I was recently invited to be a speaker for an upcoming online telesummit called The Power of Purpose. While I’m honored to be a part of this program, the invitation had me pause and reflect a bit about my own life and work, and specifically ask myself the question, “Am I living on purpose?” My initial answer was, “Yes, of course I am.” However, as I thought about it more deeply, I could see that there are many aspects of my life and my work that aren’t “on purpose” at all.
This realization has been both humbling and enlightening. As I’ve continued to sit in this inquiry, I’ve become aware of some of the specific places in my life where not only am I not living “on purpose,” I’m operating unconsciously or by default, simply reacting to life as it’s “happening to me.” While I’m grateful to have work that I love, a wife and family that I adore, and so many wonderful things going on in my life – more often than I’d like to admit, it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of feeling as though I’m a victim of my circumstances and responsibilities. Maybe you can relate to this in some way?
As I’ve thought more about this whole concept of living on purpose, I think there are two distinct aspects of it. There is “Purpose” with a capital “P,” which relates to figuring out and living true to who we are, what’s most important to us, and our larger reason for being alive. And, then there is “purpose” with a lower case “p,” which relates to the level of consciousness, mindfulness, and deliberateness with which we live our lives on a daily basis. Both of these aspects of purpose are important to our overall fulfillment in life, yet they are distinct.
Living our Purpose
Living our Purpose (with a capital P) is a lot easier said than done for most of us. First of all, we have to figure out what our Purpose is, which for some of us comes easily and early in life, and for others of us it takes a long time (or may seem to never quite show up with true clarity). And, even for those of us who feel as though we’ve found our Purpose, it often shifts and changes as we grow and evolve, sometimes in significant ways.
A good way to delve more deeply into your own Purpose is to ask the simple but important question, “If money and logistics weren’t an issue, what would I do and where would I focus my attention and energy?”
Asking and answering this important question is something we can do on a regular basis, to check in with ourselves and see how true to our Purpose we’re living at any given moment in life. However, whether the answer to this question is crystal clear to us or not, most of us don’t have money and logistics handled completely and/or what we’re doing and how we’re living isn’t totally aligned with our Purpose. This “gap” between our Purpose and how we actually live is normal; it doesn’t make us bad, phony, or weak (although we often judge ourselves this way when we think about it like this).
The size and significance of our personal gap does, however, have an impact on us – the larger the gap, the more out of alignment we may feel, the smaller the gap, the more “on purpose” we may experience our lives. Our level of awareness of our gap and our willingness to take action in the direction of narrowing the gap is what will lead us to a life of deeper Purpose.
It’s also important to remember that this process is unique for each of us – there’s no “right” way to do it. Living our Purpose is about willingness, authenticity, vulnerability, boldness, and courage. And, like most important things in life, it’s a journey, not a destination.
Living on purpose
Living on purpose (with a lowercase p) is about how we live our lives on a daily basis. How conscious are you? How mindful are you? How deliberate are you? The answers to these questions will vary for each of us based on a variety of factors, and can even vary for most of us throughout the course of a given day, week, or month of our lives.
As fast as life seems to be moving these days, as much information and communication as we’re exposed to, and as many responsibilities as most of us have, it’s easy to let the “rat race” of life take over without us even being fully aware of it.
However, living on purpose is a practice – it’s about being conscious, mindful, and deliberate with both the big and small things in life. Slowing down, speaking up, taking risks, making tough choices, asking for what we want, dealing with conflicts directly, expressing our love and appreciation for others, taking care of ourselves, and remembering that we’re the authors of our lives are some of the many ways we can live on purpose on a regular basis.
Living our Purpose and living on purpose are not easy, and in many cases not even authentically encouraged by those around us. There is a lot of agreement within our culture that “life’s hard or, at least, too busy,” or “you can’t really do what you love,” or “you have to just suck it up and take care of business,” and many more along these lines. These types of thoughts and beliefs show up in my head on a pretty regular basis, and I hear them from people around me directly or indirectly all the time. However, just because we have these common thoughts or beliefs, doesn’t make them true or helpful.
For us to live our Purpose and live on purpose, it takes authentic self awareness and radical courage. And, as Susan Jeffers taught us all through her bestselling book, we must “feel the fear and do it anyway.”