Every time I think, see, or hear the word PURPOSE, I immediately start singing the song of the same name from the Broadway musical "Avenue Q." For those of you who are unfamiliar with what might be one of the greatest musicals ever written, it goes like this:
"Purpose - it's that little flame, that lights a fire under your a**.
Purpose - it keeps you going strong, like a car with a full tank of gas.
Everyone has a purpose, so what's mine?"
I stop here, always, because that's the question I ask myself all the time. What's my purpose? I hate that I am almost 50 years old and still don't have an answer to that.
Maybe it's because "purpose" is two different words, and requires a few angles.
Purpose, as a noun, means something set up as an object or end to be attained; the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. Purpose, as a transitive verb, and pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, means to propose as an aim to oneself.
So if you aim oneself at the object to be attained, are you purposing your purpose?
It's complicated, isn't it? Who ever really finds their purpose in life? When you google "finding your purpose," you get a zillion hits, from life hacks to psychology journals to wiki hows. There are a zillion videos, from TEDx talks to famous psychologists to Brene Brown to random yahoos who think they've solved for X in the problem of life.
I can find my purpose in twelve steps, or ten, or six, or seven, depending on the URL I choose to click. I can go Biblical and see what the Christian God has to say - “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Great, but the purpose isn't made very clear.
In Judaic studies, Hillel the Elder said "If not now, when?" which can be a question about your purpose in life. That feels like answering a question with a question.
To a Muslim, the whole purpose of life is "ibadah," to worship the One True Almighty God on Terms and Under His Conditions. That seems simple enough, but is actually thoroughly complicated when you read the T&Cs.
As an aside, ALWAYS read the T&Cs.
Every time I think I have my purpose in hand, it slips out. I thought early on it was to be a world-class journalist, which I did, sort of. I loved working in political journalism, back when it was something fun and not the dramatic he said/they said/she said show that it is now. But I left that for more money and a better schedule to go into sales marketing.
And I was good at that, and made that same company a lot of money. I knew the ins and outs of editorial. I was trusted by the news group not to sell their souls. The sales team knew I'd never give them something they couldn't sell.
When I got laid off from that job, I searched again for my purpose, and thought it was in non-profit marketing. I did that for seven years, and made an orchestra and an opera company a lot of money. I sold a lot of tickets, and exposed a lot of people to an art form they might not have chosen first. Entertainment dollars are precious, and I talked a lot of people into spending them on things like Bizet's Carmen and Puccini's Turandot.
Now that I've left that world, at least for the time being, what's my purpose? Is it new? Is it an old purpose I'll recycle?
Whatever it is, I miss having it. I miss having goals and structure and colleagues and deadlines. I miss emailing people. I miss a full to-do list. I miss working.
How have you found your purpose?