How to win the game of life: Living with a purpose

Countless people are lost when it comes to finding an answer to their life’s purpose. Depression is a consequence of purposeless living. Living a meaningful life is the key to a happy and fulfilled life. Without purpose, one only spends life. With purpose, one lives life. With it, comes the joy of passion—the burning desire to wake up every day at dawn, to make each moment count, to live in the present and to experience all that life has to offer—whether good or bad—with a lens of curiosity, acceptance, and satisfaction.

As a human being—the Best of All Creations—you are given the choice to play the game of life as you desire. You don’t know what the next move of life will be, but it is inevitable to play as it comes. How you play is the only choice you have in your hands. So, what is your choice going to be?

Like others, I had no choice but to participate in the game. As a beginner however, I was clueless of the game, its rules, and the winning strategy. My surroundings didn’t offer much help in the form that was simple and digestible for an ordinary human being. Therefore, I grew up confused and directionless. “Life should be simple”, I thought. But the complexities created by the separation of the mind and soul in the society around me made it appear otherwise. The strong external influences imprinted my naïve perspective of truth. My childlike lens got muddled by falsehood. Hence, I followed the artificially lit path instead of following my heart. 

Wisdom is truth and truth is simple. If it is not simple, it is not the truth. 

Material reality submerged my spiritual reality and soon I could barely hear my heart’s call—the truth. I grew up surrounded by lack of money, trust, and security, and going through the test of time, a part of me got stuck into the lack-centric perspective. I saw my world partly through the lens of lack. Having less money, less loving connections, less health, less financial and emotional security, and less success became a way of life for me.

Over time, I completely lost my true self which meant losing my freedom to be happy. Labeled by the world as a loser, deep down I strived to remember my truth and eventually learned how to win the game of life. Here’s a glimpse of the process through my own story of remembering, realizing, and reaffirming the winning strategy of life.

Understanding gratitude

It was 2012 when I stumbled across the practice of gratitude and its consequent transformational effects. My life was blanketed with clouds of suicidal depression. Nothing in the world mattered to me. Nothing was important enough to live for. Externally I lived a normal life while internally I battled with the tornado of lack in every form whether it be health, wealth or relationships. The one vital resource in my bag was the feeble yet innate desire to discover the simple truth. The quality of resilience wouldn’t let me give up. I had to try one more time, one last solution, one more day.

Within my flickering hope, I heard some spiritual teachers and thought-leaders talk about “the concept of gratitude” and its healing powers. I wanted to rediscover my happiness. It meant healing my heart and ultimately healing my life. And the new solution standing in front of me happened to be gratitude, so I embraced it with open arms believing it to be the final solution. This, I believed to be the key that would open doors to the life of my dreams.

Gratitude stood in its sublime mystery, and unveiling it was my current mission. So, I did whatever I could to achieve my goal. I read and listened to successful people talk about how it can transform one’s life. As a child, I was trained to say “Thank-you” as a gesture of appreciation to any person who extended generosity or an attitude of kindness towards me. My mother had inculcated the practice of offering grace at meal time. Growing up in Muslim household, we started our meals with the remembrance of God and finished off by thanking God saying, Alhamdulillah

Yes, I understood what the term gratitude meant. I suppose everyone does. But I didn’t mirror such a transformative life these gurus claimed about. Believing I had found a solution to end the myriad problems of my personal and professional life, I started modeling what others advised. “This time it must work”, I told myself. Why wouldn’t it if I follow the recommendations of the successful people? I wanted to reclaim my success. I did not want to be a loser. I deserved a better, healthier and happier life. I wanted to win the game of life just like others. I implemented several ways of practicing gratitude, one of which was starting a gratitude journal noticing and recording appreciative things daily by writing statements starting with “I am thankful for…”.

Furthermore, I tried a number of ways from visualizations to affirmations and everything in between just to fully embrace the concept. In fact, I even wanted to spread this extremely important virtue to others around me. This led me to go so far as to conceptualize and implement a Gratitude Workshop for roughly 200 students aged between 9 – 12 years. What a better way than to train young minds in their foundational years with one of the most important virtues. Being immersed in the notion entirely, there was no way my life wouldn’t transform.

Now, with all the practical work I must truly know what gratitude means. And yet, my heart defied it. How could I influence others with something that has not influenced me? It was a rather logical question. How could you spread a message that you haven’t fully received yourself first? Can you? My past and my present were not very different. What I knew now was what I had already known before. With all the efforts, there was still something missing. As with all other unanswered quests of my life, I put forth a request to God for this one too. Only He I believed could honor my request and help me touch the soul of gratitude.

Life with a purpose

In 2015, I lost my mother―the center of my universe―to cancer and the real journey of gratitude began. People wonder how walking on the path of not having something so precious anymore can turn someone’s eyes towards having so much more to thank for. The answer is simple—Divine Surrender. When you fully submit and let go by practicing your choice of acceptance of God’s will, doors of blessings open for you. God had chosen this traumatic event as the best way to answer my question. I have forever been on the journey of truth and it was losing my mother that brought me to its end―my destination. The journey of loss reappeared as the journey of gain, fulfilling my quest of gratitude.

