Purpose, Schmurpose


I’ve noticed something miraculous happens when I put my smartphone down for a few minutes. I encounter humanity. But before I go there, let me start with something else.

In my work with individuals and organization employees, I frequently hear this statement, “I just want to know my purpose and calling in life is.” And I get it! In this culture of automation and routine, it is all too easy to get lost in the mundane details of everyday life. Go to work. Feed the dog. Do the dishes. Send some emails. Watch a TV show. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Before we know it, we’re asking ourselves, “what am I doing with my life??” And what quickly follows is a flood of thoughts and feelings of defeat and discouragement that deceive our perspectives.

Yet, where do we get this idea that our purpose has to be some grand revelation? And even more importantly, that identifying and then embracing our purpose will result in some profound sense of joy and peace while completely obliterating any previous or future experience of confusion, hopelessness, disappointment, or inadequacy. I embrace this belief quite frequently; the result of which is a whole bunch of choices, emotions, behaviors, and attitudes based on a lie.

I’ll tell you what I believe our purpose ~ our grand calling should be, whether leader or follower, visionary or executor, bus driver or CEO. It is without question to LOVE. To love with great abandon. To love with all our heart. Now, before we all launch into the lyrics of a Beatles’ song, let me explain. The purpose of love isn’t some frou-frou concept. No, this purpose of love encompasses compassion, honesty, and justice; it’s the absence of malice, or vengeance, or resentment. Could you imagine if leaders led with this as their ultimate commitment. Could you imagine if we all did? Close your eyes and picture the beauty.

Ok, back to my smartphone story. I’ve made a pledge to spend less time surfing Facebook and Instagram and sending emails and instead keep my phone tucked out of sight on my daily commute on the bus or the EL. My purpose in doing so ~ to encounter more of others and less of me. It’s amazing how easily this can happen with one small action. The other day I struck up a conversation with an elderly lady. She spent ten minutes sharing with me that there is a time for everything. Not a new concept to me by any means but a nice reminder that nothing is static, everything is always changing. As she exited the bus she turned and with a smile said, “Live on faith and patience.”

To live out one’s purpose; to live with whole love (not fragmented or selective love) must be an active, daily choice. It must be consistent in the mundane and the extraordinary. It does not promise constant comfort, unwavering clarity, or a steady sense of pleasure and gratification with our relationships and situations. Yet, we have the opportunity to exercise our purpose with such creativity in the unique dynamics of our distinct circumstances and we have that opportunity right now!

Dismiss the lie that your purpose is some illusive, seemingly impossible goal and live in the reality that you stepped fully into it the moment you gasped your first breath. So live your purpose. Live the hell out of it. Live it with your family, your friends, and your loved ones; but don’t stop there. Live it with your employees and your partners; live it with your clients and customers. Live it like the little old bus lady said, with faith and patience; and amidst the insecurity and uncertainty you will undoubtedly encounter great moments of profound peace and fulfillment. And if your organization doesn’t thrive or stand out from amongst the rest under these counter-cultural actions, call me and I’ll give you a year’s worth of services for free.

Deb Gorton