Thought leaders, social media influencers, and even Ted-talkers advise us about the power that comes from “finding our why.” They tell us “our why” comes from within us, and that it is precisely what drives us. Indeed, only when we know our “why” will we be able to move our life onto a totally new, more challenging and more fulfilling path. They explain, knowing our “why” helps us make more intentional choices.
It is our mission statement.
It is our conviction.
It is our core source of motivation.
It is hogwash.
It is a brick wall.
Stay with me for a minute.
In the 1940s, Viktor E. Frankl was held captive in a Nazi concentration camp. Through the pain and agony, what kept Frankl from giving up was, yes, his purpose… his “why.” But he found meaning in his fight, and that’s what gave him the strength to push forward through a life that was filled with indescribable pain.
Let me repeat this: He found meaning in his fight. He didn’t fill his days imagining his purpose following his release; he was “living on purpose.”
This isn’t a case of “potato, potahto.” Waiting to live until you know your purpose and living on purpose is entirely different.
No matter how hard we try, we can’t force ourselves to find our “why.”
Not today. Not tomorrow. Not next month. I’ve tried. You see, at some point in life, we have to stop thinking about taking action and act. In other words, finding the right direction in life is something we can create by exploring and experimenting. When we shift the lens in which we view what we’re doing, we change its experience.
In the past, just thinking about finding my purpose would make me sweat.
My stomach would be tied up in knots searching for answers to questions like, what’s my higher calling? What makes me come alive? And quite bluntly, what should I be doing with my life?
Butttttt… what if our purpose is very different than what these Ted-talkers are telling us? What if…
Our “why” has nothing to do with what we do.
There, I said it. Our “why” has nothing to do with what we do. In fact, our purpose is quite simple. It’s to awaken, to discover, and to nurture who we indeed are. It’s to know and love ourselves at the deepest level and guide ourselves back home when we lose our way. The more we do this, the more aware and present we become, creating more harmony in our lives. Everything else is our intense passion, inspired mission, job, hobby, and so on. While these things are powerful and very worthy, they’re not our purpose. Our purpose is much, much bigger than that.
This profound understanding of purpose is felt right in the soul of my bones.
It diffuses the frustration I experience when my work isn’t appreciated or when my efforts are overlooked or criticized. Sometimes people will treasure my work, sometimes they won’t. Sometimes I’ll get the gig, sometimes I won’t. I’ll be thanked, and I’ll be taken for granted. I’ll give, and I’ll get nothing in return. I’ll be “Liked,” and I’ll be unfriended. That’s life. But, so then what? I have no purpose or meaning?
Absolutely, positively not.
Tying my worth to that yo-yo circus is exhausting, discouraging, and even makes me resentful. But if I anchor my purpose within, sweet friend, I’m bound to find things I’m ridiculously good at, and I’ll never feel lost or stuck. And as for brick walls, well, I’ll just shift my lens.