The Purpose Puzzle: What Is My Purpose?

There are a lot of people wandering around looking for their purpose in life which I call the Purpose Puzzle. If you are pondering the Purpose Puzzle then the first thing you may wonder is if you are in a position to pursue your purpose physically and psychically. We can look at Maslow’s hierachy of needs pyramid and see that the top is self actualization, fulfillment or your higher purpose. But first you have to make sure all the other physical and safety needs are met, and all those other needs piled on top of them.  But is this fair?maslows-hierarchy-of-needs

The thing that doesn’t work for us in Maslow is: 

1) It’s set up as a hierarchy as if you are moving through all these stages, climbing to self-actualization or fulfillment like it’s a destination on the life train express. However, sometimes these stages come and go in our lives, many things we are working on simultaneously and it truly can be two steps forward one step backwards and some periods are whole hog backslide. So my two cents worth is, you are probably ready for your purpose if you are thinking about it.

2) The other thing that trips up Maslowian progression is that many of us don’t know the difference between really having our basic needs threatened and worrying about having our basic needs threatened – this is where Buddhism, Sufism and other practices on consciousness can help where you work on your mental state and being free from suffering such things as worry.

3) What Maslow also doesn’t answer-but Jungian analysis that often lasted years was supposed to-was, that no one but ourselves can say what self-actualization or self-fulfillment actually is. And this is a little of what today’s blog is really about.

If you are a life coach or have been to a life coach, the question, “What do you want?” followed by, “What do you really want?” is standard operating procedure. And then the probing comes. It sometimes lasts for a long time. You think this, you think that. Almost always Maslow’s lower needs of how am I going to pay the rent while I do this or that comes up too.

Essentially, when it comes to finding your purpose, I have found that everyone falls into one or sometimes more than one of these three categories:

1) You know what you want to do to feel fulfilled, but are afraid.

2) You don’t know.

3) You find the whole pursuit thing stressful and you would rather help someone nice accomplish their cool purpose, but are not yet doing that.

  1. You already know what you want…

Some people already know, or believe they know, what their purpose or passion is and have known for a long time. They know what they love to do, but it scares them silly. It scares them because they don’t know how they are going to make money at it (or that’s a popular excuse), or it scares them because they don’t know if they will be any “good” at it. That is a combination of a fear of failure and a fear of success, which are really both sides of the same coin.

If this describes you, we could be very harsh and just say, “Get doing it for Pete’s sake. There is never going to be a right moment or a safe time. You CANNOT figure it out on the sidelines.” However, to get beyond your anxieties we suggest you get some help, from professionals, from books, watch videos, enlist coaches & mentors, sign up for courses and then, and only then, “Get doing it for Pete’s sake.” After all that help, rest assured that there still will never be a right moment or a safe time. You will still never be able to figure it out on the sidelines. You don’t want to waste a lot of time trying to figure it all out because you can’t. Or as Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Also, consider this, you are lucky that you know what it is. So many are in the next two groups.3purpose

  1. You don’t know…

You are not sure what your purpose is, or haven’t chosen or created a purpose yet. Let’s assume you have thought about it, maybe searched, and even tried a few things but nothing was “it.” Maybe you have a few more ideas but are still not sure. Consider this, other than our loved ones as a purpose for meaning in our lives, we choose a purpose or create one. When you choose and then commit to that kind of purpose it has to mean something to you and it often has to serve a specific group. But for now, make a choice, a choice you can see yourself doing for 10 years+, even if you are not absolutely clear where you will be in that ten years. My observation of those that do really have “it” is that they simply chose AND they added a firm measure of commitment to it.  The message here is, if you are a wishy-washy person you are bound to suffer OR you should start accepting that you like variety and take up and drop purposes as you see fit. You may be one of those people who like to have multiple ones and you may even have one foot in the next camp…

3) You find the whole pursuit thing stressful and you would rather help someone nice accomplish their cool purpose, but are not yet doing that.

I wish more people liked and valued this category and recognized that they belong here. On this planet and the way our culture is going we stress the self in self fulfillment. We think of ourselves as lesser or lesser expressed if we are not the spearheads, or the innovators, or the sole creators. As a writer, I certainly fall into this trap. Also, I am amazed at hearing people say, all the time, “I can’t change anything.” But they don’t offer help to others that can. I am thinking of all the wonderful volunteers who have helped me and all the volunteering I did to help others. I am thinking of how change has always happened in history with groups of people, not solos. So if you recognize you are not a leader, not a solo artist, not an entrepreneur then I ask, have you knuckled down to helping someone or some organization in their fine pursuit? You can do this and do your “day job” and you can help more than one organization. Help them the way they need help OR help them using your own strengths and talents. Again, the feeling of purpose comes with the level of commitment. And after ten years you may move on to something else. I never regretted much of the volunteering I did or helping others, but there was always a point to move on and I did that too.

Maybe this blog post has helped you in your own Purpose Puzzle, a little. Maybe it has just re-stated what you already understood. Or, maybe you are ready for something deeper and you need to be knocking on Buddha’s door.

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