This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. ~George Bernard Shaw
If passion is the fire that fuels our journey of life, then it is purpose that functions as the framework. It is the steel that girds our efforts and the beams that frame our achievements. Passion without purpose burns out rapidly, like the wisp of kindling, but with Purpose it becomes the engine that propels the train. It is important to find Purpose in order to truly harness your passions and with that knowledge we move towards the next step of developing our future selves.
When I look at the lives of great men and women throughout history, I am struck by the sense of purpose consistently highlighted in the achievements of these great figures from our past. They were people of passion, yes, but more than that they did the hard work of focusing their passions into a purpose. It doesn’t take long to realize that purpose is what sustains us on the long, arduous adventure of life. As George Bernard Shaw said, it is Purpose that allows us to fight and work till we are used up, but still go to our graves feeling satisfied and assured.
Sadly, when I think about purpose and the examples of my heroes, I am thrown into depression for myself. I know how that might sound, too self pitying and definitely unmanly, but alas that tends to be the state induced in my soul. Somehow, and I don’t think I am alone here; I have managed to live thirty years of my life without a true sense of purpose. I have wobbled between several different purposes in my life, from personal gain, to the spiritual, to saving all mankind, and everything in-between; but what is missing is the uniting factor of a purpose that overlaps with my passion. Indeed, I have been burning away without anything to harness my abilities and I have been turning to anything and everything that offers me the opportunity to wield my passions for a greater purpose. It’s a bit like taking a torch, this wondrous, dangerous instrument of flame and setting fire to houses made of sticks and boats of woods, while looking for that engine of steel and iron that can take your flame and change it into power for the locomotive. Your passions can accomplish much and are a strong force, but in the wrong situation and for the wrong purpose they can burn down a village. I fear this is what I have been doing for many years now.
If you too feel as if you have been wandering in the wilderness, setting fire to everything in your path, hoping to find warmth and purpose; fear not, your time was not wasted. In the search for our reason for being and our goals, it is sometimes necessary to set a few fires. Look at the lives of men such as Abraham Lincoln or even Ernest Hemmingway; both men tried many paths before truly finding their purpose. Lincoln tried many things and failed, including running for office, but felt his passion to serve the public and refocused his efforts until becoming the great man we know today. “Papa” Hemmingway too, experienced many different vocations in life doing everything from ambulance driver, to journalist, to professional bad ass. I kid here, but it is important to note that even while doing things that were not ultimately his greatest passion, Hemmingway learned from them and incorporated them into his ultimate goals.
This gives me hope.
No matter how lost I have felt, how far from my purpose, I can know that ultimately I am still working towards discovering it. I can take comfort in the fact that even though my passion has burned out of control from time to time, I can learn from it and use it to make me stronger; in fact it can point me towards my ultimate goal. After all “Purpose” is just another word for your true goal or, to put it another way, what you put on this earth for.
Discovering your purpose is both easier and harder than it sounds. On the one hand just think of what you are passionate about; art, writing, business, parenting, whatever, and that can help guide you to your purpose. In this instance, it is usually means being the best at your passion and fully embracing it, this part is the easy part. The hard part comes from realizing that the purpose derived solely from your passion is largely shallow and ultimately unfulfilling, to discover your true purpose you then have to look bigger. Following your passion for your own aims can be good and you can accomplish a great deal, but to make the jump to your true purpose, your goal must be larger, focusing on a greater force. For some this will be rooted in religion, for others it might be the earth itself, and for still others it will be the good of humanity; regardless of which of these higher callings motivate you, it is only by coupling your passion with an aim towards these loftier ambitions that you can craft a noble sense of purpose.
A great example of this truth can be found in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. King has been long admired and revered in our culture and for good reason; he took his passion, his smaller purpose, and forged them into a greater Purpose that changed the world. King could have been satisfied to use his speaking gifts to attain great renown within the church. He could have followed his passions to being the best preacher of the gospel in all of the church and lived a good long life. Instead, Mr. King saw the situation of his brothers and sisters, both black and white, and knew that he must use his passion for speaking and motivating people to not only spread the message of the Church, but also to make the world a better place for all people. King looked outside of himself and his passions to find a larger world that needed him. This Purpose gave his life unimaginable meaning and propelled him through his tragically short life, but I am willing to bet that if you could ask him now if it were worth it, if all his sacrifice was worth it and if he were so satisfied that he would do it again, I bet he would unhesitantly answer yes. That is the power of true Purpose that once we find it and follow it in tenacious pursuit, it will change our lives for the better, no matter the outcome.
Now it’s your turn to examine your life and determine if you are on the path of your purpose. Are your passions fueling the engine of change and achievement, or are you wandering through the night with your torch burning low? Are you using your abilities towards a greater good or a better end, or are you simply squirreling them away for yourself? Trust me, when your goals overlap with a great Purpose, and in fact become that Purpose, satisfaction and rewards follow.
If you are sick of drifting through life, attaching to everything that floats by only to discard it once you have used it up, only to drift further, now is the time to seize your purpose. Decide what is important to you and I mean really important, what you would be willing to die for. Then, figure out how your skills and passion can serve that precious ideal that you hold. This will form your Purpose, your aim in life; it will influence every decision and guide you towards the mark when your life is done.
If you want to be great, if you want to live life like a conquering lion, then you must follow a greater purpose, you must look toward the future and decide how you will make your mark. Then you must do it, for yourself, for your family, for the world or your God, but you must do it. No more waiting, get to it.
All successful people men and women are big dreamers. They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose.