The search for the meaning in life starts by discovering your personal purpose. But if you don’t know what purpose is, then you’re at a distinct disadvantage in your discovery process. This post answers the question, What Is Purpose? Even more importantly, you’ll see where purpose fits into the larger picture of leading your life and others.
In answering the “What Is Purpose” question, it’s vital to clarify what purpose is and to a degree what it is not. Absent this most basic precept, every other effort is a proverbial wild goose chase.
Context and Flow of Purpose
Purpose is the starting point of a co-creative and ongoing personal initiative to resist the gravity of decline. The process involves living a more meaningful and fulfilling life by the standard you set for yourself.
On-Purpose™ is a method to give profound expression to your purpose to life powerfully and wisely so you can meet or exceed your set standard. This form of personal leadership development is a dynamic story played throughout your life.
If, however, you don’t what purpose is, then the 2-word purpose “quiz” becomes just another “been there, done that” bauble to add to the charm bracelet of other failed attempts to better know who you are, why you’re here, what to do with your life, and what’s important for making wiser decisions.
Unfortunately, too many of us nibble on breadcrumbs of purpose when it holds a bakery of benefits. Largely, this is because we don’t know what purpose is. You can’t find what you aren’t looking for.
Know What You’re Searching For
When our kids were little and visiting godparents summering in North Georgia, the godmother said, “Let’s go to a nearby stream to look for garnets, a semiprecious gem.” Excitedly we piled the kids, a picnic, and the godmother into our Jeep Wagoneer and took off for the shallow waters of the designated mountain creek bearing gifts of garnet. Arriving at the designated creek, we unpacked, ate, and could hardly contain ourselves to start the treasure hunt.
When the time came, I asked our guide, “So what do garnets look like in the rough?”
Ever so sincerely, she replied, “Why I don’t know. We’ll know when we find one, I guess. Right?” I swallowed hard, covered my disbelief with a smile at her delightful cluelessness.
We never found a garnet. Or maybe we did, but we didn’t know we had. Fortunately, we made the best of our family fun adventure. Our earnest “search” for garnets ended with playing in the creek by floating sticks and leaves, building dams, and mischievously splashing one another.
This story illustrates the way most people search for their purpose. They figure they’ll recognize it when they see their purpose. Invariably, a search for what you can’t recognize fails to produce what you’re hoping to find. Typically, frustration sets in, and we move on to more entertaining or distracting activities. The “hope to stumble upon approach” can work, but why not work a proven way thanks to ONPURPOSE.me?
Avoid the rookie mistake of assigning a nominal value to your 2-word purpose statement. It’s an invaluable piece in the missing puzzle of your life. The ONPURPOSE.me tool was designed based on over twenty-five years of thought and tens of thousands of clients in order to make it so elegant that it only takes about a 3-minute investment to complete it.
With ONPURPOSE.me, the long search to know one’s purpose ends. Some final polishing might be needed, but typically it gets very high marks for accuracy. Of those surveyed, 82% rate it an 8 out of 10 for accurately conveying their purpose.
Instead, the challenge shifts to appreciating the precious cut stone qualities of a 2-word purpose revealed in mere minutes. Having your life purpose emerge so affordably, rapidly, and accurately might seem too easy. A tendency is to dismiss or discount it, especially if you don’t know what purpose really is. Big mistake!
Don’t have your 2-Word Purpose yet? Click here to get started.
So, What Is Purpose?
With your 2-word purpose has arrived your “Acres of Diamonds” story. Will you recognize the richness of your purpose for what it is: Ingeniously Fast. Forever Meaningful. Forever is a long time.
Let’s dig into what purpose is and isn’t. Purpose has many facets, nuances, and applications. By dispelling some of the basic confusion and ignorance swirling about purpose, the power and promise of your purpose will be recognized and appreciated.
Purpose is your reason for being. Ask the question, “Why am I here?” The answer you’re seeking is to know your purpose in life. This is why the generic start to every 2-word purpose statement is, “I exist to serve by … (insert your 2-word purpose).” Two words transport you from a generic purpose to a uniquely personal understanding for why you are alive on the planet at this time and space. Will you be a good steward of your purpose?
Purpose is not what you do, but rather who you are. Yet once understood, your purpose informs your choices of what you do.
Purpose is a matter of the heart. Point to yourself and chances are you point to the center of your chest or your heart. Instinctively, you understand your heart to be where your true self resides.
