The above quote is from one of Leider’s older books, which I thought would be a good place to start my personal exploration of purpose. I am engaged in several projects right now that have to do with discerning and living out what we are meant to be and I am having a blast revisiting some tools and strategies I first learned decades ago, while reading up on the more current thinking around how we discern what we are here to do.
I find Leider’s statement useful, because it incorporate three basic concerns for anyone who senses that there is more to life and work than simply making money.
THE POWER OF CHOICE …
In a world where we often experience the effects of someone else’s decisions or something else’s action, remembering that we have the power to choose can be difficult.
A greedy CEO takes action to protect his personal wealth and a company fails, with resultant job losses and turmoil.
Mother Nature reacts to global behavior and floods somewhere, while somewhere else experiences a massive drought, and severe weather seems to have become the norm for many, with property damage, loss of life, and economic upheaval following.
However, as anyone who has read Viktor E. Frankl knows:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
The freedom to choose is an important element in our lives.
OUR UNIQUENESS …
We might now feel all that unique these days, as mass media continues to communicate how we ought to feel, think, and behave with shot-gun blasts of generalized messages in various forms.
The sheer weight of completing with 7.4 BILLION other people probably daunts many, which may be why so many of us seem unaware of all our neighbors and co-inhabitants of this planet.
Our neighbors may be familiar to us in many ways. They may resemble you physically, and we all share the same general range of emotions, values, beliefs, and attitudes. Many of us have engaged in the same type of work as others, sometimes to the point of feeling lost in a gigantic stream of monochromatic “worker bees“.
Parents loves their children in a very universal way and the differences are usually superficial cultural, ethnic, or religious ones.
But nobody else is YOU… your unique combination of all of the above, plus your individual experiences in families, communities, and work environments … plus that “choice” thingie. Even if your life is completely and totally the same as another, you have the ability to choose a different path.
MEANINGFUL USEFULNESS …
As I am finding out, Leider and others who try to help us lead more purposeful lives, have a mantra that is repeated time and again … Knowing your purpose is nothing unless you act to actually engage in your purpose.
I do not have the link, but I remember reading about research that indicates that people who learn their purpose, but do not fulfill it, are actually less happy than those who do not engage in discerning what they were made to do, and definitely less happy than those who discern and then act.
“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”
So says Marlon Brando‘s sad protagonist in the Oscar-winning 1954 film On The Waterfront. If you only know of Brando’s more recent bloated and sinister acting, take a few hours to watch some gut-wrenching acting.
We strive for purpose, because purpose creates a sense of meaning in our lives … if we then act on what we learn. As I currently understand the journey to purpose, here is what purpose is not:
Purpose is not our work, although what we do for a living may reflect our purpose.
Purpose is also not what we enjoy doing, although we may enjoy living out our purpose.
Purpose is not our life goals, although our life goals may involve our purpose.
Much more coming about this journey to purpose, but meanwhile:
How have you discerned your purpose in life?
How have you acted out your purpose?
What difference has this made for you?
Trying hard to consciously choose my best path and walk it with courage in the Heartland ….