It’s Memorial Day weekend and my sons and I traveled to a place my ancestors helped settle. There’s even a monument honoring my great-great grandfather. This got me thinking. His life had obvious purpose. He accomplished something lasting. What about my own life? I was sitting in a doctor’s office several years ago devouring an article that told me the sure way to be happy was to figure out my purpose and not be distracted from it.
I defined purpose as one’s intention or objective and I set out to find my own. Mind you, I was already over 40 and had likely lived the majority of my life. It took me two and a half more years to figure it out. I did it through watching Ted Talks, and scouring libraries of self-help advice. I did it by honestly answering the soul-scouring questions:
- What am I passionate about?
- What did I dream of being before the world told me I couldn’t be that thing?
- What makes time fly for me?
- What are my natural talents?
- If resources were not limited, what would I do?
All valid probes. And once I had the answers, off I went like a lit firecracker. I chided my grown children for not getting on their own paths to purpose. I pounded out a book to help others find their purpose. I preached from pulpits that we’re all on this earth to follow a path that leads to our own happiness. It worked. The book sold. People told me they were inspired by the message. (My still-searching kids, of course, avoided me like.)
Looking back on that stretch of effort, I cringe. Because now I know that I was wrong. Life does not have a purpose. Don’t stone me for saying so. It’s true. YOU have a purpose. Life is not about finding the “right” road out of a zillion possibilities. It’s about traveling as many as we can. It’s about the journeys we take and not just the destinations at which we arrive. That means life has many purposes. YOUR life has many purposes and you decide what they are.
To prove this, I conducted a little field research. I talked with all kinds of people from all kinds of places and stations in life. The one commonality they had was that they were all living a life of purpose. That means they were happy. Fulfilled. And useful to humanity. Here’s where we get so confused and frustrated. We mistakenly think that purpose is what we do. It’s not. My definition of the concept was technically accurate, but far from complete. Purpose is about WHY we exist. WHY we create. WHY we do what we do.
Right now, as I type this fire is crackling inside of my soul. It’s true. It’s simple. And it will change your life if you just remember that your purpose is within and not without.
A half dozen things I learned from people who live purposefully include:
- Staying aligned with the Source who grants life. This is key. As long as you’re connected to that type of inspiration and guidance you can travel all sorts of roads without getting lost.
- Trusting that you’re not here by random selection. Your existence at this time and place is no accident. The omniscient Source of life doesn’t make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t made. It just means there is perfect purpose in all things, including you. So even if you can’t yet understand it, believe that there is One who does.
- Learning as you go. This allows for mistakes to become teachers and not punishers. Think about that for a minute or two. There is wisdom and growth in every experience if we are open to receive it.
- Life changes and changes us. What we do changes from day or day or hour to hour. WHY you do what you do should never change. If you’re here to learn and serve then let those motivations be your polar stars, so that no matter what you’re doing, you’re still living your purpose.
- Believe that your Source loves you. Einstein said that the most important question we will ever ask is whether the Universe if friendly. I promise you that It is. And when you believe this, you automatically connect to unbounded resources, a higher vibrational energy, and a sustainability that is beyond comprehension. You feel alive!
- Gratitude is awareness. Being grateful puts you in a place where other people’s opinions about your purpose don’t count. It keeps your thoughts, emotions and actions in harmony with your purpose. It allows you to come back when you detour. Gratitude invites that connection between you and your Source.
You can tell I’m stoked because I’ve finally learned something valuable. I no longer nag my son that he must figure out what he’s doing to do with his life. (Ha-ha—key word here is HIS life.) I no longer think every student has to declare a major when they’re freshmen. I don’t look at my chore checklist and say, “What did I accomplish?” I look at it and ask, “WHY did I do the things I did?” This keeps me living purposefully.
We’re all different. We all have worth. Every life has many purposes. And it’s not mine to tell anyone else how to live. But I do hope that you find something useful in my ramblings. I share these things because I really do love people, and if I can keep someone from making the same painful mistakes I’ve made, then chalk one up to our common, all-caring Source.