Living life with purpose.
I grew up with this notion that I had to be constantly striving for some great big, grand, cosmic "Purpose". According to what I knew all the great achievers were great because they knew their Purpose. I grew up in the church. Mostly, non denominational but others as well. Ever since I was little I have heard talk about "finding your Purpose". I was told to just "have faith" and everything would work out. If something went wrong, I needed to just have more faith or to step into my Purpose.
In school, I was at the top, but never #1. In sports I was always good enough to start and play consistently, but never the star player. This frustrating ability to do well, but not be the best was infuriating. No matter how hard I worked or how much I studied I was always capable, but annoyingly behind others. But I was driven. In high school I was bullied for being so serious all the time, but I didn't care. I was going to do big things. I was going to find my Purpose.
So, out of high school I aimed big.
I attended military prep school as an Air Force Academy Prep. Remember, I was going to do big things, and nothing and no one was going to stop me. I struggled for the first time ever in school but I excelled physically. I thought I was unstoppable. I was headed towards my Purpose. Until, it all came crashing down around me. Uncontrollable circumstances have a way of shaking your entire world if you are striving for the wrong things and in the wrong way.
I was in a hospital bed when they handed me my discharge papers and told me I had to go home. The world swam around me as I struggled to grasp the reality and gravity of what had just happened. I failed. At least, it felt like I did.
I went home. Numb. I didn't know what to do next and for the millionth time I had people around me say, "you just need to find your Purpose and then you'll be OK."
I decided to go to college, because that is what you are "suppose" to do after high school. And I was miserable. My grades suffered and for not the first time, being good just wasn't good enough.
At this time my mom had moved to Uganda, Africa. She had gone to work with another organization, which ended up abandoning her. I received and email at school stating to the effect: Find me a contact. I am stranded and I can hear gun fire.
Honestly, I was jealous. She had done it. She had found her Purpose. As dangerous as it was, she was where she wanted to be and had somehow, someway grabbed a hold of that big, grand, cosmic Purpose.
So, I decided I would move to Uganda too. Up to this point in my life I had no desire to move to Africa, or really to even visit despite my Travel Wish List. But I needed to be a part of something bigger than myself. Serving others in a third world country with my mom was the biggest thing I could think of.
4 months after moving to Uganda I was ready to come home. I was overwhelmed. I didn't feel like I mattered in a place with so much need. But I stayed and every day that need engulfed my selfish thoughts. I just didn't have time for them. I learned that my mom lives every day with purpose. She has been in Uganda for over 13 years, not because of a Purpose, but rather because every thing she does and every day she wakes up she strives to live it imperfectly but purposefully.
When I left Uganda I ended up back in the corporate world. I was always told how special and amazing my work was before I found myself training my replacement. Breaking records and creating achievements were always a rush, until I realized how replaceable I was. A cog in the machine of life, I struggled with this idea that I wasn't doing anything important enough, big enough, grand enough.
My past failures enjoyed rearing their heads every time I messed up, slipped up and just outright failed. I continued to walk around for years beating myself for not even being able to define my Purpose.
And then, one day things changed. My aunt sat me down and gave me advice that, like a small seed, has evolved and grown. It has changed and probably saved my life in a lot of ways.
Finding your Purpose is a false notion. However, living with purpose provides hope, peace, and forward momentum. This momentum allows you to reach your goals, dreams, and potential. Even in the Bible it talks about purpose in the context of how a life should be lived. And a life is more than a singular statement.
"It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you.”
A singular Purpose can lead to a road of frustration, feelings of being a failure, depression and anxiety, and even rejection. It establishes a roller-coaster of emotions. When life is good and you are living with a Purpose, you are doing what you should. But if you fail, you must have stepped out of your Purpose. The vicious cycle is perpetuated by what is happening around you instead of what is happening inside of you. It is unfairly tied to accomplishment, achievement, and doing a "good job". But life is so much messier than that. It is so much more complicated. So much more beautiful.
"To say that you were born with a purpose and it is something great is almost like saying that other peoples' purposes are not great or they weren't born with any. Life is a collection of seasons, opportunities, failures, challenges and successes.
It's not about finding your purpose but living the best life you can in every season you are in." How you live your life as a woman of integrity, means so much more. People who do accomplish great things don't do them overnight. Some take longer than others, but why do we value big things as great things.
Throughout history people have done amazing things. It's astonishing the things people can and have accomplished. But what kind of life did they lead?
Maybe, the world took notice of the big things, but the small things also are practice for bigger things. Achievement usually comes in steps not huge leaps.
Example: "Who's to say that Ben Carson's mother was less than Ben Carson? She birthed him and raised him to be a brilliant neurosurgeon who has saved and helped many people. Without her, he wouldn't be able to do the things he has and will do. She did that all while being completely illiterate."
Looking for your purpose and living a great life are two very different things. One is striving and never fulfilling and the other is proactive, engaging, and making a difference every day. Living with purpose is fulfilling, rewarding and joyful. Don't work for people who don't value you, don't be in relationships with people who don't value you.... You value yourself and others will follow suit.
If you come from the perspective of living with purpose instead of looking for it, life and achievements come out of an organic state of who you are in the first place. Maybe, on some days living with purpose means answering emails considerately and thoughtfully. On other days it could be preparing for a fundraiser or a big speaking event. It all matters. It all requires and attitude of purpose.
For me, I have always been a champion of the weak, a defender of the defenseless and a cheerleader for the underdogs. I have a permeating sense of justice for others.
Use your life to tell your story. It matters.
It is part of who you are and how you BE. How you act, how you work, how you play all comes from those things that are in you. Look at them. It is here you will find purpose.
Purpose: The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
-One's intent or objective
-A person's sense of resolve or determination