But purpose isn't any of those things. Sure, it might lead to one or more of those things, but that's just a by-product. And in my experience, your purpose never comes out of plans for success. If you say, I want to be a rapper because then I'll be a big star, there's a good chance that following that path isn't going to lead you to your purpose. If you say, I want to be a rapper because I feel like I have something to say that is going to deliver a valuable message to a lot of people, that's something else entirely. Then you might really be talking about your purpose. You make it to work on time. Punctuality is nonnegotiable. Getting to work on time is not a goal; So is making dinner; So is taking care of your kids; Going to the gym, on the other hand, is a goal. We may want to work out . You don't make it to the gym because you can negotiate, if only with yourself, and make other choices. That's why the power of routine, something we'll look at in detail later, is so important. When you create a routine, embrace that routine, and see the results of that routine, you stop negotiating with yourself. I knew that wasn't possible, so I wanted to be sure I was elegant in victory and graceful in defeat. Dr S and I won that case. The jury wanted to speak to Dr S after the verdict, and they told him they appreciated his kindness, his compassion, and the care he rendered. They lauded my hard work and my arguments but made no mention of my empathy or my compassion.
A warrior isn't often commended for her heart. In my twenty years of practice, I've had many successes. But I wanted to be sure that what it took to win hadn't forced me to lose myself, my dignity, my elegance. My grandmother, the same one who may have passed on the tendency to cry, also gave me a love of elegance. Merriam-Webster defines elegance as a refined grace, and my grandmother was elegant both in the way she looked and the way she acted. For years she'd been a social worker, working outside the home long before that was the norm for women. It was against everything I was taught, and against the traditional moral values I was taught to believe early in life. As a good Capricorn should be, I'm a loyal and committed partner. As it turns out, I was loyal to a fault. So loyal to him, I abandoned myself and sacrificed my peace of mind and emotional safety. After he moved his stuff out of the house, I spent many weeks in complete and utter disbelief. I was sad, confused, and upset that my entire future was a big, involuntary, blank slate. The thing I feared the most had happened. I was living the experience of abandonment by way of the dreaded divorce. Time felt painfully slow and endless. Yet, in my solitude, I had no other choice but to process what happened the best I could. But not if the first thing that comes to mind is making it big. In the same way, you may feel that something that really matters to you can't be your purpose because you can't see how you could make a living at it or get a nice house with it or get lots of acclaim for it. You need to think that over. I know far more happy people who are living modestly while fulfilling their purpose than I do happy people who are making a lot of money but doing something they hate or that makes them feel like a fraud every day.
And your purpose doesn't even have to be your job. It might not be tied up in money or status at all. Maybe your purpose is volunteering to help people learn how to read. Maybe it's coaching a neighborhood kids' basketball team. Maybe it's donating a chunk of your time to church or a local school or to a community center. You're not going to get rich or famous doing any of those things, but that could be exactly what you were put here to do. You see your routine as a task, in the best possible way: Your routine isn't something you choose to do; And you stop making choices that don't support your goals. Best of all, you stop having to look back and wonder why you didn't follow through on your plans--and why you're still stuck in the same place you've always been. Let's use me as an example again. I love setting huge goals. Unfortunately, my huge goals don't always love me back. In my twenties I thought it would be cool to run a marathon. I didn't have a burning desire to be a runner; I just imagined all the admiring glances I'd receive when I regaled people with my New York City Marathon stories. The first day of training I jogged about two miles. In that role, she'd been able to use her innate kindness and ability to talk to people. Even when rushing through the hospital to work with the patients she'd been assigned, high heels clicking down the halls, she never had a hair out of place. Throughout the hospital she was known for her kindness, her smile, and the fact that she always wore earrings and lipstick. She expected the same from me, even from an early age.
I lived with her during the summers while I waitressed at the Chart Room, a well-known Cape Cod restaurant. When I'd leave for work, in my denim skirt and orange apron, I'd go upstairs to kiss her good-bye. She'd give me her wrinkled cheek and determine whether I passed muster. Her expectations were earrings, lipstick, compassion, and grace. How hard could that be? I've come to learn that makeup and jewelry are just the props, and true elegance gets much harder from there. I realized that I was responsible for one hundred percent of the misfortune I perceived I was enduring. I would think to myself, If only I would have been more assertive in that argument. I regretted not saying, No, that doesn't work for me, or, I will not accept that kind of treatment. If I had tried to say anything like that, maybe we could have duked-out a fair battle. But I didn't. All of the excuses I had made for my crumbling marriage stemmed from a deep fear of loss. My ex and I spent three months minimum with almost no communication. The only things ever spoken about were the brief details of finalizing the requirements for the divorce filing. My heart hurt so deeply, but I signed the petition without hesitation. I would never chase him or beg him to stay. Let's get back to that key point again: purpose is who you are. It is why you were created. It is how you are contributing to the world. When you are living your purpose, you feel as though you're making a difference.
It doesn't have to be a huge difference, like curing a disease or talking someone out of killing himself. It could be anything that makes people's lives better even in a tiny way. Maybe you're a bus driver, and the way you greet your passengers at the start of the day makes them feel a little bit better about going to work. That's a great thing. That's having a genuine impact on lives. If that feels right to you, don't run away from it because there aren't any bus drivers with five million followers on Instagram. The next day I jogged two miles. The third day it was really hot, I tweaked my ankle when I sidestepped a Chihuahua with an attitude, and after I finally limped home, I plopped down on the front steps of my house and thought, Crap. I can barely run two miles. How will I ever run twenty-six miles? That's impossible. And I gave up. Of course, you could say I quit because my goal didn't have sufficient personal meaning, and in some ways you would be right. It's really hard to overcome challenges and setbacks when you don't care enough (or, worse, when what you care most about is what other people will think). But caring, though important, is rarely sufficient. Millions of people sincerely care--about their careers or their health or their families or the environment or politics or a social cause--and yet they still give up long before they manage to achieve a meaningful goal. Earrings and lipstick are easy, but they're not the hallmark of true elegance. The word elegance comes from the Latin eligo which means to choose. You choose your way to elegance, and you choose how to fight your wars. But you have to be aware that you're making a choice.