Purpose goes even deeper and farther. Purpose is the heart of your heart. It is that profoundly vital to making sense of your existence on planet Earth.
Consider some of the many idioms and phrases used in relationship to our heart. Personal loss leaves us “brokenhearted” and so pained beyond what words can express. When we “cross our heart and hope to die,” we’re placing our integrity on the line. To “follow our heart” implies being true to our deepest awareness of what’s right for us. Whereas to be “half-hearted” or feel that “my heart’s not in it” conveys empty disinterest, as in just going through the motions or being uninspired. To “guard my heart” is the ultimate protection from being hurt or entering into a relationship or situation with healthy skepticism and prepared to battle for your well-being.
Purpose is symbolized by the color red. Red represents passion, power, energy, action, blood, anger, danger, and adventure. Fire trucks, red lights, and stop signs are painted red in order to grab our attention. Your personal purpose is attention worthy.
Purpose is deeply associated with our healthiest emotional state of being. Stopping the check in with our heart is a prudent personal practice. Purpose provides an instinctive early warning system to detect danger. It is also a guidance system to more wisely navigate the trials and triumphs of life.
Purpose is spiritual. Using the widely accepted whole person depiction of Mind, Body, and Spirit, purpose lives in the ether of the Spirit. It whispers to the Mind to direct the Body. Purpose is the pulse of our higher conscience waging war against our lesser self.
Purpose is God-given and, therefore, inherently good. Purpose is that pure part of your soul gifted at birth and since polluted by many sources. Purpose opens unlimited access to this vein of golden goodness to mine, melt, and mold into becoming a better version of who we are today. Regardless of whether you seek total redemption or a modest reformation, your purpose infuses your birthright promise into today’s needs. Purpose provides a humble restoration to an inner Garden of Eden in thought, word, and action.
Purpose is the cause in the cause and effect principle. It is relatively easy to envision the effect, such as I want a new job, or I want to meet a person to marry, or I want to be healthier. But we bypass or don’t take the time to address the cause. Such wishful surface thinking is folly filled with frustration. Your purpose is always your starting point — connect it to your desired effect. How to close the gap between cause and effect will become more readily clear.
Purpose is the golden thread that integrates our lives. Absent purpose, we look for a balanced life — a modern mythological god of the self-help movement. Purpose informs every facet of our life. The On-Purpose Person provides seven “life accounts”:
A “life in balance” approach has each life account competing for time, energy, and resources. An integrated life approach blends each life account into a cohesive and productive whole whereby each area of life is a meaningful expression of purpose or is in the creative process of making it so. That’s the essence of going from purpose to being on-purpose.
Purpose is spiritual DNA and identity. Physical DNA exists under a microscope. Your DNA uniquely identifies you. Purpose as spiritual DNA is every bit as unique and capable of identifying you and helping you know who you are and, as importantly, who you aren’t.
Just as your physical DNA doesn’t change, your spiritual DNA of purpose is permanent. Your purpose doesn’t change. As your life experiences unfold and you come to know yourself better, your 2-word purpose may very well be further refined. Eventually, you will get to where your 2-word purpose solidifies and remains the same.
Having pioneered On-Purpose since the late ’80s, I have clients who have lived with their 2-word purpose statement for decades. It withstands the test of time and has provided a touchstone for more authentic living.
Purpose is strategic and informs our visions, missions, and values. As potent and powerful as purpose is, it does not stand alone. Purpose partners with visions, missions, and values to complete so that cause can have effect.
Purpose, as you learned, just exists. It is like an unplanted acorn that contains the potential to multiply into a forest of majestic live oaks. Left unplanted, however, it exists as only an acorn.
Once planted in the dirt of our life, a vision emerges followed by the means or missions of what to do. Purpose, vision, and missions depend on values to guide us toward perishment or nourishment.
Purpose, Vision, Missions, and Values (PVMV) are a deep strategy collective essential for leading any life or organization. Absent their articulation, the individual or the organization is guaranteed to be underperforming.
From Purpose to On-Purpose
Above are just eight of the many facets answering, “What is purpose?” Now that you are armed with an increasing sense of the power and insights to practical living and personal leadership development that purpose provides, the next question is this: How do you go from knowing what purpose is and knowing your life purpose in two words to being on-purpose? A great start is to read or listen to The On-Purpose Person: Making Your Life Make Sense. If you’re looking to be on-purpose at work, read The On-Purpose Business Person: Doing More of What You Do Best More Profitably.