Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my motivation? What is my ‘Why’? These are all purpose-related questions most of us will struggle with at various stages throughout our lives.
What is purpose and why is it important?
Purpose is “the reason anything is done, created or exists”. Everyone has or needs a purpose, otherwise we are just flopping around with no true sense of direction or meaning to our lives. However, defining our purpose in meaningful terms can be a major challenge.
We quite often hear the term, “find your purpose”. Every time I hear this I want to respond, “I didn’t know it was lost”. But in reality, it wasn’t lost because in order to be found it had to exist. Therein lies the difficulty for many people.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” – Lewis Carroll
Why having a purpose is so important:
- Drive and passion.
- Achieve success.
These are just a few of the things that come to mind when we consider why having a strong sense of purpose is so important.
Are motivation and purpose the same thing?
No. However, motivation and purpose are intertwined. Motivation is situational. It is what drives us toward a specific goal. To distinguish the two, purpose is universal, it is our reason for being. Without a clear sense of purpose, what is my motivation? A sense of purpose is the fuel that drives motivation.
In the business world, we need to similarly differentiate purpose from vision and mission. Much the same as with goals and plans, we often use these three terms interchangeably to convey the same thing. They are not.
Vision is the most powerful motivator in an organization. A Vision Statement describes the company’s ideal future. It answers the question, “What impact do we want to have on society?” The vision is how you look after you have achieved your mission.
Mission is what you want to achieve today and in the future. The Mission Statement describes the overall framework of the company: what you do, who you do it for, and how you do it. It also establishes the boundaries for the organization’s current activities.
Purpose is why you do what you do. Much like vision, purpose connects the head with the heart. What I mean by this is that purpose works best when it reflects your “Why” as an organization and as an individual. Purpose also keeps you focused on why you exist.
While most companies have developed Vision and Mission Statements for their organizations, few have gone beyond this to look at a Purpose Statement. Even though having a strong sense of purpose tends to resonate well with customers. Regardless, having purpose and meaning are critical for any business or individual to succeed.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” —Mark Twain.
Purpose encapsulates not only who and what we are all about, but more importantly, what we are called to do. Living with a sense of purpose means living life to the fullest and becoming all we are meant to be in the process. When your life is driven by a clear sense of purpose, it takes on a different meaning.
FUN FACT: Studies have shown that when people are contributing to a higher purpose, they are likely to have a healthier outlook on life and be more resilient to stress.
Now we are getting to the true essence of purpose. What is important to us in our ‘20s and ‘30s is different than our ‘50s and beyond. Although our goals, core values and beliefs tend to shift over time with more life experiences, they should always be aligned with our purpose. Otherwise we can easily become discouraged, frustrated and lost.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a good example for how our priorities shift during various stages of our lives. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of motivation developed by Abraham Maslow. Maslow believed people move through different stages of five needs that motivate our behavior:
When we are connected to something greater than ourselves we tend to have a greater sense of purpose in our lives, and our core values and beliefs will reflect this change. Bob Buford addresses this time of transition as a growing awareness in midlife “moving from success to significance” in his book Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance.
“Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.” – Bertrand Russell, Atheist
Speaking of connecting to something greater than ourselves, I’ll close by letting you in on a little secret if you haven’t figured it out already. The reason we so often struggle with purpose is … “It’s not about us.” Focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s true purpose.
Christian author Rick Warren wrote the book titled The Purpose Driven Life in 2002. In the most recent special addition of his book Mr. Warren points out that “The purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That’s because we typically begin at the wrong starting point – ourselves.”
As Mr. Warren writes, “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, and even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, and even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”
Trying to discover your life’s purpose can be confusing, frustrating and overwhelming at times, particularly when the answers are not forthcoming. If you are having difficulty in this area it may be helpful to take time away from the daily rat race. Schedule “me time” to do some soul searching, journaling, and devote time to prayer.
Here are my (3) suggested ways to help you discover your purpose:
- Write (tell) your story. Everybody arrives on this planet with unique desires, gifts and talents. Discover yours by capturing your life’s journey and sharing it.
- Find and build your community. Our happiness is largely dependent upon how we connect with and contribute to others. It’s also a great resource for feedback.
- Live beyond your limits. Should you live for your resume … or your eulogy? Believe your life has meaning and that you are a historically significant event.
Additional resources to assist you in discovering your purpose:
- 15 Things You Should Know: Wisdom for Life’s Journey http://www.trescoachbooks.com/
- Discover YOUR Formula for Success https://www.udemy.com/discover-your-formula-for-success/
- TED Talks to help you find your purpose … https://www.ted.com/playlists/313/talks_to_help_you_find_your_pu
- Finding Your Life’s Purpose Online Tests … https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/life-purpose-online-tests/
Once you discover your purpose, then give yourself permission to become all that you were meant to be. Start each day by boldly declaring, “I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not shrink to a grain of sand.” – Og Mandino
Enjoy the journey!