For the better part of 23 years I knew what my purpose was. I didn’t have to think about it, I just knew. I was a parent. My purpose was to raise this baby boy, to nurture him, to help him grow up to be a kind, caring well adjusted young man. Well that baby boy has graduated from college, is living on his own in another part of the state and is doing well. Proud? Of course! But also feeling a little lost. He doesn’t need me on a daily, weekly or even a monthly basis anymore. So where does this leave me? Searching for my purpose…
What is purpose?
Dictionary.com gives a variety of definitions for the word purpose:
Purpose: “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used etc.” Ouch! So if you don’t feel like you know what your purpose is then you also question your existence? Pretty deep and, for practical purposes, not that helpful. Thinking so deeply that you’re questioning your own existence is, for most people, not a healthy thing to do.
Purpose: “an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal” Ok – That definition we can work with. So what is your goal, what are you aiming at, what do you desire you life to be? For most people I think the goal or desired result in life is to feel like we matter and to feel like we’ve made a difference in the world somehow. But how do we go about doing that? Hmm – that may be a question to ponder in another post!
Purpose: “determination; resoluteness” Ooh – this one resonates with me. Determination is something that I can relate to. I have so much determination sometimes that it becomes a negative quality. Wait -I don’t want my purpose to have any negative connotations so let’s move on with our definitions.
Purpose: “the subject in hand; the point at issue” I laughed when I read this one. So since my point at issue is purpose then finding my purpose becomes my purpose? Too confusing. On to the next definition.
Purpose: “practical result, effect or advantage” So this one is saying that the purpose of one’s life is the practical result or effect or their life? Not sure what to do with this one.
Purpose: “to set as an aim, intention or goal for oneself” So now we’re back to trying to figure out what our intention in life is-or more simply put-what is our purpose. Not helpful.
Purpose: “to intend; design” This one sounds suspiciously similar to the definition above. Your purpose is your intention. So what is your intention in life? That’s what we’re trying to figure out!
Purpose: “to resolve (to do something)” This one makes sense to me on a small scale. But when applying it to my entire life? What am I resolving to do with my life? That’s what I’m trying to figure out!
In reading these eight definitions of purpose have you figured out what your purpose is? I know I have not but what I have figured out is that PURPOSE is just a word. And just like any other word in our language it can have multiple definitions and each definition will be interpreted differently depending on who is reading it.
So where does this leave us? This post is titled “Finding Your Purpose” but I’m guessing that most readers are probably even more confused now about what purpose is than they were before they opened this post.
As I was writing this post my mind kept coming back to a piece of paper that’s sitting on my desk. On that paper are 9 little words. When in Chicago for the What Great Educators Do Differently conference (#WGEDD) we were challenged by Angela Maiers to come up with a list of words that described ourselves. She challenged us to find our Brave, to embrace our strengths and to own our weaknesses. Basically she challenged each of us to celebrate who we were and the life we were leading and to share our awesomeness with the world. So what does this have to do with Finding Your Purpose? Well I think in reading and thinking about all these definitions of the word Purpose I have realized what my purpose is. It’s not about some lofty goal I have for my life or some magnanimous belief that I am going to be a change maker in this world. My purpose is those 9 little words. My purpose is to be an enthusiastic, compassionate, genuine person who is kind caring and dedicated. My purpose is to embrace my vulnerabilities and to own up to my sometimes overly talkative nature. My purpose is to love myself and share that love with others. Wow – that wasn’t really as hard as I was making it out to be!
So now that I’ve found my purpose I challenge you to find your purpose. Make that list of words that describes yourself. Be honest, embrace your strengths and own your weaknesses. Once you’ve made your list read it over, memorize it, post it in a place that you will see everyday. Those words represent you, they are your Purpose! Once you’ve found your Purpose embrace those little words, celebrate who you are – be brave and show the world your awesome. And most of all, in the words of Angela Maiers, remember to tell yourself every day: I Matter, I Am Enough!
The Optimistic Educator…