You Have a Purpose
“Few men ever drop dead from overwork, but many quietly curl up and die because of under satisfaction.”-Sydney Harris
“Help me O god to listen to what it is that makes my heart glad, and to follow where it leads. May joy, not guilt, Your voice, not the voice of others, Your will and not my willfulness be the guide that leads me to my vocation. Help me to unearth the passions of my heart that lay buried in my youth, and help me to go over that ground again and again, until I can hold in my hands, Hold and treasure, your calling in my life.”- Ken Gire
Each of us has a purpose. There is a reason you are in this place, at this time. It may or may not have anything to do with what you do for a living. For some people, being a mother/ father is their purpose. You have been given gifts to help you find and accomplish your missions. God gives you these gifts and then sends you out on an assignment. These gifts come in many forms. The main ones are the things that you love and are drawn to, your talents, strengths, dreams and passions.
Doing what you Love
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does leaving others to decide if he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.”-James Michener
I recently read on articled on the Forbes 400 richest in America. MSN money surveyed the richest people in America and asked them “What was the biggest factor for their success?” It wasn’t working hard, setting goals, or networking (of course these are all important). The number one answer that these billionaires gave for their success is that they were doing something that they love to do. Steve Jobs said, “People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you are doing, and it’s totally true. The reason is because it’s going to be really hard and any rational person would give up. If you don’t love it, you are going to quit.”
People are afraid that if they follow their heart and do what they love, they will end being broke and homeless. Fortunately, that’s not how it usually works. When you do work you are passionate about, you take the time and effort to get really good at it. You go above and beyond what you are expected to do because you enjoy it. Your job is to get so good at doing what you love, that people will gladly pay you lots of money for you to do it for them. The people who love their job are the ones who get the raises, promotions and are offered other opportunities.
My wife and I were the legal guardians of six children for a year. We decided to get a housekeeper. Our housekeeper loved cleaning. We kept on telling her not to clean as much as she does, but she wouldn’t stop. She kept taking the cushions off the couch and vacuuming in all the cracks. She would clean rooms that she wasn’t supposed to clean. She told us she loved cleaning. We would pay her much more than we agreed to, because she did such an amazing job.
Mother Theresa said “The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it. If you cannot do it with love and cheerfulness, don’t do it at all. Go Home.” It’s not just what you do that counts, but much more important is how much love you put into what you do.
You may have a good life. But if you do not discover your purpose, then a large part of each day is spent doing things you do not truly care about and would rather not be doing. “Life is a banquet and most of you suckers are starving to death.”-Rosalind Russell
Skill or ability alone will not lead to a sense of purpose and fulfillment. You can choose what you do, but you can not choose what you like to do. As Joseph Campbell states “I think the person who takes a job in order to live, just for the money has turned himself into a slave. If you miss the bliss, there is no compensation adequate.”
Talents vs Skills
“The real tragedy in life is not that we don’t have enough strengths. It is that we fail to use the ones we have.” Marcus Buckingham
There is a difference between talents and skills. Talents are special abilities that we are born with. Skills are activities that we get good at with practice. You can be very skilled at doing something that you have little talent in. For example, if you spend enough time studying math, eventually you will get good at it no matter if your brain is wired to do math or not. You can also have a talent that you are not skilled in. For example, if you have a talent for painting, but have never painted, you are not going to be skilled at painting the first time you pick up a brush. So, if you can have a talent that you are not skilled in, and you can have a skill that you are not talented in, how can you know what is a talent?
The easiest way to tell if something is a talent is if you love doing it. If something is a talent you will love doing it and want to do more of it. If you hate doing it, it’s not one of your strongest talents, no matter how good you are at doing it. Often (but not always) you will pick up talents quicker. They will feel natural to you.
When looking for your talent, Dan Miller suggests you look for 1. What you enjoy doing. 2. What you enjoy thinking about 3. What you enjoy learning about 4. What you enjoy as a process.
When something makes us excited, it is a clue that we have the ability to accomplish it. If something really appeals to us and we feel excited about it, but think we aren’t talented enough to achieve it, it is probably one of our highest callings or talents.
Few people know what their natural gifts are. There is power in knowing and using our natural gifts. Everyone has gifts but many do not notice them because they focus on their weaknesses. You cannot build on a weakness. You can only build on your strengths. We also think our gifts are common because they come so natural and easily to us. You might have really good people skills but not think it is special at all. You think everyone can do it. But the truth is that everyone can not do it like you do. If you pursue what you have real talent in, you will experience the joy of being fully alive in your work.
