This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Who Will Cry When You Die?" by Robin Sharma. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Do you have a purpose in life but struggle to stay on track? What strategies can you use to focus on your purpose every day?
Having a purpose in life that you’re working towards will make you feel more fulfilled and overall happier. However, it can be easy to lose sight of your purpose when you get caught up in the everyday routine. That’s why self-help guru Robin Sharma put together this list of strategies to help you maintain focus on your purpose.
Continue below for Sharma’s six tips for focusing on your purpose.
Stay Focused on Your Purpose
Today, we’ll discuss the first way to seize control of your life, according to Robin Sharma: by staying focused on your purpose at all times in our distraction-filled world.
We’ll cover six strategies to maintain focus on your purpose each day:
- Every morning, align yourself with your purpose.
- Pursue only purpose-aligned activities during the day.
- Regularly step back to gain perspective.
- Ask for what you want to pursue your purpose.
- Set more goals to keep pursuing your purpose.
- Reflect on your day by writing about it.
Strategy #1: Every Morning, Align Yourself With Your Purpose
First, Sharma advises you to take 30 minutes of each morning to align yourself with your purpose. This ensures that everything you do that day is in service of achieving that purpose. A tool to aid with this alignment is a written set of personal principles, says Sharma. Write down the values you hold most dear and the precepts you want to govern your conduct and thoughts, and refer to this every morning.
(Shortform note: Sharma dives into greater detail on the importance of mornings in The 5 AM Club, describing a morning routine that differs from the written alignment exercise he recommends here. In The 5 AM Club, Sharma recommends breaking the first hour of your day into three equal parts: exercise, reflection, and growth. The reflection and growth portions are similar to what Sharma advocates for here: time to reflect on your purpose and ensure you’re pursuing it. However, he also feels that exercise produces worthy health and cognitive benefits and that you should therefore allocate 20 minutes to it.)
Strategy #2: Pursue Only Purpose-Aligned Activities During the Day
After the first 30 minutes of your day, only do things that are in line with your purpose, insists Sharma. Figure out what’s non-essential and eliminate it from your schedule. For instance, imagine you’re a public personality with the life’s purpose of connecting deeply with your loved ones. You might initially attend events every night rather than spend time with your family, thus losing alignment with your purpose. Choose instead to eliminate unnecessary events.
(Shortform note: Prioritizing purpose-aligned work over non-purpose-aligned activities sounds similar to Cal Newport’s advice to prioritize deep work over shallow work. Newport argues in Deep Work that you should prioritize deep work, cognitively demanding tasks that only you can do, over shallow work—administrative chores that anyone could handle. Deep work, unlike shallow work, is likely aligned with your purpose.)
Strategy #3: Regularly Step Back to Gain Perspective
When you become weighed down by minor problems and lose sight of your purpose—which may happen despite aligning yourself with it every morning—take a step back to gain perspective, counsels Sharma. Remember how fleeting life is and reorient toward your purpose.
If you struggle to gain perspective, take the somewhat extreme step to imagine your own funeral, advises Sharma. This helps you recognize the fleeting nature of life. Given that you have so little time on earth, it’ll seem wasteful to let problems rob you of precious moments of happiness and the meaningful pursuit of your purpose.
|Additional Ways to Gain Perspective|
Imagining your funeral as a way to gain perspective may be too morbid for some. Other ways to gain perspective include:
–Shutting down black-and-white thinking. In times of stress, it’s easy to develop perfectionistic feelings that things must be a certain way or else they’re not worth doing. Stop yourself when you notice those thoughts and remember: Few things in the universe operate on an all-or-nothing basis.
–Viewing your life from a friend’s perspective. How might a close friend regard a current difficulty you’re experiencing? Would they tell you to continue stressing out over it, or would they advise you to relax? By putting yourself in the position of someone you know to be empathetic, you can develop that kinder perspective yourself.
Strategy #4: Ask for What You Want to Pursue Your Purpose
To consistently pursue your purpose, get good at asking for what you want, says Sharma. You’re the only person who can change your life, so if you need something to align your life with your purpose, ask for it. For instance, if you need to step back from a work project that’s keeping you at the office late, ask your boss if she can take you off it.
(Shortform note: Sharma insists you learn to ask for what you want but doesn’t offer specific tips on how to do this. One way to ask for what you want is to be specific. When you’re ultra-specific about what you need, you’re more likely to get it.)
Strategy #5: Set More Goals to Keep Pursuing Your Purpose
To constantly pursue your purpose, Sharma recommends setting plenty of goals. Goals are the bite-sized chunks of your overall purpose you can tackle every day. By setting goals, says Sharma, you give yourself the agency to accomplish them.
For instance, if your purpose is to be a caring parent, your goal might be to spend one screen-free hour with your child every evening. Now that you’ve set that goal, you won’t wait around for your child’s tablet to break, for example, to organize screen-free time. Instead, you’ll actively make room for that hour.
(Shortform note: Sharma advocates strongly for setting goals but doesn’t elaborate on what to do if you fall short of them, which is an inevitable and normal part of life. Tony Robbins’s Awaken the Giant Within makes room for the inevitable failure by saying that even when you fall short of a goal, you still learn something from the experience of striving for it. Plus, failure may re-orient you to pursue a more rewarding and even more purposeful goal.)
Strategy #6: Reflect on Your Day by Writing About It
The last way Sharma recommends staying in tune with your purpose is by writing about your experiences, lessons, and revelations every night. This lets you reflect and grow from the events of the day and determine if you’ve lived it in alignment with your purpose. If you haven’t, start the next day with a renewed resolution to make it purpose-oriented.
For instance, you might find while writing that you spent most of your evening sorting out a problem with your computer and were terse with your child, even though your purpose is to be a loving parent. Knowing this, you can pursue your purpose more effectively the next evening.
(Shortform note: In Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans break down the act of journaling (what, in essence, Sharma is describing here) even further than Sharma does. They recommend dividing your journal into two parts: an activity log to record your emotional state and a reflections section to describe your takeaways from the activity log. Thus, you can both record how you’re feeling in the moment (or at the end of the day, as Sharma recommends) and also devise lessons and actionables from those feelings.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full Who Will Cry When You Die? summary :
- Why most people end up leading lives they’ll regret
- How to seize control of your life and turn it into one you’ll look back on fondly
- How and why you should set intentional breaks in your daily life