The Problem with “Purpose”: You Have More Than One

by Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. on 11/11/2010

image via commons.wikimedia.org

The prevailing wisdom is that to be happy, fulfilled and successful, one must discover and pursue one’s ‘purpose‘ in life. There are no shortage of self-help books and programs designed to do just that. The problem, however, is that this is utter bunk. Especially for DaVincis — multi-talented, creative people like you. You have more than one life purpose. Frankly, everyone has more than one purpose on this planet: We serve different purposes at different ages. We serve different purposes through our different talents.

I don’t know who started the myth and frankly I hope I never figure that out because they’ve caused untold unnecessary pain in creative people. (If you can’t tell, this is a pet peeve of mine. When my coaching clients confess they’ve been gnashing their teeth and rending their garments, trying to figure out what their sole life purpose is, it’s difficult for me to remain calm).

So today, let’s stop the abuse and debunk the lie you’ve been told. Repeat after me: “I have more than one purpose or passion. I’m on this planet to do many, many things. Many activities give me pleasure and meaning.”

Recognizing there is more than one purpose to any life, let’s investigate yours.

Activity: Clear an uninterrupted hour for some deep reflection.

1.  List the other major events of your life so far. (For example, phases, key relationships, jobs, moves, etc). Delineate the major chapters of your life in a way that makes sense for you. (For example, I think of my ‘Childhood’, ‘High School Chapter’, ‘University Years’, my ‘European Chapter’, ‘Graduate School, my ‘Vancouver Chapter’, my ‘Government Chapter’, my ‘Corporate America Chapter’, my ‘Creative Life Blast Off’, my ‘Hollywood Chapter’ and so forth).

2.  For each life segment that’s significant for you, answer the following questions:

  • What were your purpose(s) in life then?
  • What were your natural affinities?
  • What gave your life both pleasure and meaning?

3. What are your purpose(s) in life right now? What are your natural affinities today? What gives your life pleasure and meaning these days?

4. Imagine yourself in the future. What life purpose(s) would you like to pursue in the future?

5. Now take a deeper view. What are the primary purposes of all humans? (For example, to survive, to thrive, to connect with other humans, etc.) How does this manifest in you?

6. Review your answers thus far. Is there anything you are not doing at this time in your life that you would like to do? How could you incorporate this in your present life?

7. Select the life purposes you’d like to pursue right now. Write them down. Capture them in a way that’s meaningful for you — for example in a painting, sculpture, collage, meditation shrine and/or business plan.

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This activity is designed to foster an appreciation for all the things you do. You have many more than one purpose. I encourage you to pursue as many purposes as you’d like.

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