Glossary: Purpose

A guy on Quora wrote:  “A purpose is a real or an imagined belief that something has a use or a reason for being.”  Next he said “Meaning is the value or values which are assigned to that belief.”

When this is applied to a person in the existential context (as I mostly do), purpose is why I get up in the morning. What am I willing to live and die for.  What is the point of all this activity?  If you feel lost, wandering, most likely you need to get in touch with some kind of purpose, or your current purpose is not serving your overall well-being.  Searching inside your self, taking the Red Pill of self-awareness, can help you wake up to what purpose you are living today.  Examine it.  Is it in the pursuit self-transcendent  eudaimonia or self-enhancing hedonia (thanks Aristotle).  Is your purpose fear/anxiety based or hope/love based?

Victor Strecher wrote, “Purpose is a high-order goal that has deep value.”  In his recent book he has a whole framework for coming up with those higher order goals and starting to live a self-transcendent life of purpose.  While that is a noble goal, my use of “purpose” is a bit more pedestrian and less Utopian.  You have a purpose wither you admit it or not. Something is getting you up in the morning.  It could be pure habit. Or responsibility.  Or slavery.  Or duty.  You could get up for yourself or for the service of others or for no good reason other than you have to take a piss.  In that moment you purpose was to take a piss.  Sure that purpose was short term, driven by physical needs and hedonic, but so what?  Now how much of you life is driven by those kinds of purpose?

Purpose is not doing or being.  It is a framework for doing and being.  It is the “why” for all the other activities (or as many of them as you can).  The point of figuring out purpose is to get on with the DOING and BEING part of life.  So you can live more authentically, figure out what your values/strengths (start by doing a couple upgraded assessments) are and build a purpose on those values/strengths.

I don’t like “capital Purpose” because it sounds like a mountain.  It sounds like an unattainable huge burden.  I like to think of it more simply.  My purpose in life right now is my reason for being right now.  Here in the PRESENT.  That is not the same purpose I had 20 years ago. It may not be the same reason 20 years from now.  Purpose is the rudder on your ship.  A ship without a rudder gets blown around in the sea and likely will not end up where its occupants want to go.  To take any journey, you vehicle needs a rudder, a steering wheel.  That is purpose.  Purpose for me has a medium/long-term horizon (3-10 years).

Not everyone needs purpose.  Not every activity in life supports purpose.  In fact many activities explicitly contradict your purpose.  I am fairly certain the world would be a far better place if more people searched for a purpose and regularly (3-5 years) evaluated if their life was fulfilling their purpose.

My journey, in part, is to understand the purpose and LOOK for authentic alignment if aspects of current purpose doesn’t server my overall well-being.  Having a clear purpose is has been proven by multiple studies to result in greater health and happiness outcomes.  Time to get clear.


Also published on Medium.

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