Why are you doing what you are doing?

Today is February 23 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “why are you doing what you are doing” Mark Twain wrote "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." Practicing the art of living well often involves a good deal of wonder. Today’s reflection stems from history and provides an opportunity to contemplate one aspect of wonder and that the reasoning behind our actions. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, Sir Christopher Michael Wren, one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history, had the responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches, including his masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral was built in a relative short time span: its first stone was laid on June 21, 1675, and the building was completed in 1711. Legend has it that Wren would often visit the construction site.

During one of his visits Wren came across three stonecutters. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing. “I am cutting a stone!” Still no wiser, Wren turned to the second stonecutter and asked him what he was doing. “I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that it is square, and its dimensions are uniform, so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall.” A bit closer to finding out what the stonecutters were working on but still unclear, Wren turned to the third stonecutter. He seemed to be the happiest of the three and when asked what he was doing, replied: “I am helping to build a great cathedral.” This stone mason clearly understood why he was doing what he was doing. Both Wren and the third stone mason understood that they were part of something greater than themselves. They were experiencing the richness of life. This richness allows one to develop their self, which is a never-ending process throughout life. Futurist, author, and architect Richard Buckminster Fuller asked himself today’s question to help navigate a dark period in his life.

In 1922, Fuller’s daughter Alexandra died of complications from polio just prior to her fourth birthday. Believing her death was the result of damp living conditions, Fuller helped launch Stockade Building Systems to provide affordable and efficient housing. In 1927, at age 32, Fuller lost his job as president of Stockade. The Fuller family had no savings, and the birth of their daughter Allegra in 1927 added to financial challenges. Fuller drank heavily and reflected upon the solution to his family's struggles on long walks around Chicago. During the autumn of 1927, Fuller contemplated suicide, so that his family could benefit from life insurance. At this moment Fuller said he experienced a profound vision that would provide direction and purpose for his life when one day he heard a voice proclaim “From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought. You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.” Fuller stated that this experience led to a profound re-examination of his life. He ultimately chose to embark on "an experiment, to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity." Fuller would go on to publish over 30 books, develop numerous inventions, many architectural designs, and popularized the widely known geodesic dome. Fuller observed “We were deliberately designed to learn only by trial and error. We’re brought up, unfortunately, to think that nobody should make mistakes. Most children get de-geniused by the love and fear of their parents – that they might make a mistake. But all my advances were made by mistakes. You uncover what is when you get rid of what isn’t.”

As William Jennings Bryan once wrote "Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." To help you achieve your destiny consider completing the following three step exercise called “A.I.M. for Your Purpose:” To complete this exercise you will need to answer three questions using the A.I.M. acronym for (Action, Individual and Mission).

1. What Action do you want to take?

2. What Individuals do you want to help?

3. What Mission do you want to accomplish?

Once completed post this exercise somewhere you will see it each day. And yes, you can have more than one AIM!

Why are you doing what you are doing?