Purpose Without “A Purpose”

Weren’t we all supposed to know what we want to be when we grow up? So much of the literature we read about finding our purpose seems to suggest that, if we figure out why we are here, who we are supposed to be, or what we are called to do, then things will really start taking off for us.

But what happens when I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up? I don’t know my purpose, I can hardly choose what restaurant to eat for dinner.

Those of us that fall into that category often struggle with the feeling of, “I should know where I am going, what my future is going to look like, or what I am put here on this earth to do…” only to find that the thoughts simply make us feel incomplete, strangely guilty, and certainly like we got left out of the purpose parade. You know, the one where they throw out bliss and euphoria instead of candy.

This message is for you guys. Quit looking for your purpose. Stop it. Don’t answer the seven questions for finding purpose, don’t take that online quiz, put down the book and step away from the guru. No really, he hasn’t showered for a while and you have a meeting.

If you are like me, you have spent a lot of time trying to find purpose. And, while I won’t go so far as to call it a waste of time, I will say that there have been substantial opportunity costs. Sure, I want to know more about who I am and increase my self-awareness. At the same time, if all of the focus is internal, I often miss an opportunity to create purpose.

Many of these people who still don’t know who they are supposed to be when they grow up are still doing amazing things in life. Important things, things that change the lives of themselves and others, things the world needs. They are not wrapped up in the “what I am called here to do?” question, they are focused on the “What the heck can I do with what I have?” question. Which, I believe, is every bit as important.

We can still find purpose without having a purpose. We can do great things without knowing if we are on the right path or acting on our calling. Purpose is every bit as much about what we do or how we choose to look at our situation as it is about who we believe we are or if we have found our place in the world. I might not know what I want to be when I grow up, but I can choose to do something that matters, right now. Make somebody’s day, volunteer, take on a project that will help people or donate those clothes to charity.

Put down the book and pick up a shovel.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with not knowing what we want to be when we grow up. But that does not mean we can’t make an impact here and now. We can be purposeful in our actions without knowing our purpose. We can choose to make a difference without knowing what difference we are “supposed” to be making. Even if I don’t know my purpose, I can act on purpose right now. I don’t need to be someone, I might just need to do something, today.

In fact, we might just find, that in the process of doing, of making our current situation purposeful, that our purpose finds us. And, even if it doesn’t, at least we made the most of our time.

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