Vows and Your Sense of Purpose

Vows and Your Sense of Purpose
When you put the term “vow” into a search engine, the results would make one think that the only people who make vows are those who are getting married and politicians. But everyone and anyone can make a vow. According to The Vow-Powered Life: A Simple Method for Living with Purpose by Jan Chozen Bays vows can be as “small as the aspiration to smile at someone at least once every day, or as ‘big’ as marriage; as personal as deciding to be mindful when picking up the phone or as universal as vowing to save all sentient beings.”

Now when you live a “vow powered” life like Uncle Frank and Uncle Jake (the two elderly gentleman that I introduced in Part 1 of this article) your vows guide your behavior. Both Uncle Frank and Uncle Jake vowed to live to be 100 when they were young men and now in their late 80s have a good shot at doing so. While both live active lives, unlike those who may vow to live to 100 today, they do not focus on diet.

Having been born born in the early 1930s, for most of their lives no one talked about the health risks of eating “bad” food. As children of The Great Depression, Frank and Jake, who do not know each other and never met, share the philosophy that going hungry is bad and all food is good. To this day they eat anything--beef, pork, fried stuff, ice cream, coffee, cake, fast food, whatever they want. They do not connect having a perfectly balanced diet to a long life.

What Frank and Jake are teaching me is there is more than one path you can take to carry out your vows and belief is probably the most important ingredient contributing to their success. With them, it’s not so much what they do, it’s what they don’t do--drink alcohol, which was the dangerous drug of their day. Uncle Jake quit alcohol and his occasional cigar cold turkey in 1974 and Uncle Frank never drank and deplored smoking his entire life.

“The word vow represents the actual power of a bundle of energy purposely formed, aimed and propelled through time,” writes Chozen Bays who continued saying “Vows keep us from acting unconsciously. They act as a compass to help us set a clear direction for our life, like our own internal GPS system.”

The “propelled through time” part worried me a little. When Uncle Frank and Uncle Jake had reached my age they were fully ensconced in their vow to live to 100 and had probably repeated it dozens if not hundreds of times by then. As I have shared here I struggle with the idea of having one distinct purpose in life. Chozen Bays says that some vows are not made consciously. She shares a story about Quaker author and activist Parker Palmer who had reached middle age when he confided in an elder that he had not yet found his vocation. The elder replied saying that she also was never shown a clear path, but as she lived “a lot of the way has closed behind me and that has the same guiding effect.”

I can identify with this as I am more aware of when I was 25 what will not work for me so I don’t waste time on those endeavors. I believe I am now pointed in the general direction of where I am going, but I do not have the exact specifications. According to Chozen Bays there is likely a “hidden vow” at work in my life and my job is to bring it to light.

“Vows also act like a gyroscope,” writes Chozen Bays. “When difficulties arise in our life, it is easy to become confused, frozen in indecision or depression...Recollecting our vows can, like a gyroscope, help us regain our equilibrium so that we can move back to our life path again.”

I borrowed The Vow-Powered Life: A Simple Method for Living with Purpose from the local library.

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