I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to live a life of purpose. I look back over the arc of my life and, taken at the surface level, it would seem that my purpose has shifted dramatically in the last dozen years. I’ve left behind the world of corporate America and moved into full-time ministry. And yet, when I look past the surface, it’s not so much that my purpose has changed as that my understanding of what is meant by ‘purpose’ has changed.
In the first half of my life, I thought my purpose was synonymous with my job. And I was quite purposeful about my job. In fact, it wasn’t a job to me, but a career. I had a clear vision of where I was and where I wanted to go. I had a plan that would get me there, and I worked hard, learning the skills I needed as I progressed toward my goal.
Looking back, I can see that my sense of purpose came from outside myself. It was something I was moving toward, and I progressed by adding things to my life – skills and experience, roles and responsibilities. It was all about becoming.
Then, somewhere in my mid-to-late 30’s it began to dawn on me that I had achieved my career goals. I had become what I had been striving toward. In fact, I had surpassed my career dreams, surprising even myself. So did that mean that my purpose was fulfilled? It sure didn’t feel that way.
You see, about five years earlier I had begun a deeply transformational spiritual journey. As I studied Truth principles and deepened my sense of self awareness, I was coming to a radically different understanding of what purpose means.
I now understand that purpose never comes from things outside us – purpose wells up from within us. It is not something we move toward. Rather, it is the foundation from which we move. And we grow more skillful in expressing our purpose, not by adding things to our lives, but by removing things – barriers and baggage. It is not about becoming – it is about being who we already are. And, while we can use our work as one arena in which we express our purpose, work in itself is not our purpose.
Ultimately, our purpose is to know God and to know ourselves as expressions of God. Beyond that, each of us embodies gifts that reflect how God is expressing uniquely through us. Part of knowing God and knowing ourselves is to embrace those gifts and live a life that brings them into manifestation. To live a life of purpose then is to live the expression of God that we are.