The path of purpose

The problem

The world today is overwhelming. It is almost impossibly immense, staggeringly complex, deeply ambiguous, and ever-changing. We have near-infinite news, information, perspectives, and opportunities right at our fingertips, all vying for our scarce time and attention. There are a million possible paths before us.

At the same time, humanity is beset by many seemingly impossible, urgent challenges that demand the world of us: the climate crisis, oppression, war, poverty, authoritarianism, diseases of despair, powerful yet potentially devastating new technologies, and a pervasive sense that things today just aren’t as they should be.

Humans today are inundated with more information and opportunities than at any other time in history. And we perhaps demand more of ourselves than at any other time in history. How can we possibly sit idly by as the world around us crumbles? How can we possibly let a minute go by when we aren’t trying to save the world? We must go, go, go. We must do more, more, more. We must bring ourselves to our breaking point on a daily basis. At least this is what many of us tell ourselves.

We yearn to “be the change.” And yet we struggle to figure out what we can do in such a vast world amid such deep, intractable challenges. We struggle to find our right path among the million paths lying before us. We struggle to find a way to make a meaningful contribution while still maintaining our sanity and peace of mind.

The good news

That’s the bad news. The good news is that you don’t have to feel this way. There is a powerful antidote to the overwhelm, confusion, and hopelessness many of us feel today: purpose.

Through purpose, you discover and claim your one authentic path. You say “yes” to that which most brings you alive. But you also say “no” to all the paths that are not yours to walk down, that are distracting you from your highest callings, that needlessly drain you of your energy.

Through purpose, you make your contribution to the deep, intractable problems facing humanity today. You tap into and leverage the unique gifts offered to you in this life and offer them back to the world.

In doing so, you not only cultivate lasting meaning and fulfillment, but also a deep sense of peace that sustains you even through the darkest, most turbulent times.

What actually is purpose?

There are many ways we think about and define purpose. Purpose can simply be an intention. When we do something on purpose, we do it intentionally. Purpose can also be a feeling of determination to contribute to something beyond our own limited self-interest. When we act in this way, we garner a momentary sense of purpose.

But purpose is also the intentional, ongoing path through which we contribute to the greater good and infuse our lives with meaning. We might call this our life’s purpose. Our life’s purpose is the one path of the million before us that is most authentic to who we really are and that offers us our best opportunity both to contribute something meaningful to the world and to foster that deep sense of meaning and fulfillment we yearn for.

Our life’s purpose is built on five pillars:

  1. Intention: We may stumble upon our right path unwittingly, but we do not walk down it unknowingly. We must consciously choose it and know why we are choosing it in order to unlock its full power.
  2. Passion: Purpose inherently leverages our greatest gifts and interests. It lights our own internal fires. It inspires and enlivens us.
  3. Service: Through purpose, we inherently make a contribution beyond ourselves. This may be for our immediate family, our community, our country, or humanity altogether. The scale doesn’t matter. But purpose is always for something beyond our own self-interest. Purpose is passion plus service.
  4. Fulfillment: Purpose is the most direct, and perhaps the only, way to a truly fulfilling life. By walking the path, we infuse our lives with meaning. By giving away our gifts to the world, we fill our own cups. If you’re not fulfilled, it’s not purpose.
  5. Journey: Purpose is the path we walk down, not a destination we arrive at. It fulfills us simply through the act of following it. Through purpose, we learn to derive our motivation and meaning not from future goals and accomplishments, but from the beautiful adventure unfolding right before us in the now.

Are you walking your path of purpose?

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