Purpose: What’s The Purpose?
by Bob Olson
Webster’s Dictionary says that purpose is “the reason for which something exists.”
It is not uncommon to hear of an elderly person who passes away shortly after the loss of their spouse. We sometimes hear this happening after the loss of their pet. While one could argue that this is merely a coincidence, I would surmise that they lost their will to live because their spouse or pet was their last reason for living—their final purpose that gave their life meaning.
Many people talk about finding their purpose in life when the truth is that we each have many purposes, not just one. The more reasons you have for living, the more meaning you have in your life and the quicker you get up in the morning. When you lose your reasons for living—when you no longer feel meaning in your life—you have no purpose to get out of bed each day.
People find meaning in their work, in their children, in their partner or spouse, in their hobbies, in their travels, in their volunteer work or clubs, in their classes, in their art, writing, crafts, and even in their pets. We don’t have just one purpose in life; we have a hierarchy of purposes. Some are more important to us than others, but all fill us with a sense that our lives are meaningful. Our catalog of purposes teaches us that we are important in this world, that we have a reason for living; and this sense of importance gives us our will to live.
As we get older, our purposes drop off on the wayside. We retire from our careers. Our children grow up and move away. We either lose interest in our hobbies or we lose the physical ability to continue them. Our gardens go to weed and we leave our homes in trade for the elderly community or nursing home. Sometimes, if our multitude of purposes has dwindled, all we have left is our spouse or our pet. So when either leaves this world before us, they leave us alone with no reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Michelangelo lived to the age of eighty-nine at a time when most people didn’t make it to forty. Here is a man who was a sculptor, a poet, a painter and an inspiration to others. He never lacked a reason to get up in the morning. He took on huge projects that took years to complete, even in his elderly years. The Sistine Chapel alone took four years, and he painted it while lying on his back! But he made a commitment, and that commitment gave his life purpose.
We all know a Michelangelo in our life. It is that person who is bound with vitality. They don’t mope around with their shoulders reaching for the ground. These are the people who are up early in the morning singing and whistling and excited about their day. They say hello to their neighbors and even talk to strangers in the streets. They are fascinated by the wonders of nature and they seem to feed off the energy of children. Yet, in reality, it is actually nature and children who feed off their cheerfulness, verve and spirit for life. And that is why we are attracted to such purposeful people.
If you want to feel more alive, commit yourself to purposeful endeavors. A life without commitments is a life without purpose. A life without purpose is a life without meaning.
Begin projects that will take weeks, months or years to accomplish. Accept responsibilities that you may even regret in the future. Take a stand for a cause you believe in, and hold true to it regardless of what other people think. If it fills you with passion for life, then it will balance off the mundane obligations that once filled your days. Committing yourself to purposeful endeavors does not just add color to your life; it is the lifeline that connects you to the Source of all that is beautiful and meaningful.
If you are unhappy, give yourself over to making others happy. Do volunteer work at hospitals, shelters or nursing homes. Visit the sick, elderly or terminally ill. If you are shy or uncomfortable with people, do the same for animals. Animal rescue leagues and shelters are filled with cats and dogs that suffer from a lack of love. Just a simple smile, hug and a little attention can do wonders to heal and comfort any soul.
It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you do something. Whether you help people or pets, create paintings or books, grow gardens or plants, the only requirement is that you make a commitment and follow through with a smile. Be willing to open your heart and put love in all that you do. By simply showing up and following through with your commitments, your presence, intentions and passion will be felt and appreciated throughout the world. And the ripple effect you create with your zest for life will fill your own heart with an abundance of love. In effect, you will have found happiness from a single purpose. Imagine the power of several new commitments.
If a lack of purpose can eliminate our will to live, then adding purpose into our lives can increase our vitality. It doesn’t matter if we are helping millions or a single individual, the simple act of making one other person’s life a little more comfortable, happier or filled with love is empowering beyond belief because we get back what we give to others. On the other hand, we can’t give what we don’t have. So your purpose may be to bring peace and comfort into your own life. This, too, will create a ripple effect that will influence the entire world. Yet it all begins with one step—one commitment. Before you are faced with the loss of your final meaning in life, plan ahead to surround yourself with many reasons to jump out of bed each morning with enthusiasm!