The last three blogs highlighted significance, priorities, and God-given dreams. These keys to abundant living relate to a common factor–purpose. How do I know what it is? What if my searches left me stranded in the same lost position where I began? If I feel a hint of potential destiny, how can I be sure?
I’ve spent many years wandering in the wilderness of those uncertainties. Confessions of feeling lost left my lips so many times I tired of hearing the words. I doubted myself, believing my history of mistakes proved my likelihood of ruining my destiny and disappointing my Creator. More than death, I feared wasting my life.
Though it’s true that I am far from perfect, I missed the point of purposeful living. Significance does not depend upon perfectionism. Especially not human perfection, since such a concept flies us far left of winged unicorns. A meaningful life acknowledges frailty and surrenders it to be formed into acts of love.
Failure avoidance served as one of two issues thwarting my quest for purpose. I also held the misconception that I must understand my purpose in its lifelong entirety in order to fulfill it. History sings an endless ballad hailing individuals who changed the world yet remained oblivious to their impact. Mother Teresa, Louis Pasteur, Nelson Mandela, and Florence Nightingale name just a few critical figures who sought to help others yet did not set out with the foreknowledge of their ultimate reach. Along with accepting my frailty, I also had to resign myself to step out onto the path of my destiny with limited range of vision.
Misconceptions out of the way, the following steps serve as helpful road signs on the magnificent quest for purpose:
1) Identify your unique strengths.
Instead of focusing on weaknesses, take stock of the material you have to invest. Those who bless the world most don’t necessarily have more to offer, but offer what they have. Consider resources you can share. Time, compassion, and effort count as much as any measure of talent, so don’t neglect to count them in.
2) Embrace your personality type.
Take a DISC, Myer’s Briggs, or Holland personality survey to discover which types of roles will suit you. While self-improvement helps us all learn better social skills, accepting your core personality can also help you find your most effective position for benefiting the community. If you’re a leader, learn to listen but don’t withdraw from your design for leadership. If you’re more supportive, learn to set boundaries so you can support your team toward great success without burning out.
3) Discover your passions.
Peruse magazine and book rack at book stores. Visit hobby shops. Read church and community listings. Even if you’ve never engaged, pay attention to what interests you (e.g. cooking, writing, nutrition, fitness, gardening, building, finance, investments, art, reading aloud, children, seniors, adults, teens, animals, travel, marketing, boats, automobiles, crafts).
4) Tune into the needs which pique your emotions.
Consider current local, national, and international issues. Listen to your heart’s response to the needs surrounding you. Which concerns tug your spirit, trouble you, bring your highest emotional reaction? For those with faith, prayer serves as a powerful guide. Several world problems might seem significant, making it difficult to choose between them. Start narrowing down your purpose by prioritizing your personal response to each one (not their importance to the world). Next, cluster the related topics. Brainstorm with spider webs or lists. Choose an issue or cluster near the top of your list. Collages also can be a way to see your passions and missions stand out on paper.
5) Define your intended reach, starting with where you are.
Pick a starting place, usually something close to home. Your initial reach might be through a church mission trip overseas or with a local animal shelter. The intended reach might begin in one area and expand or localize later on, but choose a launch position as your first step.
6) Recognize distracting temptations (especially the aforementioned doubts).
Distractions and doubts will crawl out of the shadows and attack anyone attempting to live with purpose. Expect them. Even previously conquered issues will rear their heads again. As Joshua led the Hebrew people into the Promised Land, the Lord encouraged them three times to “be strong and courageous.” Discouragement hits hardest when we’re in sight of our dreams.
7) Try it out.
Explore and experiment through hobbies and volunteer opportunities. Offer to help someone working on a similar project. Don’t wait for the perfect business plan and vision casting to begin seeking your purpose. Start somewhere, or you won’t get anywhere.
8) Tweak and re-tweak as needed.
Avoid ruts and potholes. Keep looking for ways to steer toward your God-given dream, but don’t allow little bumps to tempt you to give up altogether. The journey to purpose is a rocky one, as are all adventures which bring inspiration to the world.
Please leave me your comments as you consider the process of fulfilling your purpose. I look forward to sharing our paths toward a brighter community and healthier world.