Week# 3: My Purpose in Life is… Hey look, a Squirrel!
One of my mentors, Brian Johnson, talking about the book “The Path of Purpose”, by William Damon, says that:
Purpose is the ULTIMATE CONCERN.
It is the final answer to the question Why? Why are you doing this? Why is it important? A purpose is a deeper reason for the immediate goals and motives that drive most daily behavior.
In short, it’s the WHY? behind what we do.
The author argues persuasively that finding a clear purpose is an essential part of achieving the sense of flourishing that we hope our kids experience.
Short-term desires come and go. A young person may desire a good grade on a test, a date to the prom, a cutting edge electronic PlayStation, a starting slot on the basketball team or admission to a prestigious college. These are desires; they reflect immediate aims that may or may not have longer-term significance. A purpose, by contrast, is an end in itself.
A person can change purposes, or add new ones, over the years; but it is in the nature of purposes to endure at least long enough that a serious commitment is made and some progress toward that aim is achieved.
“A purpose can organize an entire life, imparting not only meaning but also inspiration and motivation for ongoing learning and achievement.”
– William Damon
William walks us through nine things we can do to help cultivate purpose in our lives.
Let’s take a quick look at each of them (and, as we do, think about how you might be able to optimize each facet a little more today):
- “Listen closely for the spark, then fan the flames.” William tells us everyona has a “spark” (or multiple things that capture our interest). We need to listen for them then help fan the flames of potential meaning.
- “Take advantage of regular opportunities to open a dialogue.” We can take advantage of the day-to-day “micro-occasions” to chat with ourselves about things that interest us and how we may be able to invest more energy in those activities.
- “Be open-minded of the sparks of interest expressed.” We can only script our own lives. (Obviously.) We need to be open to what fires US up and, cultivate those interests.
- “Convey our own sense of purpose and the meaning you derive from our work.” Too often all parents do is complain about their work and act as if the only reason they do it is for the paycheck. That’s creating a really toxic relationship to work. We need to share our own purpose and meaning we derive from work.
- “Impart wisdom about the practicalities in life.” We need to create a vision of what’s possible AND how to create practical, realistic plans to make those visions a reality.
- “Introduce ourselves to potential mentors.” With the seeds of interest(s) identified, we can introduce ourselves to mentors who may be able to support us with practical steps and knowledge.
- “Encourage an entrepreneurial attitude.” This one is awesome and we’ll talk about it in more depth in a moment. Whether we actually start a business or not, the entrepreneurial spirit of having a vision, making plans, being willing to take risks and deal with setbacks is a HUGE asset for all of us as we craft lives of meaning and purpose.
- “Nurture a positive outlook.” Optimism is essential. We want to cultivate a positive view of life and respond to challenges with a “I can do it!” attitude rather than a “Oh, no!” attitude.
- “Instill a feeling of agency, linked to responsibility.” Agency is a sense of empowerment—the idea that we have the power to positively affect our environment. We want to combine that with a sense of responsibility—that we can and MUST use our gifts in service to the world around us.