Throughout our life we experience times when we are confronted with questions relating to the meaning and purpose of our life. These often surface during transformational times (e.g. after we have experienced a major loss, mid-life, retirement, etc.). We are often confronted with our own mortality during these times which naturally results in the contemplation of some profound questions.
- What is the meaning of life?
- What is my purpose?
- What is life all about?
- What should I do with the rest of my life?
I recall one of these times in my own life. I was in my early thirties and had gone through a divorce a year earlier. These situations are by nature challenging, and in my case compounded by the issues I had developed from my childhood with respect to co-dependency, low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, etc. I was in counseling and using several of what I refer to as the “tools for self-discovery” which were helping me to crawl out of the rut I was in. I worked hard to get to a better place which is when these questions started to emerge.
The short of the long of this was that I hung up my corporate shingle for a backpack with a purpose to discover the meaning of life. It was a life-changing experience, a sort of modern-day vision quest. What I did discover helped me to answer a key question in relation to the realization that there was indeed meaning to life. The next question related to understanding how I fit into life, or in effect, what is my purpose. The answer to this question would elude me for many years.
Discovering our purpose can be quite elusive for many, as it was for me. What I realized later on was that I considered purpose to be was a destination, a point in time where I was doing something of great value and meaning. For some, this is how their purpose unveils itself. For others, it is not about a destination but the journey. The journey in this case is marked by a number of phases or periods of time, each defined by a unique purpose. In my case one of the initial phases related to recognition that there was a problem. My purpose at that time was simply accepting that it was not the world at fault, but the fault was with me.
This was followed by another phase where my purpose would have been defined as gaining clarity about the origin of the unhealthy behaviors and how to change these. This was followed by another period of time where I focused on understanding my own definition of life, success, and happiness. Then was a period of integrating these into my life, and so on. They all related to my overarching purpose which has been to Discover Michael.
I am now venturing into another phase of my purpose which is to “be” Michael, to muster up the courage to be who I really am, including all of my core beliefs and values. Each phase of my purpose builds on the prior phases and provides new challenges and obstacles. It is as if my life’s purpose was never about a destination at all, but a journey of discovery! The more I discover, which is marked by new awareness, and the more I integrate these into my life, the more I become my full potential, which I believe may be a characteristic of everyone’s purpose.
Purpose in this case is more focused on our state of being, than it is on what we do or have. This was confusing to me since so much of our lives are focused on what we do, and what we have. As we develop our new sense of being, we may define new ways of doing and having that are consistent with who we are at this point. For me this is represented by greater interests in living live without fear, being who I am, and developing a lifestyle more characterized by service to others.
So if you are struggling with the concept of purpose in your life, realize that you are not alone. Something to consider when reflecting on this is the thought that your purpose is a journey, one of discovering and integrating into your life new awareness and realizations. Each phase is represented by a purpose based on your current set of beliefs and values. How well you achieve your purpose at each interval is based on how well you have applied what you have learned so far. Therefore, the question possibly should be, what is my purpose at this moment!