James R. Crisp

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The Mindful Creator Letters

If you want life to be meaningful, you need to define your purpose

“As always, and even more so now, the status quo works to impose on us the meaning of life that serves its interest; the only way out for the ordinary man is to gain control of his conscience, set his own meaning in life, and become an autonomous person in charge of his life.”


A Life Without Meaning

Living without purpose caused me great suffering, even though I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life (become a successful artist), I wasn’t clear on how to actualize it.

What was worse was that this idea was self-centered. I just wanted to make what I was interested in, I told myself I didn’t really care if people liked my work or not because I wanted to express myself authentically. That’s all that mattered.

But I was wrong, I did care. Not being able to find enough clients for my work to sustain my business was disheartening & draining. I still had to work part time in dead-end jobs for many years to pay for my studio and the materials for what was really a glorified hobby.

On good days, I was happy and content. Telling myself I was successful because I had the time and space to work on my craft. I was so grateful to have a studio space just dedicated to my work. But the majority of the time, I felt hollow. My work wasn’t making a difference in the world, and for all my efforts I couldn’t make it sustainable. I was spinning my wheels which resulted in years of depression as I tried to make it work.

I fell into the trap of nihilism and everything felt meaningless. That was until I started to question my moods and go on a journey of discovering what is truly meaningful to me.

If you want your days to be meaningful, you have to define your own purpose and take action on it.


When you lack direction everything seems like a problem. When you have little to no hope for the future it starts a cycle of self-rumination. This is a huge recipe for depression.

Your time and attention will be controlled by others, at this point you are not living, you a being lived.

The solution is to give yourself the gift of a creative mission.

This is something you craft for yourself that contains your values, vision and purpose. It’s not really important what you call it, the main thing is that these three aspects become so powerful and significant for you that it stops you from drowning in the baggage of your past and the noise of the present.

I know this can be difficult. When you’re feeling so low it’s hard to get fired up and care about anything. You can’t possibly see how any of this would make any difference, but that’s just because of the place you are in right now. If you take these few small steps I’m about to share with you, I’m positive you life will start to change for the better.

Because this mission will be tailored to your personality it will drive you to take action and make life meaningful. This is obviously not a quick fix, but we’re not just putting duck tape over a leaky faucet, we’re going to replace the faucet, so life begins to flow again. Over time, if you work on this, you will build momentum and move your from a place of apathy to a place where you’re excited to get up in the morning and work on your mission.


The Magic of Mission

Something magical starts to happen when you get clear on your values, vision and purpose. The information you consume starts getting filtered through that mission and you start seeing more opportunities. Options you didn’t even know where available to you start to present themselves and your life starts to build momentum.

Your focus and attention improve. Things that seemed challenging for you to do start to become effortless as you have a strong reason for doing them.

As you start taking more action, you start to transform the way you see yourself. The clarity you’ve gained and your ability to act increase your self-efficacy and you start being hopeful about the future.

Still, aligning with your mission is no easy task. To actualize it can be an arduous task, but it’s worth the effort. What other choice do you have? You either follow the things in life that you value and bring you the most meaning, or you divulge into self-loathing and pity. You can become bitter at the world, but that won’t bring you joy.

Following your mission will be the most fulfilling thing you will ever do.


Contribution and Assisting Others

I already hinted at this during the start of this article. The biggest mistake you can make is making your mission about yourself or what you want from life.

If you’re doing this for superficial reasons, such as a big house or nice car, you’re going to remain unfulfilled.

To achieve continued success, you have to create a purpose that is bigger than yourself. That is built upon using your talents, strengths and skills to assist others. Contribution is the foundation for success.

We do not live alone. We are part of a society and we need each other to survive. To live in the world is to be interested in your fellow men and figure out how you can best assist them.

For me, I want to eliminate suffering for as many people as I can. I don’t want others to experience the same levels of depression I’ve faced in the past. Mental health is truly important to me, and so I want to share my knowledge on how I’ve overcome depression and maintain a healthy mind.

This is one way that keeps me stable. And if you can find something that you’re truly passionate about, I’m sure it will do the same for you.

Action step
Start by listing out 25 problems you have solved for yourself, or you wish to see solved in the world. These could be small individual problems like getting out of debt to big global problems like homelessness or poverty.

There are no right answers, only that you find something you are interested in solving for other people because you have a personal connection to that issue.

Keep going until you find something that really resonates. That you could see yourself dedicating your life to helping other people solve. Take your time with this, find something you truly care about.


Next Comes Vision

Now that you’ve found a problem you want to help solve, what does that look like? How will you get there?

Your vision is your sense of a possible future. It’s about articulating who you really are and who you could become. You can create a vision by writing it out or by holding an image in your mind.

This will give you something to strive towards and a reason to get up in the morning. If you’re currently working a job you dislike, I recommend getting up a bit earlier and dedicating one hour each morning towards actualizing your vision. This will change your outlook for the rest of the day and help you see you job as a necessary stepping stone to get you to where you truly want to be.

An hour a day is all you need to change your life.

Action step
Take some time to articulate your vision for the future. Write it out in as much detail as possible using the present tense. I am, I have, I do.

Describe your day in vivid detail. How will the average day look? What do you do and how will you help people?

There’s a reason why I call this process a “creative mission”. And that’s because you need to become a creative force in your life and see life as a creative act. What will you create for yourself and others? You don’t have to change the whole world, that’s almost impossible. Just think what you can do to make your little corner of the world better.


Defining Your Mission

Now that you have a problem to solve and a vision for how you’re going to do it, its time to create a strong message that you can read daily to remind yourself why you’re working so hard.

This is the fuel for your fire.

Action Step
Write your mission statement as a clear and concise sentence. It should be timeless and contain both means and ends. I.e What you do and how you’re going to get there.

If you’re struggling to define it, try substituting this sentence:

I help (people) by (doing X).
Bonus if you can include your reason why.

E.g. I help artists and creatives find meaning and purpose behind their work, to alleviate their suffering and guide them to live fulfilling lives.

Remember, purpose means having a clear, positive intention for our time, talents, energy and focus. And then going out and living it through action.


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