Some talents, such as artistic, musical or athletic abilities, are easy to see in people. Other people’s talents are not easily seen. It may be that they are drawn to a specific type of work or industry. If you have difficulty figuring out what your talents are, pay attention to what areas you are drawn to. That is how it was with me. I never felt like I was really talented in a specific area. What I do have is a passion for personal development, seeing potential in everyone and the desire to help people. And I never, ever give up. Those are my strongest talents.
One of the best ways to uncover your talents is to ask the 5 people closest to you what they think your strongest talents and abilities are. Some of them are going to bring up similar strengths. It is easier to see other people’s strengths and talents than it is to see our own. A great resource to help you find some of your strengths is the Strengths Finder Test at www.gallupstrengthscenter.com. Other exercises in this book will help you uncover additional talents.
Ambition and talent is not enough. They will only take you so far. These usually do not have the staying power to make dreams come true. You have to be passionate about what you do. You can’t be paid to be passionate about something. You also can’t pay someone to stop being passionate about something.
One of the most common mistakes people make in choosing a career is doing something simply because they are good at it. Math always came easy for me in high school. When I started college, I decided to major in Accounting. I spent a year taking accounting classes and got a part-time job as an accounting clerk. Sounds like a reasonable thing for someone to do who likes math, right? There was only one problem. I HATED IT.
You should choose something you are passionate about. Of course looking at what you are good at is important, but not nearly as important as what you are passionate about. Choose to do what you are passionate about even though you may have more ability in another area. If you work at it, eventually you will become very, very good at doing what you are passionate about.
Passions are not your purpose; they are clues that point to your purpose in life. Your passions are the things that you love in life. They are the things that are deeply important to you. When you align your life with the things you are most passionate about, you will feel an increasing sense of purpose, joy, and fulfillment. As you follow your passions, one day you will wake up and find you are living with a sense of purpose. You may not be able to uncover your ultimate purpose right now, but you can focus on your passions. If you follow your passions, eventually you will discover your purpose. It is inevitable.
“Passions aren’t hard to find. If you are paying attention to your life at all, the things you are passionate about won’t leave you alone. They are the ideas, hopes, and possibilities your mind naturally gravitates to. You would spend time doing them for no other reason than they feel good. There is no trick to recognizing your passion. The hard part is trusting them. We are afraid that following our passions will make us look irresponsible and impractical.” Bill Strickland
Your passions might point you to an occupation that other people think is unwise or doesn’t have much opportunity. Or you might think you won’t be able to make enough money or have the status you want. But if you follow your passions, you will discover your deepest potential. If you deny your passions, you will never find that power. Trusting in your passion doesn’t mean your life will be easy or you will get a free pass. It is not an escape from responsibility. On the contrary, it is to take responsibility for life. Following your passions will require you to work harder and demand more from yourself.
If you are not sure about what you are passionate about, go walk around the bookstore or the library for a couple hours. What kinds of book stand out to you? What do you want to learn more about? What interests you? You don’t have to pick one passion; that will paralyze you. You will have many passions.
Whatever your passions are, work on improving them, no matter how long it takes. Finding what you’re passionate about is not just nice-to-have, but is necessary for impacting the world and living from your highest Self. Whenever you are faced with a choice, a decision, or opportunity, always choose in favor of your passions.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help discover some of your passions.
What is it that you find naturally enjoyable?
What are you doing when you are just being you?
I’m happiest when…
When you were a child, was there anything that you did all the time that your parents had to tear you away from to eat and sleep?
What magazines intrigue you? What subjects would you like to learn about or go back to school for?
I’m most creative when……
My life is ideal when…
What do you enjoy doing so much that time seems to fly by? Two or three hours have passed by in a blink of an eye.
What makes you smile?
What have you consistently done well?
Extra Credit: Start remembering your dreams and write them down for 30 days. Keep a pad of paper right by your bed and grab it right when you wake up. You will start remembering more and more of your dreams as you write them down. Look for patterns and reoccurring themes.
Dreams vs. Fantasies
“Hold fast to dreams. For if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams go life is a barren field frozen with snow.”- Langston Hughes
Everyone has dreams, but many of us simply lose sight them because of earlier disappointments and failures. We wish to avoid further hurt so we deny our dreams. Your dreams do not need to be new or exciting. From the outside, a fulfilling life often looks ordinary.
There is a difference between dreams and fantasies. Fantasies have ego in them, and dreams come from our higher Self. Becoming rich and famous is a fantasy while using your gifts and talents to make the world a better place is a dream. Look for recurring themes in things that get your attention. What have you always wanted to do? Be confident you can live out your dreams and don’t settle for less. Dr. King gave the famous “I have a dream” speech not the “I have a plan” speech. It’s our dreams that change the course of history, not just our plans. Keep dreaming.
