The Importance of Finding Purpose

The idea of ‘finding your purpose’ can be all sorts of scary. Call me a cynic, but the idea has been appropriated by all manner of gurus, counsellors, and coaches who don’t have entirely noble intentions. It is not uncommon to see ads proclaiming to help you find your purpose (at a cost) and achieve a lifetime of happiness.

It sounds cliched, I know this, but I have found that a sense of purpose can only come from within. While I acknowledge that it is not as black and white as this, as different people have different struggles, ultimately, it is as black and white as this.

It just requires honesty, and perhaps a little bravery.

I want to be clear also that purpose and passion are two entirely different things. Again, the idea of ‘finding your passion’ has been appropriated for marketing value and has come to be a meaningless statement. We’ve been sold this idea, but at best it may be something temporary, at worst it is a flakey premise with little or no substance. But purpose is something else entirely.

As soon as I let go of the anxiety around  ‘finding my life purpose’ (as if it was a singular golden ticket to a happy life) and sat with the idea of peaks and troughs, my life became much more purposeful and deeply satiating on many different levels.

For some, their purpose maybe getting up each day to tend to their children – creating and nurturing family life, for others it may be to create art, or for others, go to their place of work and do a day of honest graft. Different things appeal to different people. But finding your purpose, to me, is about feeling like you are home when you are doing what ever it is.

I’ve accepted that purpose is fluid; just like people. It seems crazy to me that you discover something and expect that one thing to fulfil you forever more. Growth comes through continuing to explore multiple purposes in life.

I’m grateful that I’ve never got caught up in the idea of status. I don’t care what car I drive, as long as it’s safe, I don’t care that I don’t live in a castle; I only want my home to be a haven. I’m not fussed about fancy clothes – I want to feel good and comfortable. I don’t care that I am not changing the world or saving the world from itself.

I’ve found purpose in doing enough paid work to help pay the bills, but not so much that my children never see me. I’ve found purpose in temporary projects, like the #100dayproject (which I’ve written about here), I’ve found purpose in planning our next family adventure to Vietnam, I’ve found purpose in baking a simple treat for my family.

I guess what I’m getting at is that purpose is fluid, and it can be whatever brings you joy, motivation, contentedness. Yearning is natural, that cliche “the grass is always greener”, it’s a cliche for a reason – because of the truth in it. I yearn for many things – sometimes those yearnings are in conflict and soon dissipate, other yearnings are more consistent, and longer lasting. When I follow these up it helps bring me my sense of purpose.

In paying attention to what brings me this sense of purpose, I’ve also established what I don’t want from life. I don’t want to be harried and rushed and hassled, because it leaves me irritable and grumpy. I don’t want to be anyone’s slave or a slave to any one thing. There’s no satisfaction in being a martyr. I don’t want to accumulate much of anything – not money, not clothes, not modern gadgets.

Filtering in both directions – looking at what you don’t want, and then seeing what nourishes you, is a great exercise. Essentially it is about being mindful (that ole buzzword!), and tuning in to yourself – often we have found our purpose already, but just haven’t taken the time to notice.

I’m interested in this idea of purpose and what it means to others.

I’d love to hear what brings you to your sense of purpose? 

Comments

  1. says

    I REALLY like this. I’ve been dealing with awful stress and trying to work out how to live a better way. Will definitely sit down and make a list of what nourishes and what doesn’t. Great food for thought. Thank you!

    • collette says

      Thanks so much. I think it is a permanent work in progress, but learning how to distil what works for you and what doesn’t just gets us one step closer to living a meaningful life. But our own version of what is meaningful. I hope your stress abates and you can do some things that help you feel better. xx

  2. says

    This is a lovely post Collette. I think it’s really easy to get caught up in your work as purpose. Especially if it’s vocational. I think you can spend 20 years with your job as your life and end up totally burnt out and exhausted. I’m so guilty of that. My views on this kind of thing have changed a lot over the last year.
    I think there is a personality element to it as well, as in some people are real go getters but there has to be a balance or you can find yourself in a heap!
    So interesting. The simple things are often the nicest, the walks in the woods, the home baked snacks, the laughter with friends. It’s such a good thing to let go sometimes. It’s a hard thing to do.
    I hope you are well my beautiful friend xxx

    • collette says

      Yes, over the years I’ve seen people fall in a heap when their jobs come to an end, or the big corporates ‘dispose’ of them. There is so much life-affirming stuff to be found in life outside of work. It’s so great that you’re finding something new to give you energy and focus. Allowing ourselves to find pleasure in those simple things is often a task in itself – so many things vying for our attention. It’s so good to sit with the simple.xx

  3. says

    I always feel so calm reading your (wise) words Collette, and love the point you make about life purpose being a mutable thing as we change and grow, also the distinction between life purpose and life passion.

    I recognised a long time ago that the restriction of 9-5 working did not suit me or the talents I need to bring into the world, and since then I’ve been forging a different kind of life. I don’t want to be famous but I do want to contribute meaningful creative work into the world and inspire others.

    Elizabeth Gilbert wrote an interesting article a while back about the different between a job, a hobby, a career and a vocation. You’ve probably seen it too but if not it’s here: http://www.mamamia.com.au/elizabeth-gilbert-life-advice/ xx

    • collette says

      Aww, that’s so lovely of you to say that. I totally get your need to do meaningful work. I agree wholeheartedly, having done some pretty terrible jobs in the past. I will take a look at Elizabeth Gilbert’s article, I like her work. xx

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