I have always known that a genuine purpose must involve serving others in order to feel fulfilled from pursuing it. But, an article appearing in the Oak Park Journal provided even more validation for my belief.
Written by Ken Trainor, he noted that people follow predictable stages through their lives. When we are younger and still in the growing-up phase, most things we do are inwardly focused from a rather selfish perspective.
“We’re growing up, discovering who we are, identifying and developing our skillset,” Ken wrote. “We learn how to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else.”
Then, we enter the great crucibles of life — marriage, work and raising children. During that hectic, bewildering and stressful time, our character starts focusing on the needs of others, be it a spouse, boss or children.
The heat and stress from those challenging experiences often works to burn the “self” out of our ego. Without the crucibles, we would remain entirely inner-directed and ultimately wind up in isolation, Ken explained. However, if we strive to be others-directed all the time, it’s a recipe for exhaustion.
“You have to help others in order to help yourself, and you have to help yourself in order to be effective helping others,” he added.
The more we are required to serve others and do it out of necessity or a sense of duty, the more our character realizes how enjoyable serving really is.
“After a certain point in life, pursuing more indulgent, less meaningful forms of self-gratification just can’t compete. As we age, the ego-driven life begins to fade,” Ken explained.
After a while, we begin serving without any expectation of a reward or even recognition. We do so because we feel good about ourselves when we serve simple because we know it helps someone else in the process. That is a much better reward.
In the end, our purpose is both self-directed and directed toward serving others. We’re self-directed out of our primitive need to feel productive and as though our lives count for something. We’re others-directed when we put our God-given talents, learned skills and unique life experiences to work helping to improve the live of someone else.
After reading Steven Cope’s book The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling, Ken started thinking about his own life purpose.
“’True calling’ feels like purpose, something we are ‘called’ to do, whether by divine inspiration or something deep inside us,” Ken wrote, explaining the book prompted him to ask what he feared most in life.
“When I pose that question to myself, the answer is this: I’m afraid that I’ll die without having lived fully,” Ken explained. “I’m afraid that I may be missing some magnificent possibility. That perhaps I have not risked enough to find it. That maybe I’ve lived too safe a life.”
I think everyone harbors those feelings from time-to-time. I know I did for several years until I identified a purpose to help others who were struggling to find theirs. That made all the difference in my life.
If you’re struggling to find purpose in your life, I’d welcome the opportunity to brainstorm some ideas with you. In fact, it would be an honor to help you identify something that gives you a reason to get up in the morning and, more importantly, something for which you can build a lasting legacy by serving one person at a time.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The first session is my gift toward a better future for you.
In the meantime, I’d encourage you to read Ken’s column at www.oakpark.com.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.