Developing a Sense of Purpose
Lean into your uniqueness
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Today’s reading is about unpacking purpose.
Purpose is a life force that drives us forward.
Purpose is what allows us to work hard and struggle through challenges even when the chance of success is uncertain.
But what does it mean to have a sense of purpose? And how can we develop purpose in our own lives?
Who Has Purpose? How Can I Get It?
There are people throughout history that have demonstrated an extreme sense of purpose. We can look at these people to identify what purpose looks like.
MLK’s purpose was to make all people judged by their character, and not by their color of their skin.
Gandhi’s purpose was to lead a non-violent independence movement for India against British rule.
Steve Job’s purpose was to make computers friendly and useable by all.
You get the idea…
These prolific individuals had a purpose that when achieved, changed all of our lives.
But I think this gives a misconstrued meaning of what purpose is.
We mistakenly associate purpose with legacy. We think that in order for our purpose to be justified, that it must live on after we die.
This stems from our fear of death. We are scared that life has no meaning. That when we die, everything we did during our lifetime would have been for nothing. So we develop a big purpose to give our lives meaning so that our names and identities live on after we die.
Most of us won’t have our names in the history books, so we use a different form of legacy to derive purpose.
The Purpose We All Have
All of us are biologically programmed with at least one purpose.
To bring new life into the world.
This is one of the strongest mechanisms to feel like we can live on after death.
Raising kids can give us a deep sense of purpose because it does indeed create a legacy.
Now I don’t think that it is bad that we often associate purpose with legacy.
But using kids as a form of legacy to have purpose doesn’t quite work. Because the truth is, we will likely not be remembered in a few generations time. We barely remember our great grandparents.
This idea of using legacy to help us derive a sense of purpose to beat death, whether through historical significance or family, is a fallacy.
Purpose is stronger without the need to associate it with legacy.
The Purpose We Can Create
The goal is develop an impenetrable sense of purpose. To do this, it must only have meaning in this lifetime and to each of us personally.
If we only have a purpose for legacy, it will lead to negative permutations in other aspects of our lives. For example, some of the most extraordinary people we remember are often known to have destructive personal lives. While we do remember these people (at times), maybe on their death beds they wish they had better personal lives and weren’t so attached to their legacies.
Our purpose should act in harmony with our lives — not ruin our personal lives.
Purpose that only serves us, separate from a need for legacy, will make our lives better for both ourselves and our loved ones.
How Do We Develop Our Own Internal Purpose?
It is easy to find the need to receive external validation for your purpose. It goes back to the idea that we want other people to know our purpose, and thus, us.
I’m guilty of wanting to have a purpose so big that people pay attention to me.
How do I know that my purpose is for me alone, and not mutated by the world’s desires?
This may be the wrong question.
Our purposes will always to be tied to the world and the external environment around us. This is the very way we can derive purpose. We want to influence some change in the world that we see needs changing.
That’s why in order to develop an authentic purpose it must come directly from our own unique experiences.
One person that emulated this for me was my dad.
My dad’s mom passed away when he was 6 years old due to breast cancer. She was only 27. My dad took this life experience that shaped him at a young age, and decided he wanted to cure cancer.
When we meet people in the world who directly faced a problem, and then dedicate their lives to solving it, we feel inspired because it is personal.
By looking internally at our own life experiences, we can unpack things that may inspire us and dedicate our lives to them.
Purpose in a Nutshell
Don’t use legacy to justify your purpose.
Find an experience that has transformed your life.
The deeper you explore that, you will uncover your purpose.
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