Author Laura Gassner Otting, who wrote the book “Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life,” had an interesting perspective on purpose.
She noted that some people are paralyzed with doubt because they wonder if what interests them is important enough; and whether what they love to do is filled with enough purpose.
I would instantly say that if what you’re doing interests you and is in some way helpful to one other person, that qualifies as a genuine purpose. You should pursue it as often as you can and as long as you find joy in doing so.
Purpose does not have to be big in order to be great or noble. Tending to a beautiful flower garden all by yourself can be a great hobby. However, that becomes a purpose when you share those plants and flowers with someone else to help brighten his or her day.
Serving joylessly is a drudgery. Every job and activity has it’s bad days. But, you know you were not created to do something if it routinely causes more stress than success, more headaches than happiness and more boredom than excitement.
Writing in Oprah Daily, Laura noted people need to unburden themselves from societal expectations.
“For some reason, somewhere along the line, we decided to relinquish the straightforward definition of purpose and complicate it with socially acceptable qualifiers of devotion and cause-driven mindsets, leaving all too many of us feeling completely and utterly purposeless,” Laura wrote.
Then she asked what would happen if people lived by the actual dictionary definition of purpose, which is simply “the reason for which something is done.”
Laura said only your opinion counts in determining whether your “why” is strong enough to qualify as a purpose. She’s right, but….
Using my example of the gardener above, Laura is correct in suggesting someone could find purpose in simply growing beautiful flowers. However, they’ll feel a whole lot better if they share the flowers with a shut-in who gets no visitors, a sick friend, a single mom or even a neighborhood child.Then that hobby gives them genuine purpose.
Remember Zuzu’s pedals from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life? The young girl walked home in the cold with her jacket unbuttoned because she didn’t want to crush the flower she received from her teacher. Then, when sick in bed, she still wanted to be able to see it on her nightstand.
Growing flowers for your own enjoyment would fall into the literal definition of purpose. But sharing those flowers with others truly gives purpose to your life.
Laura and I agree that a person’s purpose can change several times during the course of a lifetime. But, I believe each of those experiences help guide someone toward the one purpose for which they were specifically created to perform. That purpose becomes their destiny.
“So let’s also celebrate another thing that I believe is uniquely American: giving ourselves the grace to change and grow and evolve, and dream different dreams about purposes that fit who we are today,” Laura noted.
Agreed. When you find your purpose, you’ll know it in your heart, mind and spirit.
You can read Laura’s full blog, “This tiny mental shift will help you find your purpose,” at Oprah Daily.
Photo by Matt Anderson on Unsplash
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.