One of my fantasies I had when I was in junior high was to be famous and play professional basketball for the NBA. I enjoyed playing basketball and played all the time. I was so excited to play on the high school team. I had a sweet shot and was very fast. The only problems were that I was only an average ball handler and I was 5’ 9’’. 35 people tried out for the team, and they took only 12. On the third day of try-outs I realized I wasn’t going to make the team because the coach was not even calling my name for roll call at the beginning of practice. If I would have fully committed myself, worked my butt off, and put my mind to it, what were my chances of making it to the NBA? I read that a starting varsity high school basketball player has a one in 10,000 chance of making it to the NBA. Is it possible? Of course it’s “possible”, just extremely unlikely.
In a Career Readiness class I taught, I would ask my students, “Can you do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it and work hard?” 90% of the students answer that you can. I responded, “Ok. So if I want to become President of the United States, I just need to work hard and put my mind to it.” After that question, usually it dropped down to only about 1/3 of the class raised their hand and said I could. Most of the class realized that the chances of me becoming the President are very, very slim no matter how hard I work at it.
I think the answer to the question “Can you do anything you want to do?” is “Yes and No”. The “No” comes because no matter how hard you try, sometimes you can’t do exactly what you want to do. Everyone can’t become President of the United States or play professional sports.
The answer is also “Yes”, because when you get deeper into why you want something, I really believe you can have what you want. To get deeper, ask yourself the question “Why”. Why do you want to do_____?” When you find the deeper reasons behind your dreams and fantasies, you can accomplish those deeper desires. When I was growing up, I also wanted to be a police officer. It wasn’t because I wanted to get in gunfights with criminals and arrest drug dealers. I’ve never enjoyed being around guns. The reason I wanted to be a police officer was because (from the perspective of a 10 year old) police officers help people, and I really wanted to help others. This desire to help others is why I studied psychology and counseling, and why I now do coaching.
Then I would ask my students, “Why would someone would want to be President of the United States?” (I sure wouldn’t want to be) The main reason they stated would be for power. Power by itself is neither good nor bad. I don’t think it’s bad to want a powerful position. It depends on what you do with the power. The President is one of the most powerful positions in the world. So if what you really want is a powerful position, what are some other powerful positions where you could make a difference? Some examples are a judge, state or US Representative, mayor, CEO or business owner. When you find out what your deeper desire is, it makes it a whole lot easier to accomplish it.
One day a fellow student came in to drop out of the Master’s program we were in. I was sitting right next to the professor when he came in. This student wanted to play professional basketball when he was younger, but wasn’t good enough to make it. He loved basketball, so he started refereeing. He started with youth and then worked his way up to refereeing college games. That week he got a call from the NBA to work full-time as a referee. He was as excited as a little kid on Christmas Eve. Do you think he was living his dream? You better believe it. Even though it didn’t look exactly how he thought it would, he was living his dream and was on top of the world.
I would call that an alternate path. There is always more than one path to get to the top of the mountain. What he really loved was the game of basketball. Playing professional basketball is just one way to the top of the mountain. When that way was blocked, he found a different way. Don’t get so caught up in what you think the outcome should look like. Be open to other alternative paths. Other alternative paths for him could be being a coach, a scout, broadcasting, working on the television crew, working in a team’s main office…etc.
Am I saying that you shouldn’t try to become a professional athlete or the President of the United States? Of course not. If you want to become a world famous violin player, I think you should go for it and give it everything you’ve got. But you haven’t failed if you end up teaching violin to children. That might be closer to your true calling.
Why would God have created us to have incredible imaginations and dream dreams if we weren’t supposed to try to live them? Trust your dreams as having come from a divine source. Success doesn’t sneak up on us. It starts as a dream that we combine with a clear plan of action. Become a “dreamer of the day” and watch your success soar. You need to be part dreamer and part builder. If you just dream, nothing will ever get built. If you just build, you won’t like what you end up with. Dream your life and then live your dream. You cannot be anything you want to be, but you can be everything God wants you to be.
P.S. Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams talk you out of yours. The truth is that your current situation does not trump your vision and dreams.
Job, Career, or Purpose/Calling
“Discover the great idea of your life and set it free. But don’t kid yourself. It will take every ounce of you. No weak halfhearted efforts will raise this child. Only a mother’s love will get the job done. There will be joys and sorrows, frustrations and victories, agony and ecstasy. Take an idea that will grab hold of you and not let you go until it has squeezed the very best from you.”-Richard Bolles
Everyone has something that they could do well and enjoy doing. Your purpose is to give life to the great idea of your life. Maybe you haven’t discovered yours yet. You may know what it is, but have given up on it before it had time to grow. Some of you are doing it right now. Your mission is your special gift to mankind. Every life has something to say. Find the voice and the message of your life.
