I’ve always been intrigued by the word “purpose” as it relates to the reason why we exist. I have truly believed over the years that I have a purpose on earth – a purpose assigned to me by God based on the talents He blessed me with. This curiosity and desire to know what my purpose is was probably initiated by my mom’s constant reminder that there’s a purpose for me on this earth based on how God has protected me and been with me through some of the adversities I described in my first post.
It is easy to go through the motions, get an education, get a decent job that you neither love nor hate, get married, start a family, be an outstanding middleclass citizen and so on. In fact, I think most of us would agree that a majority of people we know (including ourselves) fall under the above description. We got our education or are currently in the process of doing so, we have decent paying jobs, we enjoy life, etc. But man, that’s kind of boring if we’re just going through the motions. Is this all we have to offer? What if there are specific reasons why we are on earth? What if you and I can actually make the most of our abilities and our talents? What if we could all live fulfilling lives?
It wasn’t until early last year when I decided to take 24-day Bible plan focused on purpose that I realized that there is something we can all learn about our purpose on earth no matter our religious beliefs.
What I Learned
One Saturday morning, I shared what my mom had told me with my love Kristina. I told her how my mom always reminds me that I have a purpose on this earth based on how she believes God has been with me through some really tough situations especially with my health. That conversation with Kristina sparked something in her as well. She reminded me about how I had lost my passion, how I was putting so much into work and forgetting the other things I am passionate about. She reminded me that she could see me mentoring, inspiring and motivating others. It hit me that it was really time to start thinking about rediscovering my passion to inspire others.
Incredibly, a few weeks after the aforementioned conversation, I discovered a plan on my YouVersion Bible app titled “What on Earth Am I Here For?” I quickly started to read. I couldn’t close the app.
Here’s what I learned about finding your purpose.
That first lesson taught me that we all have the ability to love others and be selfless in a world where “I” comes first. The first step in discovering our purpose in life is to understand that we are all here on earth to love and serve others. Many people don’t realize it, but that good, warm feeling we get when we go out of our way to do something nice for someone else is infectious. We’ve all heard the stories of customers in the drive-thru line at Starbucks paying for whatever the customer in the car behind them ordered and that customer paying for the customer behind them and so on and so forth. That kind of love for each other is infectious. Can you imagine how much better this world will be if we approached our daily activities with the mindset to have a positive impact and serve someone else?
As a Christian, I believe the ability to love others is exemplified in God giving his only son to die on the cross to forgive us. That ultimate sign of love made this world a better place, and each of us can also make this world a better place if we make it a point to love each other.
Some of you are probably wondering if loving others and making the world better means donating all your money to the homeless and going to the food bank to volunteer every day, etc. Sure, these good deeds are necessary and are ways of showing love and making this world a better place, but when it comes to “purpose,” I am referring to discovering our abilities and strengths and using them to serve others and to make a positive impact in this world.
Our abilities are our map to fulfilling our purpose. I believe that those abilities are God-giving and that they are God’s map for my life. But if you don’t share my beliefs, you can at least agree that we all have abilities and strengths that make each of us unique.
So how does discovering our abilities and strengths make this world a better place and ultimately lead to fulfilling our purpose on earth?
To explain what I mean, I will share a story I read in the second lesson of the YouVersion Bible plan I was reading about purpose.
[There were some animals that wanted to start a school. They decided that the courses would include running, climbing, swimming and flying. They also decided that all of the animals should take all the courses. That’s where the problem started. The duck was amazing in swimming class, but only made a passing grade in flying and always failed running. So they made him drop swimming to focus on flying and running. They even made the duck stay after school to practice flying and running. But poor ol’ ducky stopped believing in himself because he never was really going to be the best in flying and running. He became just good enough that when he graduated, he was content with finding a job that entailed flying and running, but soon, he started going through the motions, didn’t care and just worked to get paid]
The problem here is that the duck forgot his passion for swimming because education made him believe that he needed to focus on areas where he was weak. It is good to work to improve other areas of our lives, but we can’t forget our passion and what we are good at. This is how most of us are living our lives. We fail to realize our talents and our strong suits. Instead, we focus on areas we are just okay at and end up finding a job that pays the bills. Because we are not passionate about it, we just end up going through the motions and struggle going to work every day. Our attitudes are affected negatively, and because we don't care enough, it affects everyone around us.
