A Life Without Purpose is a Life Without Destination
A life without a purpose is a life without a destination. Like a boat adrift on the ocean, there is no telling where you might end up. With no direction to your life, you will be moved by random feelings and emotions into any harbor. Two thousand years ago the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote, “Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” Adrift at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges, you will be capable of any evil because you lack control of your own life.
Purpose provides a vision that leads you to a vocation rather than to a mere job. It provides for passion and meaning to replace tedium and aimlessness. The question “Why Am I Here?” goes much deeper than finding what career is best for you. Finding a purpose is ultimately a spiritual endeavor because it involves a process of connecting with something greater than yourself.
Paradoxically, however, the process also requires you to look within yourself for your answers because that is the only place you will ever find them. You cannot use my answer to the question of your purpose, nor your father’s. You must come to your purpose by your own road.
But we can help you find that road.
One of the signposts leading to your purpose is a direction indicated by your passions. You don’t simply sit down and think of a purpose; purpose is something that is always there in your soul. The task is to uncover it. Your purpose is like a treasure buried in your backyard. You don’t create the treasure, you simply uncover it. You don’t create your purpose, you simply discover what it is. And then you order your affairs so that the course of your life — the things you do, the way you spend your time, and the choices you make about allocating resources — all work together to move your purpose ahead.
You don’t figure out your purpose, you experience it.
Purpose always works its way out in action because passion is, at root, a matter of desire. Deliberately planned behaviors motivated by completely acknowledged desires result in the actions that move you and your circumstances into the life most appropriate to who you really are. Your life changes. The world changes because any person with a fully realized purpose cannot help but become a change-agent.
The course of your life becomes better than simply being a sequence of varying and sometimes competing emotions jostling one another like the pieces of an orchestra tuning up before a concert. Life becomes a symphony, your life the concert. A fully realized purpose banishes the dark forces of stress, fatigue, frustration, and dissatisfaction. It creates an inner sense of urgency; it allows you to be truly alive.
Note that purpose requires passion but can never be centered on lust, which is the will to dominate or control without associated feelings of love and affection. A genuine purpose always results in lifting one’s self and the world. A self-centered life will inevitably be flooded by the forces of stress, fatigue, and dissatisfaction that the working out of a genuine purpose will always alleviate. “The most important human endeavor,” Einstein wrote, “is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life.”
We have to put away lust and base desires or we will live unfulfilled lives that will serve to bring down the people and the environment we are in contact with. Einstein rightly maintained that, “The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained to liberation from the self.” A fully realized purpose is the best means for attaining the liberation and the value that Einstein wrote about.
The destination is not the ultimate aim. The joy comes from the journey. Purpose is bound up in the process.
Jim White, PhD
Author & Creator of What’s My Purpose?