What is my purpose?
This question always plagued me because I never knew the answer. I used to think it was linked to my job, but once I got knee deep in my profession, I wasn’t finding the meaning I had hoped for.
When I was young, people would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I would never have an answer. They followed this question with another, “What are you good at?” In high school, I excelled in business, so that was a logical choice. I flip-flopped through different career choices, like indecisively trying on outfits for a fun night out, until I finally settled on one.
I used to think we had one purpose. One reason we were meant for this earth. I struggled with identifying what my higher purpose was. I struggled with finding my passion. I thought that one day it would dawn on me what I was destined to do for the rest of my life.
We often ponder these questions more in retirement, when time is more ample and the stresses of kids and mortgages are long gone. Or when someone hits their so called “mid-life crisis” and wrestles with getting older and questions the legacy he leaves behind (hello red convertible!).
An illness or tragic event can also prompt someone to consider, “Is this what I really want to be doing with my life?”
What I didn’t realize was there isn’t one thing we are destined for. A view like this is too simplistic. It doesn’t appreciate how complex we are. It doesn’t allow for us to evolve over time.
Having a higher purpose also doesn’t allow us to consider the daily nuances of our lives. No one really likes washing dishes, or at least, I haven’t met anyone yet, but somehow the dishes have to get done. No one likes being stuck in line, especially behind the slow person at the grocery store, yet we find ourselves waiting. No one wants to find ourselves in a job that brings us little joy, yet we have to put food on the table.
What I didn’t appreciate was the difference between finding my purpose and living with purpose. My focus has shifted from, “What is my higher purpose?” to “How can I live with purpose?” I do more activities that bring me joy, like drinking coffee in the morning, or are necessary, like drinking coffee in the morning.
If I find myself faced with an activity that isn’t important or necessary, I question whether I need it in my life:
- Is this worth my time?
- Is this important to me?
- If I have a choice, I ask, “Will I regret not doing this?”
- If someone is in need, I ask, “What can I do to help?”
- When faced with saying or doing something negative, I ask, “What good will come from this? (Will I feel better? Will it help?). If there is no good in it, why do it?