At the risk of sounding a bit too spiritual, have you ever thought about defining your purpose? What kind of question is that? How do we know there’s a purpose to anything, let alone having to think about our own? Well stay with me and let me explain. Hopefully you’ll see where I’m coming from and maybe it’ll get you thinking a bit.
Most of us have been asked “what’s your passion” at some point in our life, I know I have. It’s not difficult to understand or identify what it might be. Normally, it will be to do with career aspirations or achievements in life. In other words, something we really want to do, or what you desire. Our purpose is harder to define because it often relates to something outside of us, not necessarily emotionally attached to us.
Your passion relates to what you desire, but your purpose relates to why you want a particular outcome. Having a purpose doesn’t require a passion, although it can lead to having one. Similarly, having a passion doesn’t require a purpose, but it can also lead to developing one. Working out what you want and why you want it are both important questions to ask yourself, but it’s the why that’s probably most important.
The Problem with Defining Your Purpose
It seems to be the latest fad to get people to “find their why” and it will answer the questions about what they want in life. That can be a let down because your why and want might not complement each other. If you have a strong purpose to do something, you don’t need to have a passion for it. It’s the purpose that will keep you going even when you have no passion to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the two don’t go hand in hand because they often do, I’m just saying that they don’t always.
Too often we go through life without really thinking about it. We allow it to just happen around us. Yes, we have some desires, things we want to achieve, but we don’t give enough time to defining what our purpose is. Why is it that we allow things to go on around us without taking time to notice them? Perhaps, because it’s easy to. That reminds me of one of the most read speeches of the writer David Foster Wallace, which he began with a parable:
There were two young fish swimming along, and they meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” The two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks at the other and says, “What the hell is water?” To me, that story is not only about noticing what’s going on around us, but also how we fit into it, how it affects us and how we affect it. If you allow life to pass you by without being aware and thinking about it, defining your purpose will be difficult.
Working Out Your Purpose
Now, we’re not talking about the purpose of life as I’m not sure there even is one. I’m talking about your purpose in your life. It’s something that’s different from person to person. If there is a purpose to life, I believe it is to be happy and to enjoy it, so how does your purpose fit into that? Whatever you decide it is, it will have an effect on others as well as yourself. It will affect any changes you make in your life and ultimately will also affect the universe as a whole.
Life coach, Darren Elder came up with 50 Questions to help you find your life’s purpose, which are interesting. Some of them are more about passion than purpose, but because they can be linked, you may find the list useful. Number 12 is interesting: When I was a child, what did I dream of doing with my life? Sometimes, by thinking back to our childhood we can remember hopes and dreams we had back then, that fell by the wayside. You may find some clues there that you’d forgotten about.
It doesn’t matter at which point in your life you discover your purpose, many people don’t realise it until in their later years. When we’re younger, we go through a learning curve, we gain different experiences and life continually changes. These experiences can change our beliefs and so it might take a long time to work out our purpose. It doesn’t matter what age you are when you discover it, it’s knowing it that counts.
Why Your Purpose Matters
Everything you say, do or achieve will affect your world and therefore the universe. This, in turn, causes an effect. This happens all the time, so each of us causes massive change throughout our lives. When you think of it in that way, it highlights the responsibility we carry. Even though that responsibility isn’t to others, it’s to our self, it will affect others. We are responsible for how we affect universe. Now, that’s some kind of responsibility!
Not everyone is aware of this and some don’t even care about it. That’s fine, because it’s their responsibility, not anyone else’s. Yours is important (to you), so what is it? Even if you think you don’t know, you probably do. You might have had quiet moments when you think about it but didn’t stay with it long enough.
What do you care about or how can you make a difference? Questions like these that will help you find the answer. Although it’s about you, it’s not just about you and this is where your purpose can differ from your desires. Finding your purpose can give life a meaning, a reason for being here and it doesn’t have to be anything to do with religion. If you can find the way to enjoy your life while helping mankind, that’s a great place to be.
Don’t Make it a Big Deal
Perhaps knowing your purpose is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s usually something we discover rather than decide on. None of us is the same, therefore discover our purpose in different ways and at different times in our lives. It’s a wonderful thing knowing what it is, but many people never give it a thought.
In his book The Strangest Secret, Earl Nightingale said of success, that only 5% of us are truly successful. He says the problem is, we conform and act in the same way as most people around us do. We act in the same way as the 95% who aren’t successful. This translates well to finding your purpose – if you just go through life without thinking about it, will you ever find true meaning?
If you’re lucky enough to have your purpose and desires in tangent, then you have the potential to live a happy, successful and contented life. Defining your purpose isn’t a big deal, just by thinking about it, you’re bound to discover it. You will find the answer within yourself because your subconscious is aware of everything about you and this is where the answer lies if you really want to know.