What is your purpose in life? To be a successful businessperson? To make a difference? To provide for your family? Still trying to figure it out? (Many people are!)
I often hear “purpose” portrayed as a fixed destination; like it’s an on/off switch. But what happens when a “purpose” is fulfilled or changes – what is your purpose once you climb to the top of that corporate ladder? What is your purpose after you hit your savings goal? Or you retire?
I think purpose is more like the sun. All day, every day, from our perspective, the sun is moving and changing. Sometimes it’s shining so brightly you have to shield your eyes. And sometimes it’s hidden behind a cloud or dark, dark storm.
Shifting and Changing Direction to What’s Important
In my role as a career coach, I have seen clients connect to one purpose and then, over time, connect to something totally different. For instance, I have seen men and women who have been dedicated to their work at one company or industry for years. They have the education, the skills, and the tenacity. And then they make a decision that they want to move to something that would be an even better fit. They shift their career direction to match what’s most important to them at that particular point in time.
I’ve also seen people leave and re-enter the workforce based on their values around their family. I’ve seen people start or stop businesses and people move to more lucrative jobs or more meaningful jobs. Does this mean that their lives up to that point were a failure? Or does it simply mean your purpose is changing?
Ebbing and Flowing with Your Life
I see a lot of marketing messaging around finding your purpose, as though it’s a fixed point that you could find if you only looked hard enough. My understanding is that purpose is not a fixed destination. It shifts and changes as our lives and values change. What is meaningful to you at 22, right after you complete college, might not be as meaningful to you at 42.
Perhaps right now your purpose is in the midst of a storm. What was such a clearly marked path back when you began you journey is now cloudy and occasionally scary. You no longer feel connected to your purpose in life. But don’t be discouraged. Be open to change and the sun will illuminate your purpose again. It might look a little different, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Purpose is not something you find and then lose. It’s like the sun moving across the sky, shifting over time, moving through clouds and storms, and always coming back up tomorrow.
What did you perceive as your purpose in life at the age of 22 (or if you are 22, then 12!)? What do you perceive your purpose is now? What happened in life to change that purpose? How do you feel about that change?
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