Purpose as a Theme

Purpose is the reason for which something exists. Many a man and woman have struggled to discover why they exist. But in my experience, if they looked at their lives as a whole, they would discover a theme to their existence.

Often times we confuse purpose with vocation. Or purpose with doing. Purpose is first about being. And when we stop all the doing, and we relax and just be, we can sink into our story and discover the purpose theme for our lives.

A great way to start this journey is to ask yourself, “What is it that I can’t NOT do in my life?” For me, coincidentally, it’s about helping others discover and bravely embrace their purpose. Over 20 years ago, I wrote this purpose statement: To free men from living the status quo by helping them discover and live their God-Given purpose.

Since a teenager, I’ve challenged people to challenge the status quo of reacting to life: Going to work, watching 5 hours of TV, going to bed and doing it all over again in the morning. Instead, I challenged people to live proactively. To set goals, plan their days, weeks and months, have hobbies, learn, experience and live!  I called that idea The Proactive Life and in my early 20’s wrote curriculum around that, led a men’s retreat and mentored men to define what living looked like to them. I lead our marriage by taking my wife and I on quarterly retreats. The intent of those retreats was to identify the purpose for our marriage and to set goals individually and as a couple so we could live proactively instead living reactively.

How purpose has manifested itself in my life has come in many different forms. In my late 20’s I founded a marketing company with this purpose: To challenge people to be their best version. Naturally, I became a certified executive coach. And recently, I was talking with a friend and he summarized my purpose as: “Oh, you help people wake up!” The overarching theme of my life and therefore my purpose is to challenge others to live purposefully. How I do that can be in various forms, many of which I’ve yet to discover or employ!

What is your Purpose Theme? Purpose is one of those easier-said-than-done things to define. It makes sense that it can be an extremely daunting task to put a stake in the ground and say “This is my purpose.” I know for me, I was reluctant to define my God-Given purpose because I felt God was going to send me to be a missionary in Africa. Or, I didn’t want to define or own my purpose because it meant I would commit to something, and if I committed to something, *gasp*, I could fail! Failure would affect my lifestyle, or threaten my identity, or worse, leave me desolate and alone!

The good news is once you define your Purpose Theme, you can ease into it. You don’t have to make a radical, dramatic change all at once. In my next post, we’ll talk about the Stream of Purpose and how you can begin to dip your toe into that stream to lead a life filled with purpose, direction and fulfillment--one day or even one hour at a time.