There’s something misleading about the way we talk about ‘purpose’.
People often speak of finding purpose — like they’re shopping for new shoes, or sourcing a rare collectible.
This is more than just a quirk of semantics; our language shapes how we perceive the world.
To me, this is the problem: We create an artificial barrier between ‘us’ and ‘purpose’, turning it into an otherworldly possession. It becomes something to be hunted down.
A symptom of this is our obsession with travelling as a way to ‘find ourselves’. It’s understandable, but often misguided.
For one thing, self-discovery is an ongoing process – not a one-time deal. It’s also limited by our commitment to seeing the truth of who we are.
Inner work is location-independent — becoming a nomad, or travelling to Peru, won’t necessarily do us much good. That is, unless we confront the same person who departed.
My point is, you don’t always have to do more to create a purpose-driven life.
The key word: CREATE.
Purpose doesn’t fall into anyone’s lap. It isn’t something you ‘have’ or ‘don’t have’, and it can’t exactly be ‘found’.
Purpose is something we cultivate internally. We mould it throughout our lives, like clay. It’s a constant work in progress.
The main thing is that we commit to growth. Specifically, the growth arising organically when we devote ourselves to a lifelong process of self-discovery.
And perhaps even more importantly, the conscious decision to reconnect with the significance of each passing moment.
You may not know where you’re going, or how you’ll get there, but taking pressure off yourself and trusting that time will tell is the first step.
I’m not suggesting we sit around and wait for inspiration to strike — it doesn’t work that way either.
Purpose really takes shape when we (a) regularly make small decisions to move in a certain direction (based on our authentic values), and (b) patiently reflect on those experiences.
Action –> Reflection –> Repeat
We have to keep asking ourselves:
- What we truly enjoy
- What our strengths are
- How we want to contribute to the world
- What makes us come ALIVE
When it comes to the ‘meaning of life’, existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre believed humans are condemned to make it up as we go along… and to improvise for our entire lives. This is the price we pay for being self-conscious animals.
It’s almost as if we’re born onto a cosmic stage, and asked to perform a masterpiece… except there’s no director, or script… sometimes there isn’t even an audience!
This freedom to create is both a blessing and a curse. It forces us to look within and ask some challenging questions.
But this is how we turn our life into a work of art, and cultivate a purposeful existence.
That way, we won’t have any trouble ‘finding’ purpose at all…
Because we’ll always know that it resides within us.
It’s our decision, and no one can take that away.