“The thing that gets in the way of finding our purpose is the frantic search for it.” — Jamie Smart
Purpose seems to be a big issue right now. People all over the world are searching everywhere to find it. I’ve noticed in some groups of people the conversation has shifted from asking what do you do to what’s your purpose. As though there is some singular mission in the world that defines us and once we know what that is, all our problems will dissolve in knowing what our purpose is. Having a purpose makes us more attractive to the opposite sex, especially in the case of men.
A man without a purpose is somehow a rudderless ship, cruising round in an ocean of meaninglessness and distraction. I spent years feeling worthless because no matter how hard a looked, I could find or define a singular, mythical purpose. In the midst of all this thinking and obsession we lose touch with the ability to move forward and have a direction to go in.
The seminal work on success, Think and Grow Rich tells us that “A man must have a definite purpose to achieve material riches.” When that’s taken in context with the whole book, the sense of movement and motion towards something seems to be where purpose comes from.
Looking at the origin of the word purpose. It simple means to put forward. When we put ourselves forward, when we stand up for our beliefs and act in accordance with our values, then we have purpose. That could could look like starting a movement to end poverty or going for a walk in nature.
As the Systems Scientist Peter Senge says. We live in a nouning culture. We seek definition and meaning in objects so much so that legal frameworks have been created around the idea that the purpose of business is to make profit.
What if purpose isn’t an object? What if purpose is a place to come from, something that lives and breaths through us whenever we are living in the truth of our connection to life?
Maybe the issue is really that we are collectively asking a poor question that keeps hidden in plain sight the things that we love to do.
What is your purpose? Seems to be a question that seeks the grandiose. My purpose is to bring the leadership of the Solar Age to life. Maybe purpose is like an outfit that we wear depending on the current projects that we are engaged with at any moment in our lives.
Right now my purpose is to write this article and then publish it and see if it lands with anyone. Then I’ll move on to a purpose to take care of my body by making sure I get some rest before moving on to more coaching calls tomorrow where my purpose is to connect with my wisdom and create a space where a transformation can happen.
Look at Elon Musk for example. What is his purpose? What it to found paypal and shake up the way that money is transacted? Is his purpose to go to Mars or to revolutionise the automobile industry? Is his purpose to marry twice and go through an on/off divorce lasting four years?
Is that we see the direction that he’s heading in, we see that he’s showing leadership and willing to take risks and take action and because those actions have a particular shape? We say that he’s a man with a big purpose. One aspect of Elon Musks story is that he was able to look at principles and see things that were possible and then take action in that direction.
It happens again and again in conversation that people will say that they’ve no idea what their purpose is and in the next sentence tell me that they have always wanted to create a magazine or they dream of turning their house into a retreat centre.
Being on purpose might just be as simple as looking for the thing that you would like to do next. When that happens and you keep taking the next step in that direction who knows what might emerge.