It is not enough to be the best at something; we must be the best for something. Each of us has something very special to share with others, and the choice to do so – the choice of contribution – is the very heartbeat of a purposeful life…a passionate dance between ability and nobility that connects our private paths with the common ground of whatever larger effort we are a part of. Purpose is about one thing: the art of aim.
A clear sense of purpose delivers several undeniable benefits. Like the North Star, it provides constant guidance – pursuing it keeps us centered and focused, channeling our talents toward a waiting audience without succumbing to distracting opportunities and tempting tangents. It is not a specific goal to be achieved, but rather a lifelong effort that is never complete.
Purpose provides meaning – rewarding us with the greatest possible sense of personal satisfaction and fulfillment, above and beyond the individual act of engaging our gifts. It emboldens us – giving us the motivation and resilience we need to view life as a courageous adventure, creating the kinds of reciprocal actions that strengthen our resolve. Finally, it frees us – enabling us to reinvent ourselves and granting us the license to change our strategies and careers as required without losing sight of our ultimate aim.
Contemplating purpose in our work is, however, a daunting exercise. The question of “why are we here?” can be all at once so very overwhelming, especially if we have no ready answer. We must necessarily broach the subject of our reason for being, which for many can be the most difficult wrestle of all. Yet, solving this oldest riddle of humanity is unavoidable if we desire the significance that comes from knowing we’ve made a difference in the lives of others through our work.
[blockquote_right] To be great, art has to point somewhere. —Anne Lamott [/blockquote_right] Perhaps it is as easy as understanding that we are put here to share ourselves with others and make things better for everyone. We have been given the magnificent power to think and to create, and to not intend to leave the world a bit better than we found it, whether through the smallest act of kindness or most noble feat of sacrifice, would be a rather shameful waste of our talent.
Could it possibly be that we have no purpose here other than the accidental yet miraculous combination of so many atoms? Unthinkable. Even the cynical few who would argue the opposite can’t deny that we don’t and can’t exist alone – that we thrive together, that we can’t escape impacting others. Quantum physical as it may seem, every real thing is whole in itself, yet part of something larger, with the undeniable fact being that we are all connected and exist in this universe together, with very few degrees of separation.
Beyond making a conscious choice to join the dance, our individual contribution is in another sense a clear and present obligation to those who have dug the well from which we now drink so merrily. As others who have come before us have eased our path, we owe it to the world to dedicate our gifts as earnestly and responsibly to both give something back, and to play our part in the grand unfolding of the future.
We need only consider the dark alternative in order to understand the force of this mandate. (It makes me shudder!)
Certainly our significance in the world shall remain unfulfilled until and unless we have a deep sense of clarity around our contribution to some larger, external effort. The experience of being involved in creating and constructing something far exceeding our personal capability is profoundly meaningful and moving – it stirs the heart.
When our aim centers on the great use of our life spent building something that will outlast it, our individual worth overflows our personal borders to survive our passing. The relentless pursuit of a timeless initiative, of work that can never be finished, provides an unchanging, unfaltering personal ideology standing solidly to set one’s course.
When we commit our talents with this intentionality, providence will follow.