I know your life’s purpose. In fact I know the purpose of every human on this planet, because I believe we all share the same one.
Your life’s purpose is to be a force for good in the world. That’s it. That’s all.
And you get meaning from the way you choose to create good.
So, a nurse is doing good by healing patients. She finds meaning by making sure they get the right medications at right time, making sure they have what they need and are comfortable.
An investment broker who approaches her work with the idea that she’s going to help her clients plan for a successful retirement can find meaning in creating the right portfolio, the right risk mix. She might even find meaning in teaching people how to finally relate better to their money, so they can reach their goals.
A guy working in a bowling alley can feel an enormous sense of purpose in running a clean, well-functioning set of lanes that allow people to exercise, socialize and be part of a community. So even re-setting the pins can be deeply meaningful, if it allows all of that good stuff to continue.
Purpose: To do good.
Meaning: How you choose to do good.
Now, there are three things that can interfere with meaning and purpose. First, is fear. If you have the idea in your head that the only way to stay safe is to be really, really, really rich, and believe that there is no money in “doing good”, you are going to serve the fear and take the highest paying job possible, regardless. You might work in a large investment house where you make multiple on-paper deals which generate on-paper profits that merely get shared among the partners. In this case, you are only working to allay the fear, rather than to do good – catch that? – and life can feel very shallow and unfulfilled.
But a solution exists. You shift to doing good while in a similar job – maybe handle investments for a state’s retirement program, maybe commit some earnings to support a charity, maybe mentor some kid who could use a break. But you have to move out of fear and into doing good to get that deep sense of purpose and meaning which are missing.
The second thing that hampers your move toward purpose is The Killer “Should”. As in, “I should be a doctor/lawyer/Indian chief because that’s what my parents are/want for me/expect.” The problem is that if you are only doing whatever you’re doing to please others, it’s likely that doesn’t feel good – right at your core. Enter nasty habits like passive aggressiveness, self-sabotage and feeling like a fraud.
Again, the only way to turn this situation around is to look at where you can best be a force for good in the world. Where do you need to be to do good? Then do it. Whatever it takes.
And the Great Wall of China standing between you and your purpose might be your ego. Your ego may be sweet talking you that the purpose of life is to be admired, loved, maybe even put on a pedestal. You know you are put on this earth to do something great. Really great. But doing good is really secondary to your true mission – being loved and admired. Which is why the sometime hard work of doing good feels so empty. You don’t necessarily feel the love when you’re reviewing spreadsheets all by yourself, do you?
The key is to simply shift. Put doing good first, and then you may find that your ego gets everything it needs from the result of all you create.
Time after time, I see people suffering from working in a place that doesn’t work for them. They feel burned out, and unsure. It’s like the air’s been knocked out by a sucker punch and they don’t know how to get back on their feet.
The quickest way, the most fulfilling way, the happiest way, is to start asking yourself: “Did I do good today?” And knowing that you’ll be asking that question, tackle things that will allow you to say, “Yes. Yes, I did.”
And if you work in a place where it’s impossible to do any good at all, whatsoever, get yourself to a new place where you can. Don’t wait.
You can thank me later. When you happily find that you are living your purpose every day with a deep sense of meaning.