This week I had a speaking engagement where I was asked to spend 90 minutes on the topic, Finding Your Purpose. A lot of people have said a lot of things on the subject. If you do a quick search of books on Amazon you’ll find scores of books promising you insight on purpose. Finding your purpose, leading with purpose, parenting with purpose, purposing with purpose. It’s daunting. But it does speak to the hunger people have to understand the deeper issues of life, Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?
Webster defines purpose as: The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. But over time that definition has evolved and changed. Long ago it meant single-mindedness in aim or goal, then shifted to mean by design or intentional. Later, practicality entered the equation and its meaning morphed to focus on something’s function or use, and finally, it took on the meaning of doing something with determination and resolve.
I think there’s something to apply from each of these definitions. We need to be intentional about our purpose, with a clear goal on what we’re hoping to achieve with the days we get to live. And when we figure out that purpose, hopefully we will be determined and resolved in that pursuit.
Sadly, I don’t think we’re always doing that so well. Henry David Thoreau observed,
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
I think this is true, at least in part, because people are waiting to have an epiphany, a profound moment of clarity where their purpose in life is revealed. Unfortunately, until we have that aha moment, we put purpose on hold. Or we get stuck in analysis paralysis, afraid to choose our purpose for fear we choose the wrong one.
I would offer one suggestion. Rather than approaching life from a perspective that you have one, ultimate purpose, recognize that your life may have many purposes. Some may be big, some small, but by recognizing life has many purposes, it allows us to pick something and pursue it, knowing that if we discover a greater, grander purpose tomorrow, that’s okay. We can change direction and pursue this new, greater purpose without guilt or regret.
With this in mind, why wait any longer? Pick a purpose and pursue it. Maybe your purpose is to be kind to strangers, maybe it’s to visit the sick and the lonely , or perhaps your purpose is to bring meals to the homeless. Just pick one. Who knows, you may just stumble onto something that truly becomes your life’s passion and purpose, but you’ll never know unless you do something. One thing that is certain, purpose requires action. So think about the possibilities for a little while, but not too long. Then go do something about it.