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Finding your Quest – what life challenge will define you?

Posted Jan 18 2013 5:00am

Have you found you life’s purpose?

Quest It is my view that each and every person has a reason for being – beyond that night their parents spent together. Some of us find our purpose easily and the rest of our life leads in that direction. For others of us we can’t see that purpose till late in life after we have accumulated a vast collection of experiences.

Every great epic story involves a hero and a quest. We are all the heroes of our own lives.

In the heroic drama there is a customary sequence of events that sets up the required quest. Good fiction writers know this and give you plenty of quest elements to make their stories interesting. When I write fiction I try to incorporate those elements. In my counseling practice I find that clients have been on personal quests, searches for life’s meaning, that rival any I think up for a work of fiction. 

The epic begins with the hero being asked to undertake some great and meaningful task. They are thinking of doing something to save mankind or prevent a great global disaster.  Interview a group of first graders and ask them what they plan to be when they grow up and you will get a list of those professions that try to make a difference. Somewhere along the line we decide not to embark on that quest.

In the hero story the protagonist usually says no. I don’t want to devote my life to helping the homeless or some other noble undertaking. Here the hero goes off on his own and tries to have a lot of fun. Sound familiar. We may suspect we have some special purpose but no, we decide to live our lives for ourselves and let others worry about the homeless and world peace.

Now in the hero story the main guy finds he can’t escape his destiny no matter how hard he tries. The war comes to his town, the shelling destroys his home and now he is one of those homeless refugees of war. He has to do something to end homelessness and war if only to save himself.

Notice that most people in the helping professions have had to overcome some issues, in themselves or their family, the quest to improve the world was thrust on them whether they wanted it or not.

Counselors in substance abuse facilities have historically been people in recovery from alcoholism or addiction. They have to save others to save themselves. I have also seen people who grew up without parents who were moved from caregiver to caregiver, who made it their life work to be super parents or to work with other parentless children.

So in this epic we call our lives we may get distracted, sometimes for years, but eventually we need to face the task of finding a purpose for our lives. We embark on this quest or we waste away never knowing that our life could have had a purpose and a meaning.

We may stumble along in life, endure pain and suffer a little. Hopefully lean that the pain may be a requirement but the suffering is optional. Eventually we find our life purpose. Right?

Wish it were that easy.

The way this heroic quest plot plays out in the movie theater or the novel is a lot easier to see than in our own lives.  

In the novel version, once the hero sets off there are all kinds of obstacle put in his way. He may encounter dragons and demon and all sort of stuff. He will be arrested and thrown in a dungeon and then have to find the magic key that sets him free.

A writer’s expression that fits with this scene is “when the hero reaches for the key, cut off his hand.” This sounds cruel I know, but in the giant epic there is never a point where the hero knows things are getting better. Not till he gets to the end and looks back.

So what does this have to do with our personal recovery? Sometimes recovery is not pretty. This is a real life and bad things can keep happening even when you are trying to do the right thing. The thing that will give your life real meaning, will make you quest worth undertaking is to find that thing that says to you it needs doing no matter what it takes.

If you can find that quest, your life will have meaning no matter how hard the struggles.

Are you willing to undertake a great heroic quest to become the best person you can be?

 For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com .


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