These days people are always aiming to find and understand their life purpose. It may have always been so, but I think not. I think in eras past people just were what they were, or what their family was. They may or may not have been happy, but they didn’t likely spend a lifetime searching for something to be. They weren’t stymied or stumped by this idea either.
This era seems different to me. People are searching for that thing, that purpose that is theirs. In many ways I think it’s lovely. It’s wonderful to have this luxury and to feel this freedom. It’s even better to truly understand who you are and feel you are on your path. But sometimes I think we make this much more complicated and grandiose than it really is.
We are trained by the stories we hear, see, and know to think ours is a grand quest, or it must be in order to have value. You know—all of our favorite literature or movies have a hero with a larger than life purpose. It is their destiny to “defeat the Dark Lord” or be the savior of their people.
These stories are wonderful. They do have a purpose. They activate a feeling in each of us of what it is like to give our best to a cause. If told well they even help us understand that it may be messy along the way. And that sometimes becoming yourself is like sharpening a tool, the more you be it, the better you become at you.
However, sometimes these stories give us an idea that our purpose has to be great and heroic—a thing of legends. And this idea can stop people from discovering or understanding who or what they are truly here to do.
Because for most of us our work is not the kind from which legends are made. Ballads will not be sung in our name for years to come. We are not Mahatma Gandhi or Steve Jobs. More often than not, we are “ordinary” and unknown.
And yet, what we do matters.
For example, my husband is a carpenter. He goes into other people’s homes and makes beautiful things. He tears down walls and makes counter tops—or whatever is needed. He turns one room into something else entirely. This is practical and handy. People value him because he is good at it. Also because it is a skill most of us do not have and yet many of us need at some point or another in our lives. And while it is one of his primary gifts, from the moment I got to know my husband I understood that it was second burner to another even more valuable quality he possesses.
My husband is a stellar friend. He touches the lives of others in a very tangible, yet meaningful and authentic way. He shows up. He pays attention. He offers a hand when he can. He is attentive to their lives and details. He tracks their journey by checking in with them. He is deeply present in his friendships—in fact with most people he meets.
This is not a quality that you will see in magazines or books under the heading of “life purpose” and yet I feel it is one of his highest and most authentic natural abilities and purposes here. It isn’t lofty or legendary, but it is real and valuable.
Your purpose may be like that too.
Just by being ourselves we add positively to the lives of others and this planet. You could have an ability to make up creepy stories for example—look at Stephen King. Or combine whimsical images with uplifting words, like one of my favorite greeting card artists. She’s just doing her thing. She’s not even famous. I think she only sells her cards in her town. But in the process, she uplifts others and helps them connect. I’ve met others with an amazing ability to follow directions—this might seem like “nothing,” but it’s not. If you’re someone that needs something done, this skill is golden. It’s as essential to making the machinery of the world run smoothly as the person who came up with the idea themselves.
So what I want to suggest to you is this: Your life purpose may much simpler than you think it to be. Integral to it are the qualities that you do naturally, easily, and with love or gusto.
As a good friend of mine and life transformation colleague, David Wagner, put it recently when I mentioned this subject to him, “You don’t have to quit your job or start a new business to attain it.”
It may in fact be “ordinary.” And I put this in quotes every time because truly, I believe that none of us are “ordinary.” We are all extraordinary. But, thinking your life must include the things that legends or websites are made of in order to be valuable and purposeful, may be blocking you from seeing what you truly offer. It may be keeping you from seeing that extraordinary and ordinary quality and purpose that only you offer to the world in just that way. I can guarantee it’s a quality that the world needs just as much as another creepy story or a new computer app.
So think about it. Are you being yourself? You may already be fulfilling your life purpose—and you don’t even need to read a book to find out how.