Purpose is an elusive thing for many people. We all want it, but few people believe they have it. Some start their adult lives full of passion and enthusiasm, but get tired and distracted, and then end up somewhere they didn’t know they were going. Some are still doing what once gave them a sense of purpose, but now only serves to prove their life is unfulfilling. Some are still doing what once gave them a sense of purpose, but now seems unfulfilling. Still others don’t think they ever had purpose. Why is it such a struggle?
Purpose is Poorly Defined
I think it’s largely because of how poorly purpose has been defined. We romanticize it, and think that it’s a single mark to hit, like shooting an arrow at a bull’s eye. We expect to find it; that one thing that will provide unlimited joy and fulfillment in life. Purpose has become an object to possess, and a single life course to choose. We believe that without it, we will end up wandering through our existence, lonely, miserable and dissatisfied.
We have set ourselves up to fail! We have put unrealistic expectations upon ourselves and then wondered why things don’t work out right. I do believe in living a fulfilling life, and I do believe in purpose. I just think that we need to approach it from a different angle.
Purpose is Expressed
First, purpose is not attained; it is expressed. Our biggest downfall in seeking life purpose is assuming that we need to get it. We put ourselves into a never-ending treasure hunt with no map. We look and look, hoping to stumble across the X that marks our spot in this world. We look outwardly to satisfy ourselves inwardly.
Some try to find purpose in their career, their family or their money. Or it could be in their faithful service at church or social group. But putting all your focus into external things will never last.
Purpose is a Theme
We need to change our approach and look at purpose as a theme that runs through the pages of our lives. It’s not a matter of discovering THE ONE thing you were meant to do, it’s about identifying a purposeful role that you can play in everything you do.
Purpose is Already In You
Purpose is already inside of you. It’s written in your preferences and desires and in your natural strengths. It’s a pent up energy that’s just waiting to be used. And just like physical exercise, when you use it, you’re invigorated and satisfied. The more you give to it, the more it gives back to you. It makes everything you touch meaningful; at least it can if you let it.
For one person, purpose could be teaching. Whenever they are helping someone understand a concept they just can’t seem to grasp, that person feels alive. You’ll often hear a teacher say, “I don’t do it for the money.” Why? Because they find purpose in it.
For another person, it’s facilitating healing and recovery; so they are drawn to medicine, psychiatry or counseling. Another could find purpose in giving love to the unloved, and choose to become a foster parent or a nun who gives up everything she has to serve others.
It can seem that in the above examples, or in the lives of those you know who love what they do, that people find their purpose in their jobs. Not necessarily. A teacher could lose his job but then find another one as a product educator and absolutely love it. Different job, same theme. It’s not about what you do, but why you’re doing it.
What’s Your Theme?
Looking through the different areas of your life, what makes you feel most alive? What about time spent with your family is most fulfilling? What about your career first pulled you into it? What recreation or hobbies are most exciting to you, and why?
When you evaluate your life and find the brightest spots, you can begin to identify a theme of purpose that runs throughout your life story. When you have that understanding, you hold within your hands the power to make everything you do have meaning. By finding ways to express your purpose, you find a new kind of fulfillment in the same old things that once drained you.
You May Have One Main “Thing”
Sometimes there really is just one thing that you could ever dream of doing. If that’s the case, then go out and do it! But that doesn’t mean you can’t apply the same theme to everything else you do. The more fragmented your life becomes, the more challenging it is to be fulfilled.
You may be involved in many different things, but they should all be strung together with the common theme of your life purpose. There’s just no better way to live.