This morning as I stepped on to the dark brown wooden dock, I jumped a bit from the heat on my bare feet and carefully tiptoed my way to my bright red Adirondack chair overlooking the lake. A warm blue color reflects the humidity in the air, like looking through layers of glass, making the distant mountain look even farther away.
Behind that distant mountain is pure wilderness, as far as the eye can see. Untouched, unspoiled, most never even explored by man. Each summer I canoe the lakes deep into that wilderness, where one can feel what it must have been like for explorers in uncharted territories. There is no road noise, no sound of humanity, only the splash of my paddle and the calls of distant birds. It’s a silence I never experience anywhere else, and it is intensely therapeutic as my eyes focus on deep greens and blues reflecting in the still water, and I spot an occasional animal on shore and bald eagles overhead.
This special place on the little lake on the edge of the wilderness feeds my soul. A walk down a wooded winding road is my morning commute for three months of the year. It’s quiet time, thinking time, a chance to breathe in the feel of the forest, the scent of pine as pine cones crunch under my feet and the soft carpet of pine needles puts a spring into my walk. Every morning’s walk is a time for prayer, to show my gratitude for one more season in this place.
Trusting More and Controlling Less
As I walk the road I think about all the past discussions I’ve had with God, decisions I’ve faced, my angst over certain issues, including some that consumed me unnecessarily. Yet each day walking that road I am reminded that I’m not in control and that everything I’ve struggled with was not worth the worry. It reminds me to stop trying to control outcomes and lets me focus more on trusting that everything eventually works out with perfect timing.
Something about the woods makes one think about one’s life and purpose. Perhaps the brain is stimulated by the air, the scents, the visual of greens and browns, and the light shining through leaves like stained glass. Sometimes I’ll just sit on a rock to ponder life.
Looking back on my lifetime of obsessions and things that seemed critical for months or years, I’ve realized that I’ve only recently found my true purpose. I stumbled along for decades searching for it. A couple of times I convinced myself that I had found it, but it never felt entirely like a fit. Yet today I feel deep commitment and comfort.
If you’re like most, you have probably asked yourself, “Why was I born? What is my purpose? Why am I here?” You’ve thought, “There has to be more to life than this.”
Perhaps your purpose is clear, or perhaps your compass is drawing you in a lot of different directions.
If you’re feeling a little anxious about that purpose and not having discovered it yet, don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up; don’t put yourself under pressure. You’ll find it at the perfect time when you’re ready to receive it. All the pain, discomfort, stress, anger, hurt, fear, illness, sadness, uneasiness, and unanswered prayers are the seasoning that prepares us for the right moment.
And you may find the things you hate most about yourself, your circumstances, your upbringing, or your physical attributes are the very things that lead you to the clues that help find those answers. The things you’ve always perceived as negatives may be things you can use to your benefit. Embrace everything about yourself; these are the cards you were dealt, and that has everything to do with your purpose.
Also know that you may already have discovered it unknowingly. I was working within my purpose for a few years before I discovered it was my true purpose.
Protecting Your Purpose
Once you’ve discovered it and realized how it will impact the world around you, protect it with everything you have, because your mission may take years or decades to build momentum. Therefore you need to use impeccable self-care for your mind, your body, and your spirit and your attitude. You need to be tuned in to what you are receiving and transmitting, because those things will impact the outcome of your purpose.
Aligned with Purpose
Self-care means proper diet and exercise to protect the vessel of your purpose and provide you with the time and energy you need. It means being aligned with your purpose and knowing what is and is not acceptable for you to achieve that purpose. It means surrounding yourself with people who will be supportive and shedding those who are not.
Monitor Your Influences
Chances are your parents may have expressed concern over who you were hanging out with as a kid, because they knew that who you spend time with is who you become. Your purpose requires you to spend time with those who are supportive. Though you and I can have resistance to negativity, I teach in my marketing classes that repetition sells. Sadly, negative repetition also sells, and that self-doubt starts to creep in when you have the constant drone of negativity around you. Though you may feel you’re being strong, any doubt in your mind that keeps you from your purpose is cancerous, and negativity breeds negativity. That’s why it’s important to distance yourself from negative people.
I don’t believe that anything is random. Each person born has a purpose. Some will never discover it, yet may have had a huge impact on others by way of unintended consequences. Others may allow their self-doubt and lack of confidence to block them from their dreams and never take action. Still others may shoot a lot of arrows before hitting their target.
Watch for it. Listen for it. Yet be patient. Purpose will come.
