For those of you who read my posts regularly- you know my story- I am a Paddington train crash survivor. I then went on to campaign with other survivors and won the battle for improved rail safety. During the long and painful journey back to recovery my sole purpose was survival, getting through each day. My life as a high powered financial advisor, company executive and financially successful business owner was over.
When I thought I was dying, I realised with absolute clarity, that I had NOT fulfilled my purpose, I had NOT found my why and that, in part, fuelled my fight back. I experienced a sense of regret at a life not fully lived and I think that is quite common among people suffering traumatic events. What I have discovered since, is that many people have regrets about their lives, as they are living them; how sad is that?
There is an interesting quote from Jack Canfield on purpose.
"It's not an accident that musicians become musicians and engineers become engineers: it's what they're born to do. If you can tune into your purpose and really align with it, setting goals so that your vision is an expression of that purpose, then life flows much more easily."
- Jack Canfield
Maybe it is easier if you are a musician to identify your purpose? I like the fact he mentions engineers, a lot less about "a gift" and more about skills, talents, a leaning to a practical profession. Many feel that for those who are naturally talented it is easy to find purpose, the rest of us just muddle along, doing what we can.
Your purpose is bigger than talent
I believe that purpose is not just about gifts and talents bestowed on us. It is far more about identifying our true values and living a life aligned to those values. In my weekly blog posts this month I have been discussing legacy and what we might want to be remembered for. I do not intend to be gloomy or negative; it is more about feeling a sense of living a life that matters and makes a difference.
Image courtesy of Sarah Vitale
There are a lot of examples of people who change their lives because they find a sense of purpose and they are not all renouncing the commercial world, quite the opposite. Becoming a parent is often a trigger for life change, especially for women leaving full time employment, even if only temporarily. There is a huge growth in mum-entrepreneurs for example and often their business ideas are a result of challenges they face in parenting. They are motivated to make things better for their new families. (there are some good examples of this in this article). These women have definitely found a purpose.
Why is having a sense of purpose important?
Human beings are an interesting bunch. It's not just our opposable thumbs that make us different in the animal kingdom, but our search for truths. There is a spiritual side to the human race, even those who declare themselves atheists still question the universe. We are inspired by the selflessness of Mother Theresa, the inventiveness and art of Da Vinci, the courage of everyday heroes. We often aspire to be more than the ordinary and that is what drives the human race forwards.
However, you don't have to be a world class game changer to have a sense of purpose. It can be found in the everyday actions of parents; teachers; teens standing up to bullying; neighbours taking care of each other; people running for charity etc.
It does, perhaps, need some thinking about. We usually know when all is not quite right. It can be a sort of fidgetiness, a difficulty getting to sleep, a quiet dissatisfaction with the status quo. A life of regret is not something I would wish on anyone, but I do know that changing something that still "works" can be tricky. I certainly wouldn't wish a life altering event such as I experienced on anyone, but it did teach me a lot about myself.
What I can say is that reflecting on your life while you're living it, is far more productive than waiting till the end to be disappointed. Your sense of purpose helps to drive you forward so if you don't have one it can be a very static and unsatisfying existence.
Finding your "why" your "raison d'etre" is not a complicated process; it just requires time spent thinking it through. Most of us are too busy doing, to do much thinking. So, maybe a little time invested in figuring out what is truly important to you, is time well spent? What do you want to be remembered for? What difference would you like to make in the world? This doesn't have to be grandiose, the world you impact can be very close to home.
Simon Sinek is an inspirational writer and one of his small notes of inspiration dropped into my inbox recently. It said;
"When we know Why we do what we do, everything falls into place. When we don't know Why we do what we do, we have to push things into place."
When you have a sense of purpose everything falls into place.