What Is The Purpose Of Your Life?

February 18, 2019

Let's jump right in with a story:

A couple summers ago, I joined my siblings and their families at “Camp K Family Fun Day.” This camp for young people with disabilities opens its gates to the public once a year as a fundraiser and opportunity for the community to see what they’re all about. One of the activities a niece was particularly excited to do was the ropes course—excited enough to wait in line for it for over an hour. Finally, she had the helmet on, harness tightened, borrowed close-toed shoes fastened, and it was her turn!

With confidence, she started. The ascent up a utility pole with rebar hand and foot holds? No problem! She next tackled the swaying rope ladder, again with confidence and a smile on her face. And then it was time for the tightrope walk. Rationally, I think she knew she was safely clipped in and that the swaying side to side wasn’t really ominous. But when she looked down at me and saw how far the ground was below her, she hesitated. The tentative smile which had been on her face froze off her face and was replaced with terror. From the ground 15 feet below I did my best to encourage and reassure her that she was doing great and going to be okay but the longer she stared at the ground, she started swaying side-to-side dramatically.

Cue Bam-Bam.

It was obvious that my reassurances weren’t helping, so I changed tacks and encouraged her to “look ahead at the nice lady,” referring to the perky college girl with stylish glasses and a name like Bam-Bam* who was awaiting my niece on the far platform. My cute niece looked up at her, and the swaying stopped almost immediately. Bam-Bam got her to advance a couple more steps before my niece looked down toward me for the second time and the panicked swaying began again. We repeated this a couple more times before she safely reached Bam-Bam’s platform. I was so proud of my niece for doing such a scary thing, especially because in her almost 8 years of life she hasn’t proved that harnesses work and the danger of the ground felt very real.

A message: get on purpose.

In the same way that my niece made progress by looking at where she wanted to go, so do we all when we are moving with purpose toward an aim. Especially when that aim inspires our best, requires hard work and discipline, and will be a deeper, soul-stretching achievement. Having purpose in life is something humans literally and uniquely need. Yes, we can technically survive or exist without it but having a purpose in life is the difference between existing and living. One expert in the field of human development says the following:

“Your life is a boat. You need a rudder. But it doesn’t matter how much wind is in your sails if you’re not steering toward a harbor—an ultimate purpose in your life.” ~Victor Strecher

Sometimes it’s easier to see the effect of a new purpose on another person. You can hear something different in their voice, see the bounce in their step, and watch them moving with more intention in their life, producing more value in their waking hours than before and enjoying it. But I can feel the effects of striving for a purpose when I move from stagnant to working on something stretching and bigger than myself. I feel invigorated and alive.

What purpose is ahead of you? What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning excited to work on it? What is your “harbor” toward which you are steering your boat? From small, immediately achievable purposes to the BIG ones, I love what Mr. Emerson says on the subject.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Purpose and money:

There’s a definite relationship between purpose and money. When you have a clearly-defined, articulated purpose, you’ll find yourself inclined to get your money behind it. If it’s big (motivating) enough, you want to order the practicalities of life to help you achieve it.

If that purpose is going back to school for a particular degree, you have a reason to organize your money differently. If it’s starting a business to help others, you make some adjustments in the budget and plan the finances differently than if you are purposelessly just existing.

So, again, what is your purpose?

What are your life goals, big and small? What do you aspire to do? What are you aiming toward? I’m excited for you if you’ve found yours and, if you’re still searching, would suggest that getting your money on-purpose by budgeting can actually help you discover purpose. Organizing your money and tracking it has this way of helping you sift through priorities. In my own past experiences, wasteful, unintentional spending has been an indication that either my purpose has become clouded or I don’t have it established. And getting intentional about/with my money has helped me look forward in my life pursuits.

A new day!

It’s a great day, people. Let’s harness up, clap the helmet (people seem to do that when they’re ready to rock their adventure), and start climbing! And in the inevitable moments when we find ourselves hesitating and swaying side-to-side with panic, remember to look up, gets sights again on the harbor we’ve picked and move forward.

*Other counselors had names like Jelly and Moana which I am pretty confident are NOT their real names.

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