PS: Life has many chapters, many of which are about finding purpose. Yet so many who consider themselves seniors or elderly feel they have lived their purpose; they feel as though they’ve had their chance and they seek no new purpose in life.
I’m reminded of a surgeon who was changing the lives of others with his gifts. Yet in a brief moment, after a nurse noticed a shake in his hands, he had to pull himself out of the game, knowing that shaking might make the difference between life and death. Suddenly he had lost his purpose, and his dreams of another decade of surgery were shattered. It was devastating, and this great man considered suicide. Yet when all was said and done, he discovered a deeper purpose, bigger and better than anything he had done in the earlier parts of his life. He now looks at that devastating moment as the best thing that ever happened to him.
If you are breathing, there is more purpose. Don’t buy into this concept of “aging out.” Instead, age in. There is more to do, more purpose to find, and we must embrace every season and every challenge as opportunity.
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Beautiful blog. Thank you for taking time to share your experiences with us.
I just went on a trip to Adirondacks. It certainly is a beautiful place. Which area in particular do you usually stay ?
Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog. An excellent read. I will definitely be back.
I enjoy your insight. It resonates deeply with me. I love receiving and reading your Sunday Coffee emails.
What a fine and profound message for our time, for artists especially, but for anyone with a creative life. Thanks for feeding my Spirit time and again.
Love your last statement. Dont’ age out…age in!
To Eric Rhoads,
Thank you very much for this positive and stimulating sunday Coffee
This was the best coffee I’ve ever had thank you!
As a kid I grew up on a farm on The Hubbard Prairie where during summer vacation I spent many a day exploring the woods, being six or seven years old did not stop me. My parents knew what my path was as I had to tell them where and how many miles away I was going. I had to be home by a certain time or they would come looking. I was taught to memorize special markings or signs in the wood so that I would not get lost. I loved the feeling of being part of the wood, and wished I was a animal so that I could live there. Do you know that feeling ? Anyway, in reading your post I was reminded of that feeling, so thank you for that. I am a rather shy person even though I love people, but the thought of being a famous artist scares me, as I would rather be in the wood than famous. I love to paint and have been drawing still I was four. Having to do competitions and go to shows in order to make money to live from my art just should not have to be, so does it ? I want others to see my work, but not see me. My work is me, isn’t that enough ?
Thank you, Eric a great post that came at the right time for me.
Thank you Eric, this is such a lovely post.
Great thoughts, Eric. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Eric. Nearing age 80 I sometime consider stopping volunteering, stopping painting, giving into a recliner. You help me fight it off.
Eric this is timely as usual!!
I feel at my age,65, that I have had many many purposes in life. It means I have to live in the moment and see that what I am doing at that time is my purpose,some chosen,some not. Raising my son’s and being a wife was a purpose,chosen with love. Being a friend is a continuing purpose.being an artist is a purpose I keep rediscovering. Now being a recent widow and a different plan means some different purpose.
I was asked by a therapist once how long did I think I might live..i responded with..at least 100..since my family is long lived and I am extremely healthy. She then asked if I felt I would have more than 1 career. And it opened my eyes to the possibility of many careers, many roads taken,many ways to live. So instead of looking for a purpose..i live purposefully.
And of course I have learned a very basic truth that can be hard to accept- plans change, sometimes so much that you feel lost and not one,with life,earth,nature. But I can attest that every plan left in the detritus of life happening,there is more life around the corner,more purpose to be had,more chances to do something new.
Thank you for the thoughtful essay.
I live on a lake and related to your response to the peaceful environment we are lucky enough to embrace.
Thank you for a message for me to embrace.
Eric, thank you for the “no aging out” comment. At 86, I am still painting (with a little bit of pleinair) but mostly still life at home and from what I can see from my windows and front porch. You are an inspirational writer. Thank you for your courageous support for all artists.