If the first step to fulfilling our purpose on earth is to realize that what we do on earth must have a positive impact on others and show others the love of Christ, how can we show that love for others when we don’t even love what we do on a daily basis? Our careers are an important avenue to show love for others because it is where we spend a majority of our lives. We all have to work—whether it’s a doctor, cashier or a housewife. Since we spend a large portion of our lives doing some type of work, it makes sense to use that as an avenue to have an impact on others.
We all have our areas of strength. Think about what you are good at today and ask yourself if you are utilizing that talent. Now if you can’t answer yes to that question, think about what you would be doing today if you were actually using your talents and doing what you have a passion for. What career would you have? Now think about how that “dream career” impacts someone else. For example, a doctor’s work impacts his patients, a cashier’s work impacts the customers and a housewife’s work impacts her family.
If a doctor is passionate about what he does and wakes up every morning looking forward to making a patient feel better, he is going to have a positive impact on his patients. By discovering his strengths and passion to care for others, the doctor is serving his patients and enjoys doing it in a way that makes his patients feel loved. It doesn't feel like work to the doctor even though he is going above and beyond and doing things the right way. That joy he/she brings to patients is fulfilling. On the other hand, a doctor that is just in the profession to make money is probably not excited about going to work because he has to deal with all these sick people and work long hours. He does it because he can and the money is good. But he isn’t living his purpose on earth because he’s in the profession for himself. He doesn’t really care about impact he’s having on his patients. As long as he has prescribed the medicine you need, he’s done his part. However you’re feeling emotionally is your business. He doesn’t care about building a relationship with you. He might even be willing to compromise the values of a doctor just to cheat the system and look out for himself.
Think about the times you have said, “oh that waitress is really good,” or “wow, that teacher is in the right profession.” You probably said that because the waitress or the teacher went above and beyond to serve you and make you feel loved and important. They were selfless, and it seemed like they were in that profession to serve you. That waitress and teacher are both fulfilling their purpose on earth.
I know my mom is fulfilling her purpose on earth because she truly loves her career and does it the right way. She judges her court cases fairly and is making Ghana a better place. Ensuring that citizens are abiding by the laws of the land is bigger to her than the status that comes with being called “my lord” or the other benefits that come with passing the bar and becoming a lawyer/judge. She does what she loves not for herself but because God called her to serve others through this particular profession. She never compromises her values for anyone. That’s a woman fulfilling her purpose on earth.
Even if your job doesn’t directly affect someone else like a doctor with his patients, think about how approaching your daily activities with a positive attitude could affect others. People feed off our joy and our positive attitudes. Your positive attitude at work could turn someone’s day around, but you can’t have that effect on someone if you dislike what you do or if you just do it because you have to pay your bills next month.
The sad truth is that many of us are stuck in a field we aren’t necessarily passionate about, but we have become comfortable. We are not necessarily having a negative impact on others or pissing others off around us at work, but are we making someone’s life better? Are we making the impact we could be making on this earth? Are our lives fulfilling? Are we serving each other? Are we loving each other like Christ loves us?
If we can agree that one of our roles on earth is to love and serve one another, then it’s important to remember that using our talents and strengths plays a huge part in our ability to accomplish that role. Using our talents and passion will naturally have a positive impact on someone else because we love what we are doing. Your joy, passion and positive attitude will naturally be evident because you are doing what you love, and that is more fulfilling than the money in your bank account or the nice car in your driveway. Those things will come, but they will be secondary items. The real reward in life is the impact you have on someone else. That good, warm, fulfilling feeling of knowing you just made someone’s day. The love and positive impact you will have on someone’s life by doing what you are passionate about is what I call PURPOSE!