“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” Rumi
For a lot of us, the careers we choose are the best chance to live out our purpose. However, I don’t believe that there is only one job that we are supposed to do. There is a difference between your purpose, your career and your job. A job is the activities you do on a daily basis (doctor, programmer or welder). Your career is your chosen area of interest (ex. health care, technology or construction). A job, of course, may or may not be part of the career field you want to be in. Your purpose or calling suggests listening for something that is calling out to you. The word vocation comes from the Latin word for calling.
If your calling is to relieve suffering in the world, there are many different career paths you could take. You could be in the healthcare field, or the humanitarian field, or the ministry, etc. If you chose the healthcare field, your job could be as a nurse, a physician, or an occupational therapist etc. You could change careers and jobs from a healthcare physician to a humanitarian worker, but your calling would still be to relieve suffering in the world. Your calling doesn’t change. There are lots of jobs that would allow you to live out your calling. Don’t get so hung up on what job you do. If you focus on your calling, you will be led to jobs and careers that are right for you. If you listen to your intuition and trust your inner guidance, you will know when you are on the right track, and when you are off course.
The World Needs your Food
Your purpose must add value. If shooting spit wads is your talent, it really doesn’t matter how far you can spit them. A well-aimed spit wad does not benefit mankind much. Horace Mann said we should be ashamed to die until we have made a major contribution to mankind.
Laurence Boldt writes about how we live in a hungry world. “The world is hungry in many ways- for knowledge, wisdom, caring, justice, beauty, peace, joy, hungry for love, YOUR LOVE. The hunger of the world cries out for the food of your loving attention. Listen and discover what kind of food you have, and then distribute it where it is most needed and wanted. Do you have wisdom food or affection food? Do you have beauty food, or confidence food? We can all feed each other our best food and in doing so nourish all of life.”
What Should I Do with My Life?
Everyone has a calling, not just priests. We all receive messages about what to do. The real question is are we going to listen to them or are we going to pretend we didn’t hear anything?
Callings can come in different ways. Sometimes they come after painful experiences we go through. Someone may have suffered from an eating disorder and now their calling is to help prevent or recover from eating disorders. Sometimes it’s the challenges that we have overcome that lead to our calling. I had a really hard time figuring out what my calling was in my 20’s. It wasn’t until I spent 10 years struggling to find my calling that I realized that part of my calling was to help people find their calling.
We ask ourselves over and over what we should do with our lives. We pray and ask God for guidance on what career to chose and often feel like we have been ignored. We worry when God doesn’t give us definitive answers. We “expect the sky to open, and a deep voice from on high to say “Well My son, this is your purpose!” Choirs of angels, lightening and thunder are optional, but the deep bass voice is a must.”-Richard Bolles
The truth is many careers could be in Gods will for you. We don’t have to wait for God to give us a huge revelation on our life. We can look inside ourselves and see what God has already told us. Figuring out what we are “supposed” to do, doesn’t need to be a passive guessing game. Take the information that you have and do the best you can with it. Ask for guidance, listen for answers, and then come up with the best plan you can. Then be OK with your decision. Be open to change your decision if it is made clear to you that you are going in the wrong direction. You will receive guidance on what to do and how to do it.
Where do these deep desires of our heart come from? Did we put them there? No. God put them there. And God will provide a way for us to live out the dreams and passions of our heart. Trust that your dream came from a divine source. It would be cruel if God put desires in our hearts that are beyond our ability to accomplish. He is also not going to tell you to go do something you hate doing and force you to be miserable.
Don’t go to the Grave without Singing your Song
Your deepest desire is not going away. Go to a nursing home. Ask 10 people there if their dreams have gone away and they will tell you “No”. Residents in Nursing Homes often regret the things they didn’t do, rather than the things they did. Three of the things they regret most are 1. Not going for their dreams. 2. Caring too much about what others think 3. Worrying too much.
Your desires aren’t going away either. Honor your dreams and desires, and do your best to bring them to life. Keep coming back to them. Give them more and more time and attention. Let your desire become so strong than no fear from within or obstacle from without can stop you. Finding and living your purpose is like going on a quest. A quest is a journey that is risky and adventurous. The outcome of a quest is always uncertain. There are no guarantees. The only guarantee is that if you don’t try you will regret it.
“While every man has a religion, has something on heaven or earth that he would give everything else up for, something which absorbs him, which may be regarded by others as useless. Yet it is his dream, his lodestar. It is his master. That, whatever it is, seized upon me, made me its servant, its’ slave; induced me to set aside the other ambitions. A trail of Glory in the heavens, which I followed, followed with a full heart. When once I am convinced, I never let go.”-Walt Whitman
The average person goes to their grave with their music still in them. Don’t go out like that. Just remember, birds don’t sing because they have all the answers. They sing because they have a song inside them that wants to come out.