For instance, it had been only a few days since my mom’s transition. Naturally, the thought of loss and lack—of not having my mother anymore—entered my mind. The phone rang as a God sent reminder. My friend on the other end told me about one of her family friends who passed away after giving birth to her fourth child. This precious soul didn’t even experience his mother’s love for a single day and I was blessed for decades. How could I be ungrateful? How could I be in loss when I had been presented with so much during my life? What about all those years I was under the umbrella of my mother’s love? Should I forget all that I had enjoyed till now? Should I focus on what was taken away rather than what was given to me? Should I focus on what was lost rather than what is still present with me?

I had dragged my purposeless self for years because I had seen the world through the lens of society’s falsehood. When my mother passed away, I questioned the notion of purpose again and upon reflection and direction with God’s grace, I received the simple answer.

My purpose, your purpose and the purpose of every human being is one—something I often repeat to myself.

I am here to be happy and thank for it, in every moment of my life, where ever I am, whoever I am, however I am. 

You are playing the game of life, whether you accept or deny it. You can stand at the sidelines with your hands folded, stubborn and angry or waste your life away with laziness and mindlessness. The choice is inherently yours. You will be born into circumstances, thrown into situations, and stranded into trials and tribulations without choice. Your winning strategy to achieve inner happiness, fulfillment, and spiritual advancement lies in living each moment with purpose and the purpose is simple. To accept the present as a present from God and be thankful for your present. In all this, what do you achieve? You achieve living in the remembrance of God, in connection with the Higher consciousness, in recognition of your Supreme Creator and in trusting the process of life—all of which leads to true inner happiness. 

Live on purpose in every moment of your life because you were created in one. 

The benefit of noticing and experiencing the embedded blessings within the loss of my mother―the blessing in disguise―was received as well as expressed by me in numerous ways. One of which was in the form of authoring my first book, and another was getting clearer on my message and training others to find gain in loss by turning their lacks and trials into abundance and triumphs. During my travel on the Road of Loss that transformed into the Road of Gain, I noticed something extremely pivotal that I had always known but never realized. This is when the simple truth of human being’s purpose became magnified and visible to me.

Divine surrender

Every religion stresses upon the virtue of appreciation, thankfulness and gratitude. The Quran is the Holy book of the Muslims. Alhamdulillah—literally meaning Praise be to Allah (God), is one of the first words of the Quran. In common speech however, it means Thank-you God. The word is frequently used in everyday life by Muslims to express thankfulness and gratitude to God. 

Why did God choose to begin the first chapter of the Holy book with this word? Is the first word the first lesson? If so, why is it the first lesson? And finally, does this one lesson hold the power to an instant transformation of our lives?

Definitely, there’s a significance that can only be revealed through deep inner reflection. Sharing my reflections and learning, I reference the Islamic tradition because that is where my core values stem from but the message is for all human beings because the light of truth is for everyone. 

Remember, every journey starts with a question. The question of destination. Where are you headed? Then, comes the subsequent questions. Why are you headed there? How can you get there? In the current context, these questions can be asked in the following ways:

How can you touch the soul of gratitude? How can you enjoy its blessings?

How can you transform your life into one filled with joy and fulfillment?

How can you be truly free? 

The answers are simple but they have to be lived in their essence rather than read, learnt and understood. As Zig Ziglar said, attitude more than aptitude determines your altitude.

Summarizing the important steps to win the game of life, I—once a traveler on the Road of Loss—and now walking on the Road of Gain under the blessings of the Cloud of Gratitude, have found these simple facts to live by. You can embrace them too:

  • Life creates challenges so you can ask.
  • When you ask, it is given.
  • When, where and how it is given is not in your hands.
  • To receive, you have to fully surrender (your choice of how, when, where) to Divine will and trust in the process of life.
  • The strategy to win a rewarding life is to live in alignment with God.
  • Alignment comes from remembrance of God in each moment. In other words, being present and mindful.
  • Remember God and His present (moment) with the attitude of gratitude—no matter what.
  • Focus on what you have now instead of what you don’t have. 
  • Less is more. Grow more of what you have now by enjoying it with thankfulness rather than putting off your happiness for some future time until you have more. Stop focusing on trying to have more. Focus on what you have now with appreciation.

Lastly, it is important to point here that even though I made an effort to learn and practice gratitude in every way I could, I simply couldn’t touch its soul. I couldn’t reap its rewards. What I learnt through this experience was the human truth of humility. I am no-one and nothing without God’s grace. Even though I make an effort towards achieving an end, I cannot attain it purely through my own effort. God’s favor has to be an important ingredient of the equation.

In the Hands of God is the perfect time, the perfect place, and the perfect way to answer you. In your hands, is the power of choice. The choice to ask and the choice to receive. The perfect time to ask is now. The perfect way to own your power is to practice your choice to be mindful and therefore receptive to the answer as well as your choice to accept the answer. The perfect way to remain in your power is to focus your lens on the attitude of gratitude. 

How can you do it? Focus on what you have and enjoy it with the feeling of thankfulness. Remember, what you focus on grows. 

Why should you do it? Because it leads to a life of true joy, freedom and fulfillment. 

Now the important question, Should you be grateful? 

The answer lies within your heart. Follow your heart to find happiness at your feet.