In 2002, Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Life. By 2007, 30 million copies of the book were sold. The book has been on the New York Times best seller list for advice books for one of the longest periods in history. That alone makes it obvious that people want to know what their purpose in life is, and why they are here on earth. It is actually one of the biggest struggles that people experience in life. No one wants to leave this world without feeling like they have discovered who they truly are, and why they are here.
If You Exist, You Have a Purpose
By definition, purpose is the reason for which something exists. Have you ever asked yourself why you exist? Maybe you have never thought of it, or maybe you don’t care. If you exist, you have a purpose. Not believing you have a purpose or thinking that life has no meaning won’t prevent you from eventually discovering it. Sooner or later each of us will ask ourselves the question. A sense of purpose (self-actualization) is at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. According to his theory we all yearn for a sense of purpose. Can you imagine a world in which we were all living our lives according to our purpose? We would be living in a much different world. I believe God created me for a purpose. Whether you believe in God, another higher power, or in just simply fate – you have a purpose.
Don’t Listen to Fear & Doubters
Today I read an article written by a man who was giving five reasons why you should stop thinking about your purpose in life. One of his key statements was, “your life is as meaningful now as it will ever be.” Do you buy that? I don’t. Fear blatantly stood out in the article as if it was waving a red flag. I think he gave up and didn’t want to go down alone. Don’t pay attention to your fear or the fear of others.
The Purpose Puzzle
One day many years ago, I attended a church service where the speaker was talking about how each of us has a purpose. The purpose was not only within the church, but in the community and the world. The week before, she had given each person a piece of a puzzle. She instructed them to write their names on the back of their puzzle piece. The pieces were collected, and over the week she assembled the puzzle. It turned out that some of the pieces were missing. She spoke about how the church, community and world are made up of people who each have a purpose, and how the other members depended on one another. When pieced together, the outcome was a beautiful picture. Each person or piece held an important place. In the places that were missing pieces, the puzzle was not as strong. You noticed the missing pieces. They were missed. As she spoke, I thought about my own purpose and place in this world. I kind of felt left out because I had missed the week before and I wasn’t able to participate. As silly as it sounds, I left feeling kind of alone and down. As I walked across the parking lot to my car, suddenly I glanced down and there was a piece of the puzzle! Someone the week before must have not wanted to participate. They discarded their piece of the puzzle. Not everyone cares about their purpose. I stood there shocked. I bent down and retrieved it. For years I held onto that puzzle piece. It reminded me that my purpose is important. If we seek our purpose we will find it. Purpose leads us to a life of fulfillment, meaning, and satisfaction. Purpose moves people to change the world in some way – to put a dent in the universe.
Our Purpose Is Not Set In Stone
So what does having a purpose mean? Is it your career, your hobby, a cause, or the volunteer work you do? Is it being the best mother you can be? It could be any of those things, or more than one. It could be one thing today, and another ten years from now. Our purpose is not set in stone. Our purpose can evolve and change as we become more self-aware, and as we learn and grow. It is not restrictive. Purpose can change along with the seasons of our life. I love my 9 to 5 job. I believe I am where I am supposed to be. However, outside of my job I have another purpose to fulfill. It is helping others. I have always known I wanted to help others. It is just recently I have come to understand in what capacity.
Be patient. Discovering your purpose can take years to figure out. Some people feel they were born for a purpose, and they have always felt called to a certain thing. Others struggle to find their purpose. It may take years and unfold over time. However, most people keep on searching because they feel like something is missing. You don’t feel like something is missing when you are living the passion-filled, purpose driven life. You know when it is right. Be patient though. If stay self-aware, you will figure it out.
Sometimes what we believe is our purpose turns out differently then we first thought. Since I was about 19, I knew I wanted to work in the counseling field. After my divorce I went back to college. I knew exactly what area of counseling I wanted to specialize in. I was convinced that because of my personal experiences, that area of practice would be perfect for me. Through both my undergraduate and graduate years I did all of my research papers on the topic. One day in class we all had to share about the area we wanted to specialize in and why. I remember the woman sitting next to me said she wanted to specialize in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I still can recall how I thought that would not interest me. I do not remember what any of the other students said. Now eight years later, here I am getting trained in the area of PTSD. Our life’s experiences have a way of sending us down a different path. That day in class I would have never guessed that one day my daughter would go through a traumatic experience and spend three years recovering from PTSD. I would have never believed how it would affect my family. It was a devastating experience for us that led me on a nationwide search for someone to successfully treat my daughter. That led me to the path I am on today. I ended up here because of the passion that I now have to help others that are going through the heartache and hopelessness that we did. Sometimes connecting with the negativity in our life in a positive way will lead us to discover our life’s purpose. We become passionate about the things that have changed us.
There is no magic formula for discovering your life’s purpose. And you are never too young, or too old to discover it. It is different for each of us. Just remember, if you exist there is a reason why you exist. Stop running from your purpose. Chances are, I am talking to you. Why do you feel not worthy? You matter. You are needed. You are a piece of the puzzle.
Some helpful exercises for trying to discover your life’s purpose:
• List the things you are passionate about
• List some of the hard things you have gone through, what you learned from them, and how you could help others who are dealing with similar problems
• What are the things that energize you and give you feelings of self-contentment?
• Ask yourself what you would do with your life if money wasn’t an issue
• What makes you cry? If you sit down and write a list of things you care about or are passionate about, eventually you will probably find one that makes you cry.
• What do you want to teach others?
• Keep a journal of your thoughts on this subject
• Don’t compare your purpose to someone else’s. We were not all meant to walk on the moon or to discover electricity. Do you hear what I am saying? Your purpose is just as important as the others.