Often when I speak for a group in a conference break-out session or at an association meeting, someone will talk to me afterward and tell me that while their job is going well they long to do work that’s more meaningful. Sometimes they say they are searching for their life’s purpose.
It’s that old question of the meaning of life but with a more personal focus. Why am I here? What is my life supposed to be about? Usually that’s tied to our spiritual beliefs and the desire for significance that’s bigger than ourselves and our ‘right now’ lives.
The definition of purpose has three parts. First it is a reason for existence. The “why” something came into being or was created. Secondly it’s a desired effect or result you want it to achieve. The goal or intended outcome. Thirdly it is determination. The desire or resolve necessary to accomplish a goal, like to act with purpose.
So ‘purpose’ is more than a big, overarching goal. It’s the reason for the goal, the goal and the focused desire to achieve that goal.
To work ‘with purpose’ you need to know what you want, know why you want it and be determined to get it. Lack any of these three parts and it’s difficult to stay focused and motivated.
I find this search for purpose common in people who are at or near the mid-point in their career. In the early years we’re focused on building a career, working our way up the ladder, finding work that pays well and uses our talents and education. After a few years of working our way up and establishing ourselves in our careers we began to want more. We want significance. To feel that we’re making a difference. To feel that we’re having an impact on something or someone greater than ourselves.
I, like many of these audience members have had times in my life when I wanted someone to tell me what my real purpose was. Maybe a spiritual guru, fortune teller or sage on the mountain top could wave his arm, blink his eyes and part the clouds. A loud James Earl Jones type voice from the sky would proclaim, “This is your purpose! This is what you were put on earth to do! I now anoint you! Go forth and be amazing!” Never happened. I read the books. I took the seminars. I completed the assessments. I’ve paid career counselors, success coaches, psychics and astrologers. I’ve consulted wise old souls and a few wind-bags who were full of crap.
Here’s what I’ve learned. Stop looking for the “THE PURPOSE” of your life and start living the life you have with purpose. Right here. Right now. Right where you are.