In my last post, I talked about intention versus attention. So, let’s further the discussion, and talk about purpose. We’ve all thought about it. Usually, as a young teenager or when going off to college, the question is “What’s my purpose in life?”. Or, if you have been reading self-help books for a while, it’s “Am I living my life on purpose?”. But what exactly does that mean? According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of purpose is:
1a: something set up as an object or end to be attained: intention
b: resolution, determination
2: a subject under discussion or an action in course of execution
Reading this may make you wonder about the definition of on purpose, which is:
by intent: intentionally
Which leads to looking up intentional:
done by intention or design
And then, intention:
1: a determination to act in a certain way: resolve
2: import, significance
3a: what one intends to do or bring about
b: the object for which a prayer, mass, or pious act is offered
4: a process or manner of healing of incised wounds
5: concept; especially: a concept considered as the product of attention directed to an object of knowledge
We could go on looking up definitions all day, which might or might not lead to greater clarity. Judging from above, it seems purpose as a concept has different meanings to different people. Questions reflecting this may be:
- What is the end result that I want to obtain for my life, either in the short- or long-term?
- What is the course of action I must take to execute my goals?
- What things and goals are most important or significant in my life?
- Where do I want to direct my attention, and what knowledge do I wish to obtain in doing so?
- What has God called me to do so I may be of service to others?
All of these questions are perfectly valid. And with self-reflection, any or all of them serve as a sound compass to guide one’s life by. So, why do we find it so difficult to figure out? Why all the angst?
Personally, I think we get so stressed because we only expect there to be one answer – one purpose. In reality, as we change and grow, shouldn’t our purpose change also? Isn’t there always more knowledge to gain, more people to serve, more goals to reach, and more actions to take? If life were totally figured out, and our paths set in stone by the time we reached eighteen, most of us would have many years of boredom and stagnation before reaching the end of our lives.
Figuring out our purpose is not is not a one-and-done. If we can get ourselves to the point of realizing periodic reevaluation is necessary, welcome it, and even relax into the process, most of us would be much better off. In other words, rinse, lather, repeat, then breathe!
Have a great week!