The desire to connect with the meaning and purpose of one’s life is a hot topic in my private consults. It is also a subject I have personally spent a great deal of time exploring. For some people, a passionate drive to make a positive impact on this world or just reflecting on their legacy is where the needed clarification begins. If you are more like me however, and I find a great deal of people are (Thank goodness! I hate being the only self-doubting individual) your quest for a greater understanding of life’s purpose is an endeavor born from insecurity or feelings of inadequacy.
I realize such downbeat motivators seem a bit shallow, self-indulgent, and childish, especially when applied to searching for life’s meaning, but I am a big believer in the old saying, “The truth will set you free.” Acknowledging the insecurity has been one of several keys involved in opening the door to my understanding of life’s meaning and purpose. Besides, the journey is more important than the path itself.
The inadequacy I mentioned comes into play as I look at the way others are living their life and interpret what I see as most everyone doing the life thing better, or at the very least, making a much more profound contribution to this world than myself. My brother routinely goes on mission trips to third world countries and builds schools. I donate my old clothes to Goodwill. If you were to compare those two contributions, it’s not difficult to understand why I might have feelings of inadequacy.
Therein lies the long awaited point of this blog. The first step toward finding meaning and purpose in YOUR life is to limit the search to YOUR life. Your life is uniquely yours and thus, the meaning and purpose of your life is as large or small a contribution as your life was meant to provide. A greater, more impactful contribution to this world does not make a life more important or the purpose of that life more valuable. It just makes it more noticeable.
Some of the most loving gestures are quiet ones. A word exchanged, a touch, a moment of presence, a refusal, an insight, a recognition, a movement, a prayer, a gift, an acceptance, an opinion, an introduction…these and many other actions can be vehicles of great purpose. You may or may not be aware of how your day, or a given moment, has impacted others but I assure you that every minute of your life has purpose. The meaning can be appreciated in small increments and very often with the gift of hindsight.
Meaning and purpose in life are not subject to measurement. Helping more people does not translate into a life with greater purpose. Larger life contributions do not increase the meaning inherent in one’s life. Knowing those two things might be the first step toward a deeper understanding of your life’s meaning and purpose. Stay tuned for step two.