perhaps arriving there earlier. Of her three suggestions, what I found interesting was her second one, “Seek purpose.”

Once you’ve thought of what or whom you care about most, write it down. Psychologists have found that asking people to reflect in writing on their core values has miraculous effects on motivation. Because these are often the values you will be remembered for — what David Brooks calls “eulogy virtues” — you might consider writing a paragraph about what you would like people to say about you after you’ve drawn your last breath. It sounds grim, but perhaps the perspective will help you figure out what to do while you have the time to do it.

One of the reasons this stood out for me—Duckworth’s urging college graduates just barely into their twenties to essentially write their own eulogy—is that Boomers are often encouraged to do the same. Check for yourself, just google “write your own eulogy + boomers” as I just did. 

Now, while Duckworth notes that this exercise for the young might seem “grim,” it's likely that Boomers & Beyonders are meant to be inspired by it, a reminder that, Hello, the clock really is ticking, how do you want to live--or continue to live--a purposeful life?

As for Saturday’s workshop, I’m not sure I’ll include a eulogy writing exercise.  But I’d like you, my readers, to consider giving it a try. You can either follow Duckworth’s broad instruction above or try the more specific ones that begin on page 76 of my book, the exercise headed “Self Portrait.”

I hope doing so really will inspire you.

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