What is life without a purpose? It is meaningless and well, purposeless!
When our lives do not have a purpose, we sure do have a problem.
The German philosopher Nietzsche said ,”He who has a why to live can bear almost any how“.
And that was so relevant in Viktor Frankl’s life in concentration camps during the Nazi times. His book Man’s Search for Meaning is a poignant memoir of sorts that describes his life in the camps but with the lens of what he learnt and derived from those experiences. This book is a must-read!! Frankl repeatedly mentions how having a purpose for his life helped him navigate the worst of circumstances. He also gives examples of others who lost a purpose in their lives and thereby lost their lives! Such is the power of PURPOSE! Its the fuel for our minds. It is truly what keeps us going. Its the oxygen that gives our brains and minds the capacity to function.
How can one find their ultimate purpose in life? What is the one thing I was born to do? What revolutionary work must I work on? What difference and impact should I make in the world? – These are the types of questions that flood the minds of people who are trying to find their purpose..
And here’s where I want to stop you before you spiral downwards with this line of thought. A ‘Purpose’ doesn’t have to be something larger than life. It doesn’t have to be something that is grand and/or has a world level impact. It is great if it does! It doesn’t have to be something that brings tears to other people’s eyes when they hear about it. That is not the purpose of a ‘Purpose’.
It can be simple things such as:
– making the best use of everyday
– being the best mom or dad I can be to my kids
– bringing a smile to atleast one person’s face today
– being a responsible teacher
– being a dedicated employee and so on and so forth.
The problem when we start to look for our purpose is the illusions of grandeur we have about it. We ignore the purposes that are staring us in the face due to some filter condition that we impose on ourselves!! No one has stopped us from having one of the afore mentioned things as our purpose. Instead, we have these filter criteria that we try to measure our purposes against:
– Is it at a global level? CHECK
– Is it different? CHECK
– Is it going to be my life’s work? CHECK
– Is it going to make me famous? CHECK
and so on!
The second myth lies in the fact that we all have ONE ULTIMATE purpose in life! This myth along with illusions of grandeur stops us from pursuing the purpose that is staring us in our face. There is no one ultimate purpose in and to our lives. We can have different purposes in our lives at different times. A mom of a young child could solely have a purpose of raising good children at a particular stage in her life. Later when the kids are self-sufficient her purpose could be to contribute to her community through her talents. You get the idea. We all can and should have different purposes in our lives.
In essence, our purpose is the beacon that drives us forward. It’s the lighthouse that we see from our ships and we steer towards. It is what helps us set our goals and set new ones. It’s the WHY that allows us to bear any HOW.
How does this apply to our careers?
When we have an overall life purpose, our careers may be the path to fulfilling the purpose(depending on the purpose). For example: if your purpose is to eliminate water shortage in Africa, then you may join organizations or start an organization that is geared towards that purpose. Alternatively, you may use your current position to garner money and resources towards that purpose! When we have a purpose to drive us forward, our career becomes a pathway towards the big purpose. We stop viewing it as a paycheck or as a JOB.
Find and acknowledge the purpose in your life and see your life and career is transformed!