The Unending Pursuit of our Purpose
It doesn’t take as long as you think.
We have the awesome privilege of pursuing some sort of fulfillment in life, but it doesn’t guarantee that we’ll ever grasp it. People will spend hours, days, weeks, months, years, and even decades trying to find their purpose.
When I was sitting in a social work class in undergrad, I especially remember one adjunct professor speaking about our constant pursuit in life. A little backstory on him — He was working at a type of detention center for youth at the time, he was a husband and father, he was coaching his daughter’s basketball team, and he was there in front of us, every Monday night at 7pm. At one point, I remember him talking about all the things he was committed to. A student randomly asked him why he even decided to teach with all of that going on. His response resonated, and I haven’t forgotten it.
He said, “I guess I’m not satisfied in life yet, I don’t know”. From there spawned a talk about purpose and our constant pursuit of it. He talked from personal experience about how he began his career and was ecstatic about the opportunities that came with it. He talked about building a family, and how much joy his kids bring him. Of course, he talked about his wife and the mutual support in their marriage. He spoke about teaching and why he wanted to keep doing it. Then he shifted the conversation.
He doesn’t feel like he’s fulfilled his purpose yet.
He started talking about the last commitment he made — to coach his daughter’s basketball team. His energy changed a bit when he started talking about why he was doing this. Besides the obvious, like the fact that it gave him an opportunity to teach a sport, he said he doesn’t feel like he’s fulfilled his purpose yet.
To summarize — this adjunct professor is working 40hrs/wk at a detention center that is in the business of rehabilitating under-privileged youth, while teaching a social work course at the collegiate level, while coaching a girl’s basketball team, while fulfilling responsibilities as a father and husband at home. He doesn’t feel like he’s fulfilled his purpose yet?
What does it mean to fulfill your purpose?
This guy might never know this, but he’s largely contributed to my thoughts and feelings on purpose, and why we feel like we’re in constant pursuit of it. Think about this for a second. What if we’re fulfilling our purpose every day?By committing to these passions and recreational activities, he was essentially living his dream every single day, maybe sometimes without realization.
The truth is, we tend to believe that everything will change for the better if something new happens.
I thought about this for a while, and I thought about it for a couple reasons. Why do we feel like we’re pursuing purpose when we’re living it? I think a great majority of us are just unfulfilled by the way we budget our time. I also believe that when we become “stuck” and feel like we’ve been in the same job for too long, have thought about going back to school but haven’t, pursued a hobby but gave up too soon, or any other arbitrary failure, we start to fall into this place of disgust with our daily routine.
The truth is, we tend to believe that everything will change for the better if something new happens. This is a lie. Things will change, sure. There’s no guarantee that anything will get better, though. In addition to this, often times we turn to this method to unknowingly flee from pursuing our purpose. We buy or invest in something, move, quit a job, or make some other major decision because we’re unhappy with our current situation. To make matters worse, we do this without preparation or even thinking of potential repercussions in the future. This can become damaging and may even present a barrier to us living our life.
We put a lot of pressure on “purpose”, don’t we?
Living with purpose.
We always talk about “finding your purpose in life”, but I’m proposing that we are living our purpose every day. Allen Saunders was published in reader’s digest in 1957 saying, “life is what happens to us while we are making other plans”. I think while life is happening, we are living out our purpose through those moments. The “other plans” he’s speaking of, just might refer to our pursuit of this perceived purpose.
We put a lot of pressure on “purpose”, don’t we? We put it on a pedestal, like it has to be earned through a plethora of impossible tribulations. We live out purpose every day, though. Through being a father, mother, sister, brother, colleague, friend, mentor, husband, wife, or any other role that we are purposed to fulfill, we are carrying it out on a daily basis. Let’s stop getting discouraged when we feel like we don’t do any rewarding work or we feel unproductive at best. The idea that purpose is some achievement is wrong.
Purpose is getting out of bed. It’s coming home after a day at work and making something for dinner so the kids stop complaining. It’s dragging our butts to the gym even when we lack motivation. It’s continuing to show up. It’s us smiling when it feels like we can’t, and it’s us sabotaging our entire day for a friend who is in need. It’s embedded in the work we do and the people in our lives.
You are purposeful. I think the sooner we realize we are fulfilling our purpose every day, the sooner we can get away from this idea that we need to “find” it. Purpose is your daily life. Live it.