Way of the Peaceful Warrior was a pivotal read for me in my twenties as I consciously began my transformational journey. The story of a much younger Dan Millman’s experience into deep exploration of ‘paradox, humor and change’ with his mentor; a gas station attendant whom he called Socrates, set me on a path that I am delighted to be meandering through to this day. It wound inexorably to the 52 year old woman who is immersed in discovering and uncovering purpose and meaning. That is why Dan’s new book called The Four Purposes Of Life: Finding Meaning And Direction In A Changing World, is such an important compass, map and guide all in one.
Since you are reading this blog, then chances are, you too are wondering what life is all about and how you can discover/uncover/recover your own reason for being alive on this planet at this point in time. Compact, the book is portable and can fit in your purse or briefcase. It is a wonderful reference as simple to use as it is inspiring. Dan begins by observing that life seems to be moving at such a pace that it is often hard to keep up with it. Unless you have been living in a cave, it’s likely you have come to that realization as well. He invites the reader to ask themselves what they want, how they would know if they had their desires come to fruition, what it would mean to their lives once that occurred and then what their purpose might be.
He breaks them down in this way:
1. Learning Life’s Lessons which suggests that this Earth is a school in which we are enrolled and for which we are charged to bring in daily messages and insights to which we can apply to further our growth. Can you tune into the messages that the teacher (which is life itself) is offering, knowing that your ‘textbook’ is being written as you go?
2. Finding Your Career and Calling which offers an opportunity earn a good living while also doing good in the world; what I think of as ‘right livelihood’ work. Imagine what it would be like to be living your passion and purpose on the job; doubly rewarding.
3. Disccovering Your Life Path which asks the reader to explore both strengths and challenges, using both to fulfill their mission here on Earth. Can you embrace both?
4. Attending To This Arising Moment brings with it the grand chance to honor this here and now instant, since this really is all there is to do.
My favorite parts of the book are the anecdotes; those snippets of wisdom that emerge from the real life experiences of people Dan has encountered. A fun story is about a man named Kevin, who in the 1960’s took his passion for playing frisbee and parlayed it into an idea to become a Frisbee goodwill ambassador in what was then the Soviet Union. I’m certain that in addition to bringing in income, he touched so many lives with his enthusiasm, that the ripples are being felt all these years later.
Dan quotes his old mentor Socrates in a section of the book that has him holding on to boxes and then piled on top of them cans of engine oil until finally his arms gave out and he dropped them. Chagrined, as Dan often seemed to be during that phase of his life, he acknowleged that it was a test of some sort that he had bumbled. Soc says “Life is not about success or failure, it’s about stretching yourself. How will you ever know your limits until you have tested them? And how do you test them unless you’re willing to fail brilliantly?” Failing, brilliantly or otherwise, is not something most people are inclined to want to do, but Dan frames it as if it is a worthwhile endeavor.
He shares an example of the importance of finding meaning and purpose as illustrated in one of my favorite movies: Groundhog Day in which Bill Murray’s character Phil re-lives the same day multiple times until he gets it that the way to have a truly rich life, is to strive for self improvement and doing service all at once.
Dan encourages the reader to be mindful with all that they do. A consummate quote collector, with words of wisdom liberally sprinkled throughout, he shares the verbiage of a Zen sage: ” When I’m hungry, I eat; when I’m thirsty, I drink; when I’m tired, I rest.” Simple as that…no worry, no fuss. Just do the next thing in front of you.
The Four Purposes of Life is a powerful tool inviting the reader to do the next thing to do. In the hands of one who chooses to create a more fulfilling existence, it can carry you to places you have only ever dreamed of going. Travel well~