Wow. What a beautiful, inspiring piece. Thank you, Eric. I so enjoy having coffee and reading your Sunday morning essays. There is one more thing I’ve been wanting to say to you. Years ago, I attended a Plein Air Convention in Monterey. I was a beginner and did not know a soul. I am also very shy. I introduced myself to you and told you that I wanted above all things to become a plein air painter. You looked at me and said, “You ARE a plein air painter.” Believe it or not, that one sentence from you gave me the confidence I needed to persevere. I didn’t look back. I won’t stop trying. I’ve just completed a plein air class out of Saddleback College, which required a 120 mile commute each week. Guess what—I got an A! :}
Hi, thanks for sending this Sunday morning coffee, I’ve been going to school on you and your persistence and find it is an effective technique to initiate change in peoples attitudes and actions. Art is my second new career since retiring. I’ve had a studio in a community art center for the last two years where the whole conversation has been negative, this is bad, we can’t do that, no one will.. bla bla. A few years ago there was a sponsored high cash prize plein air program in our town, it was demanding and competitive, many local painters were not good enough and told so. Eventually the sponsors dried up and it all died. Tapping into your spirit of possible, I contacted some local artists to see if there was interest in non competitive plein air, just friends getting together and painting. No money involved beyond materials and gas money. They are coming out of the woodwork. We meet and paint once a week at someones favorite place, so it’s familiar to one or more painters, and new to the rest of us. There are two kinds of good places to paint, somewhere you know, and somewhere you’ve never been. We paint in the morning, then have lunch somewhere and talk about our paintings, or whatever comes up.Sometimes it’s evenings or middle of the week. Ideas flow. I take pictures of the activity and email the group twice a week with info of where we will meet, what the weather will be, what to bring, etc. In the two months we’ve been doing this, the paintings have become dramatically better, close relationships have formed, we just had our first gallery show which was well received, whether anything sells is less important than the fact that people stepped up and participated, and can see they are worth something and successful. We are getting more ideas for the future, may go to workshops, the local college is getting involved by sending us a marketing intern, we are asked to give painting instruction at the local nature center, and in general, the notion of NO has disappeared. So, thank you for being encouraging and persistent and sooner or later I’ll probably buy something from you, wait I think I bought a couple of magazine subscriptions, so, good job Eric!
Thank you for the words of encouragement to persevere!! They are most appreciated. I look forward to this every Sunday 🙂
Thank you. I often think of aging out not aging in. This is excellent. I look forward to reading your articles every Sunday. They have become a part of my Sunday morning ritual.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts
Eric,Good thoughts which are inspired & inspiring. Purpose for those of us whom are Believers, is obvious. Those of us whose purpose is manifest by our art are fortunate indeed. It is wonderful to know why our art is done & to whom it is meant to please. Thank you for bringing God into our consciousness.
rely deep Eric I have listen to you and always look as a friends and a compass, really F like art and this pass week has been vary default FAMMILY PROBLEM.
this is just to say thank you for writing such strong encouragement.
When I turned fifty I fell ill and was bedridden for nine months uncertain if this the end. It has been a long road back and far from restored to my former self.
A year ago while on social media my purpose was to simply post a photo of the twelve days of Christmas but when it came to five gold rings everything I found seem to fall short of the quality I was looking for. My daughter suggested I barrow her gouache set and just paint it myself…I had no idea what gouache was. Long story short she took me to a local craft store to buy my first set of watercolors. I studied at night planning what to paint the next morning. I found myself excited like a child on Christmas morning getting out of bed and running to my table to paint. Painting every demo I could find on YouTube. I’ve even had to make getting out of my pjs and eating breakfast a rule before painting. Haha! A month in I had request to sale my work. Purpose? I don’t really know just yet… but I’m enjoying the journey . In that voracious appetite for art I came across your blog and looked for it every Sunday morning. Just last month you sent me the email for paint my note. I can’t learn it fast enough.
Thank you for all you are doing for the art community!
Love in Christ,
Thank you, Eric for your inspiring words this morning.
I believe all you said to be true, I believe I am finding my purpose. I am 70 now(hard to believe) and painting. Something I have wanted to do since I was a child. Life certainly took me in many other directions, but i do understand that every step, every right thought, every divine connection, will lead me to giving through my art.
Eric, don’t leave us hanging like this! What did the surgeon find to do that was so fulfilling after he left surgery??
I so enjoy your thoughtful writing . I am a 74 year old oil painter. I have been at it for almost 50 years. I intend to keep at it until I can’t hold a brush. As we age we can either become ornery old men or women or we can embrace change and be transformed.
Peace, Rich Bayes
You certainly HAVE found your purpose, Eric! And we are all so grateful! Thank you.
Eric, A wonderful and inspiring message this morning. You speak with such authenticity…we know you have lived through the truths you reveal…I enjoy all your words…however, the words today resonated more than others for me..
Love your weekly posts as they always seem to speak directly to me. Being in my 70s I can relate to and appreciate the life struggles, adventures and discoveries you share with us and you never fail to inspire me for another week. Thank you!