My Sister Sharon
At times, it takes a severe blow to waken us our life’s purpose.
My younger sister Sharon died of bone cancer at the age of thirty-seven in a hospital in Honolulu, where she lived. She was a small, delicate woman with the will of a warrior. When a doctor came to see her as she lay in her bed, he jumped back in surprise as though he had been pushed. He said to her, “I feel your power coming out to me.” But she was dying. There was no hope.
Across from the hospital was a tall hotel with tennis courts on the roof. I would stand at the glass doors in Sharon’s hospital room and look straight across at the people in white outfits playing tennis on the green courts in the azure sunlight. I would think of how unfair it was that those players were running, jumping, laughing, swinging their rackets, and were happy while two hundred feet away in that cramped and dark hospital room was my little sister, innocent of any wrongdoing, thin and wasted, unable to stand anymore because the cancer had eaten away the bones in her legs and there were none left to support her, and in pain that was constant and unimaginable. I looked at her. She said, “I’m a mess, aren’t I?” and my heart broke. Once she had been beautiful. I prayed, “Dear God, give me her pain so she will be free of it.”
I told her that I had had writing a book in mind for a long time, but that I was very busy running the business I had started and really had no spare time, and that even if I did write it, it would take years to research and more years to write, and I wasn’t sure it would ever be published, and I had a wife and four children to support and couldn’t afford to take a chance. And I was afraid I would fail. But I didn’t tell her that.
She was in such pain that even the slightest, even the lightest, touch of another person on her was agony. So when I left to fly back home, knowing I would never see her again, I couldn’t kiss her. The pressure of my lips would bring her pain. I leaned over her and rested my head next to hers on the pillow. In my ear she whispered, “Dave, you write that book. I have faith in you.”
I returned home and set to work. No hindrance could stop me. What before had been a vague dream now became a purpose to devote myself to, to write a book, a good book, for my little sister. It became my wife’s purpose and my children’s too. Whenever I was down or discouraged that purpose fueled my resolve and made me return to the work to be done. To work long hours till dawn until the book was done.
I dedicated Fighting to Win to her with the inscription: “In memory of my sister Sharon. Just one word—courage.”
Living for a Purpose
What are we living for, merely to hang around life until we’re eighty-five or ninety, building bird houses and wondering while we sit in traffic why there aren’t as many raisins in the Raisin Bran? Merely to be alive and take up space is nothing special. For many people their own life is unfulfilling. They would rather be living someone else’s life.
The human mind is often perplexed when it doesn’t know which goal it should be pursuing. Its greatest burden is to decide what must be done. But when you discover what you must accomplish with your life and moments in it, uncertainty disappears and there comes something new and extraordinary into your existence. You become inspired and mighty. You’re electric with that rarest of qualities possessed by so few—INTENSITY. You move through life a foot off the ground
Then your every act takes on a power strong enough to bring down a wall of iron. All hesitations and fears fall away. You feel a zest, a tingle. Your imagination is on fire. Tedium disappears. It is strength to be of one mind, complete and undivided, fully drawn to a life with purposes you’ve chosen.
It is never justified to say you can’t find a purpose. Purposes lie all around us like glittering jewels. Make whatever you are doing your purpose of the moment, from the smallest act to the grandest. Give what you’re doing stature, however insignificant it may seem. Then you will have intensity.
For a shy girl to conquer her shyness and go to a party alone is a major purpose. She will need a strong will and great courage. To take a second job for your family is a purpose. To be an attentive parent is a purpose. To start out on a new career is a purpose. To save a rain forest is a purpose.
You cannot be dissatisfied when you’re rising to a purpose which needs you and for which you feel you were brought into the world. Then you are at your best, doing what in your best moments you are capable of. You find your most complete fulfillment while dedicating yourself to a task you believe in.
When you make a purpose out of what a moment before was merely a responsibility, a chore, or a duty by thinking, “This–what I am doing–now is my purpose” extraordinary achievements are possible. Obligations, heavy as stone a moment ago, become light as feathers. Your life becomes tinged with a kind of glory. You become tinged with glory, and there is hardly an obstacle that you can’t overcome, no obstacle out in the world, and no obstacle in you. Then you have both power and direction.
When You Rise in the Morning…
You are never too old and never too young. Some must wait longer than others for their purpose to become clear. But whatever the age, when you rise in the morning think of your purpose: day-dream of it. Devote the day to it.
Our main job is not to dwell on what lies dimly in the future, but to do what is clearly at hand. The only way to reach the future we envision is to pour ourselves totally into this day’s purpose. We find our way to our broad life purposes in daily increments. Each year our purpose is divisible by 365. Purposes need your attention not just once in a while, but every day, and many times during a day. “Today my purpose will be to…” Say to yourself, “Focus on your purpose” five, ten, fifteen times a day. Make those four powerful words a part of your life. They will change it.
In the morning, at lunch, in the afternoon, in the evening, when you brush your teeth and go to bed, focus on your purpose. If you have forgotten, remember and get back on track immediately. Never let a day go by without making progress.
Each day has its own significance, and each has a subsequent impact on your life. Each brings promise and good prospects with it. Every day we choose the directions we will take and what we will be. Every moment of your life diverse possibilities open before you. If you decide to do this today, and act accordingly, you will be A tomorrow. But if you decide to do that, you will be completely different. You will be B. So it is a good idea to decide in advance what you want to be when you wake tomorrow.
That is how you construct a future.
“I learned undeviating steadiness of purpose, and to look at nothing else, not even for a moment.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.” (George Bernard Shaw)
“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life; think of it; dream of it; live on that one idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” (Vivekenanda, The Complete Works of Vivekenanda)
© 2014 David J. Rogers
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2 responses to “Developing Talent, Human Potential, and Achievement: Living With a Purpose in Mind”
Excellent post! I’m sure many people will be interested. Looking forward to seeing more posts from you.
Wow, David–this is powerful and inspiring stuff, particularly the first entry, about your sister. Please keep these coming!