What is our purpose and how do we know if we are fulfilling it?
Our purpose is defined here as the impact that each person has on people and the world we live in. Each person is a unique expression of life and therefore our individual impact is unique as well.
You may be surprised at how ‘broad’ our purpose can be. It is not a specific way things look or a goal that is achieved. It is more an experience that you and others have when you are being your most authentic self. Our purpose also ends up being for us – not only for others. There is no requirement to be a hero for others without saving ourselves in the process. Our purpose represents the experience we want to have in life. It starts with us and includes everyone else we interact with. We get to receive what we are giving.
Here are some examples of Purpose:
- We value ourselves and each other for who we really are by remembering power is about being ourselves.
- People and nature are nurtured and thrive by respecting their unique talents, preferences, and abilities.
- We are happy and carefree by being ourselves.
- We feel respected and important by honoring our own needs.
It has been said that your purpose is where the world’s greatest need and your heart’s greatest desire meet. Can you see the intersection in your own life?
Look at the places in your own life where you enjoy giving. Where do you naturally jump in and help? If you could afford to give to others without worrying about money, what would you give? Who would you give to? Where would you do it? In what ways? Why there? How do you feel about yourself and others when you imagine making a difference in this way? If you won the lottery, what would you do with yourself if money were no longer an issue?
A person’s life is already an expression of their purpose, whether this purpose operates consciously or subconsciously. When it is conscious, it can be used to give our lives meaning and direction. When it remains hidden, we can find ourselves adrift – not quite knowing where we fit even if we do find ways to make a difference in the lives of others.
Often it is our pain that releases our unique way of giving.
It is said that our purpose is formed through our early life experiences. Often it is our pain that releases our unique way of giving. For example, if you lost a loved one at an early age you may have made a decision that you never wanted anyone to ever have to feel the loneliness that you felt as a child. From this belief, you became friends with the children in your school who seem to be lonely. You found ways to make them laugh and feel happy again. As you got older new ideas and actions come out of this decision; working to help transition foster children, supporting divorced mothers back into the workplace and social scene, situations that allowed you to help others to work through their lonely feelings and to find other relationships that nurture them. Just like you had to do – and may still be doing now. Out of the early decisions we make from our pain can grow a place of giving that heals both us and others.
No boss, teacher, parent, priest or other authority can decide your purpose for you. It is an agreement that you have with your own soul. And regardless of what we have been told, purpose has nothing to do with sacrifice, getting approval, being ‘selfless’ or conforming to somebody else’s idea of the correct way to live. It does not mean giving up something you like for something more ‘worthy’. Your purpose is derived from what you most value. It pays, therefore, to resolve our conflicting values so we can avoid being a slave to someone else’s purpose.
Purpose is not achievement. For example, achievement can mean being successful at a job you do not want, to enable you to afford an expensive car you do not need in order to impress a girlfriend you do not like. Purpose is something you express continually in order to express your pleasure of giving and living, not a list of things you have to achieve to be successful by the world’s standards and values.
Using Our Purpose
Knowing our purpose and using it are two very different things. One way we can use our purpose is to understand what we are here to teach AND to learn. Our purpose can be a critical navigation tool for our life. By considering how our life choices are or are not aligned with our purpose, we can use our purpose consciously when we make choices. This loosens us from the hold of fear. It gives us a magnetic north – a compass point with which to navigate decision by decision.
I have used my purpose many times to make decisions. Most recently, I used it when I was feeling angry and powerless in a work situation. I asked myself, “If I stay on my current course, am I moving closer to or further away from my purpose?” I took the words of my purpose and applied it to the current situation to see if I could gain some insight (‘we value ourselves and each other for who we really are by remembering that power is about being ourselves’). I found that I was not valuing myself in the situation. I was afraid to be myself and express how I felt, and I was focused on controlling what was happening around me in an effort to change the situation that was not working. When I decided to value myself and remember my power was about being myself, I allowed myself to feel the feelings of anger and powerlessness. Then, I expressed them in responsible ways so I could move toward what was most loving for me.
How will the world be different because YOU are here?