I read an article in Forbes the other day which suggested discovering your purpose in life is hard.
“From the moment we are born with no particular destiny, we go through a series of steps that have us complete certain objectives – school, career jobs, relationships, making money – but often these steps do not help us find our purpose,” wrote Bernhard Schroeder.
I don’t agree with the premise we are born without a particular destiny. That type of thinking evolved from an idea that humans were created out of nothing, sort of like evolutionary accidents.
People of faith, on the other hand, know they were created intentionally by a master designer. In fact Bernhard’s premise is flawed from the start. If we truly are born with no particular destiny, then it would be impossible to discover a purpose. Outside of politicians, name something that exists without a defined purpose.
He is correct when he noted, “Purpose can guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning.” He even added that we instinctively want to leave a mark showing that we were here on earth. That desire is burned into our souls.
“So, do we pursue some specific set of objectives to help us find our life’s purpose, or do we wander about a bit in life hoping that our purpose will reveal itself to us?,” Bernhard asked. That suggests there is no way we can know the purpose for our lives, which is hogwash.
His first notion is akin to getting in a car and driving in no particular direction other than thinking, “This road looks interesting,” making a left turn and following the route indiscriminately until we come to a destination. Yet, how will we know we arrived, if we don’t know where we are going?
Sadly, that’s how many people navigate through life. It has been said that people spend more time planning a week’s vacation than they do their potential careers. Youngsters may have one conversation with a “guidance counselor” or trusted adult who suggests a course of action, which they follow hoping it leads to fulfillment.
His second notion is that we just wander around until we discover our purpose, as though it is in a treasure chest hidden alongside the road. Sadly again, that’s what many people do when they chase the next shiny object hoping it leads to something that feels right for them to do.
Success guru Darren Hardy believes there is no “one true purpose” for your life. He suggests that people should engage whatever they chose to do with intent and purpose.
I don’t believe many of us have just one purpose in our lives. That often changes as we mature through different seasons of life. For example:
- Before we turn 30, our primary purpose is to gain skills, start forming a network, begin working, and starting a family.
- Then, when we are between 30 and 50 — “the chaos years” — our purpose changes to gaining more work experience as we fine-tune our natural talents. We also learn new skills to benefit ourselves and others, while trying to function without sleep by meeting the endless demands of children and bosses.
- Then, we we reach our 50s, often our true purpose becomes quite evident. We arrive at a point where we can and want to use our natural talent, learned skills and many years of life experiences in a way that benefits others. Whether we do that working for ourselves or someone else is a choice that needs to be made.
Bernhard says we need to learn to tolerate giving up our time, freedom and even the people we hang around with, which I suspect he also includes your spouse and children in that mix. He described that as essential “so you can love what you do so much, you don’t think its work.”
Sadly still, many adults try giving up things they love to do and even their friends and family all in the name of pursuing work purpose. That’s why way too many people arrive in their 50s totally burned out on life. They see retirement as the only way they can “be themselves.”
At that point, they disengage from productive life and pursue leisure hoping that makes them happy. Yet, because there is no purpose to full-time leisure, they become grumpier and even more unfulfilled.
To find purpose for their lives, Bernhard encourages people to think about things that once made them happy, but which they don’t do any more. He is on to something here. Many times, we discover early in our lives what really makes us happy, but societal pressure prevents us from pursuing that.
Ironically, those feelings are likely a strong indicator of the reason why you were intentionally created. You may have found your purpose early on, but chose to set it aside to pursue “more practical” options. “For most people, passion also comes with a sense of play. Do something that you once loved doing just for the fun of it,” Bernhard wrote.
Doing so may not give you purpose, but at least you’ll be on the right track to discovering the sweet spot that balances work, people and play.
“Discovering one’s ‘purpose’ in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, that you would love doing with a set of values that will determine your priorities and guide your actions,” Bernhard wrote.
See, it’s not that hard. Bernhard complicates it because he does not yet realize that you can tap into the heart and mind of your creator to discover what you should be doing that gives your life purpose and fulfillment.
I have said it many times in other articles. If you want an answer to “what’s my purpose,” then ask the divine creator what he created you to do. He’s more than happy to tell you. Just listen to your heart. For people of faith, that’s where God’s Holy Spirit resides.
Tap into that, and you’ll discover the sweet spot of purpose that allows you to use your talents, skills and experiences in a way that brings you the most fulfillment and the most glory to God.
There are several good ideas in Bernhard’s article, which you can read at Forbes. Just keep in mind that he explores the concept of purpose from a strictly secular perspective.
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.