Finding clarity on your purpose can feel daunting. We think that because it’s such a big concept, that maybe it really doesn’t matter. Yet, it does. Just because we don’t know the answer, doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exploration. Today, we’re going to discover when purpose matters (and when it doesn’t).
Purpose is not a what. It’s a “why”. It’s why something is important to you. It’s why you try to achieve results in life. It’s why you want to have success in a certain area. Purpose can also be your intention, which is the seeds of action you plant now for a future that you do not yet know. This past weekend, I held a retreat on the Power of Intention – and it is truly both a spiritual and pragmatic pursuit. There really is no difference between your spiritual understanding and your pragmatic understanding of purpose.
Spirituality is that vision, the guiding north star – the purpose in a bigger sense.
Purpose helps to ground us, however, in the moment to moment living of this human experience. It guides the questions around “what should I do next?”. It is the next level of understanding of your vision.
Purpose matters when you’re not sure how to approach a situation. What we do and how we do it is the way that we live our purpose. Take being a parent. For many, that is a purpose. To care for their family. When you are asked to do something at work that comes at the expense of your family – and you’re not sure if this is the right thing to do – you can go back to your purpose of is this going to be good for not just me but my family as well?
Another example is to show up loving the world. If your purpose and the reason why you live life the way you do is to show up loving the world, it will ask of you to accept, surrender, find joy and take action without resentment.
We don’t judge purposes because they may not live into standards of society or any other ways you’ve used to measure your life. We allow purposes to come into our lives. I remember when I discovered my purpose, which is to learn to love – and it was that simple. It came to me on a plane ride as I was watching a Ram Das documentary. For the years prior, I had defined my purpose as to inspire and help others – yet it was easy for me to define it so simply as well. To love. More recently, I’ve added to it so that it’s now, “to let go and love”.
Purposes can be specific or not specific. Your purpose can be as specific as to spend time with loved ones while they are here with you. It can also be as non-specific as to love or let go. It really doesn’t matter the specificity. What matters is that in the moments of indecision, doubt and uncertainty – you know to come back to this purpose. It holds you steady in a world that is constantly changing and in flux. Your purpose can also change as you change – as you learn, grow and decide that there are new or different ways you want to live your life. It evolves with you, if you let it.
Now that you understand when it does matter, let’s address when purpose doesn’t matter. Purpose doesn’t matter when you’re not living your life intentionally. If you aren’t desiring to align your life with what you care about most or how you want to grow in life, you don’t need a purpose. Purpose also doesn’t matter if you already feel like everything you do already has a purpose. Perhaps you’re part of a bigger organization and mission and you so completely align with that purpose that you’ve taken it on for you, without even realizing it. I wouldn’t say purpose doesn’t matter, but sometimes you already have a purpose and you don’t even realize it.
What happens is that it’s rarely not about the question, “when does it not matter?” It’s more about the idea of defining or articulating it clearly. You might have a general idea, but you’re not sure if it’s right. You think maybe there’s only one thing. Maybe you even think it has to be your job. You see someone else who has a job that lines up with their purpose and you think, “I want that too” or “I don’t have that”. It’s ok to sit with that question for a little bit of time. To actually understand if you’re committed to growth and evolution so much so that you can tolerate discomfort of asking questions that you don’t know the answer to, yet.
I say “yet” because it is completely possible to find it. This is what I help my clients with and what matters most is that they are willing to go on a journey because the path isn’t linear. We didn’t come with instructions that said, “Life purpose is…” We observe, we learn, we decide and we take action. I often have my clients put the purpose question on the backburner if it causes them confusion, because an unfocused mind is a difficult place to take action from. Sometimes, we all need just a bit of space and for life to calm down before we can entertain questions of purpose.
Yet the paradox is that the purpose is already there. They just haven’t yet accepted it or owned it or decided it was “good enough”. We work on the mind and the thinking first, to allow for less inner criticism and more self-compassion. Then we can get to work on purpose and define the way you want to lead your life. If you can imagine, a doubt-filled and jugement-filled mind will never be happy no matter what their purpose is – so what’s the use of defining the purpose until we’ve cleaned that up? It’s like inviting people over to your home for dinner before having a table for them to sit at. Purpose needs a place to live that’s filled with enough compassion that it’s allowed to breathe.
My thoughts for you this week is to ask yourself if you have a purpose. If you do, are you living into it when it matters? Are we walking the talk and living with integrity? If you don’t yet feel that your purpose is clearly defined, and you want to know what it would be like to live with that kind of conviction – ask yourself what would be different in your life if I had a greater sense of purpose?
If that answer piques your curiosity and drives you to take action, I invite you to learn more about coaching. If this topic resonates with you and you want to see transformational results in your life, you’ll love coaching. Getting coached consistently is the spark that will light the fire of inspiration to make the change you’re looking to make. It is the first step in creating clarity, making a massive shift and moving obstacles out of your way so you can move forward. You can go to www.mayempson.com/contact to learn more.