what is your purpose in life?

 Discussing new opportunities over a coffee recently, my colleague surprised me by posing the question, “What is your purpose?” I hesitated and offered a few words about helping others, and then realised that I needed to give this some more thought.  I’ve often thought that it would be quite powerful to have a defined purpose – like a form guide in the back pocket. It was also interesting to read Lenore Taylor in the SMH claiming that the Government’s main problem in the election was a coherent sense of purpose.

This wise colleague who shared the coffee hinted that life’s real purpose was more than about goals and objectives – which are often the means rather than the end, or the things that disguise the real journey. He then shared a challenge he gives some of his mentees, asking them to write a poem about where they are from.  I noted the comment and at the time categorised it as a coaching gimmick. Being a person who likes to tick the box and move on, I went home and penned this:

“My purpose in life is to help people and organisations realise their potential”

Felt a bit chuffed about that – that’s exactly what I do, and enjoy doing it….boards, mentoring, businesses, family, friends….yes, that’s my purpose. I also reflected on how that purpose has evolved over time. Yet, for some reason I kept coming back to this as unfinished business, unable to dismiss the question “where are you from”. As I searched the web for inspiration (and manoeuvred past the religious zealots and their self-righteous offerings of purpose), I discovered the difference between an outer purpose (what you do, your talents, values and preferences) and the inner purpose (where you are from, where you are heading, what brings happiness and sadness).

Realising that my purpose was really an outer purpose, I set to work on the suggested poem, “I  AM FROM” – a very personal and raw offering , one which I did not write to publish, but one which I am prepared to share in this context:

I am from convict stock, from the sunburnt Mallee and Gippsland’s green.I am from the house of love,

built by special parents with shining ideals.

 

I am from genes conferring forward momentum,

giving intelligence and stupidity, played out in different ways.

I am from the school of glass half full

where possibility and hope outweigh doubt and fear,

where first we seek to understand – and then,

take courage to confront, create, change and renew.

 

I am from the world, the experiences, the pain and joy

that come with high expectation.

I come from raucous laughter, of mates and sporting contests

from bush tracks, gardens, beaches and layered urban life,

learning to be authentic in a world that is mostly not,

striving to contribute – for family, friends and beyond.

 

I am of a nature that yearns to be connected, yet

relishes the contrast of escape – where solitude prevails.

I am from the house of love

which cherishes family young and old,

where compassion, generosity and encouragement

nourish and inspire.

 

He was right! The exercise awakened the inner purpose, just as Steve Pavlina does with his worthwhile life purpose in 20 minutes exercise. Steve suggests that you take a piece of paper and keep writing your purpose, clearing your head, writing it again, until you cry. Then you have nailed it. It’s worth a look.  Another exercise used by top coach Margie Hartley at Channel is to ask “When are you at your best and most energised?” What happens then? What are you doing, feeling thinking? The answers give a clue to the direction of your purpose statements.

I ran the exercises and my purpose now is:

“With love, compassion and courage, to add richness to the lives of those around me”

The process of articulating the purpose will probably be an ongoing one, however I am lifted by the thought that this particular purpose will provide fulfilment and growth to me and hopefully add value to others. It’s important to say that there is no right or wrong in this pursuit – it’s a single private measure that adds meaning to life.

What is your purpose?



5 Comments


  1. What is the key to you? What makes you tick?

  2. Ken, Sometimes my purpose in life is seemingly mundane. Michael has been caregiving all year due to my almost crippling back pain, then Laminectomy back surgery 12 weeks ago. He does everything for me. so he could not go away until I could put my own shoes and socks on. So my purpose has been to do so and I have strived, innovated battled with wayward velcro and laces … but, I don’t give up easily and hey presto! have won the day – just. Michael is off to Mallacoota for some well earned renewal from Thursday 26th August.
    I love your reflections.

  3. Hi Ken,

    Great blog site and I really like this and your other articles. I have asked myself similar questions since retiring from the daily corporate grind 2 years ago. I have to admit I haven’t tried poetry but like the idea so maybe I’ll give it a go. I see my purpose now as a king-maker rather than trying to be king. I like helping others achieve which is why I do so much mentoring with young entrepreneurs. I find they are confused about their purpose most of the time and perhaps that’s exactly how they should be for now.

    Must catch up soon,

    Simon

  4. YOu certainly were from the house of love and you were so lucky!

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