What is PURPOSE and why is it so important? They’re age-old questions aren’t they: Who am I? Why am I here? Does my life matter? WHAT IS MY PURPOSE?

Wise King Solomon’s answer? “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Pastor Rick Warren’s 50 million copy best-seller, The Purpose Driven Life offers concrete answers: 

  • We were planned for God’s pleasure -so your first purpose is to offer real worship.
  • We were formed for God’s family -so your second purpose is to enjoy real fellowship.
  • We were created to become like Christ- so your third purpose is to learn real discipleship.
  • We were shaped for serving God-so your fourth purpose is to practice real ministry.
  • We were made for a mission-so your fifth purpose is to live out real evangelism.

But what is the sum of these, and how do we take wisdom from these prescriptions to create meaning and purpose in life?

Before we move on, let’s clarify a few things:

  1. Purpose is NOT Life Goals. Purpose is bigger, deeper, wider than just goals. Were you ever told, “you were made for this?” Sounds encouraging, but what does it mean? You were born to be a ______________(fill in your profession)? And if you were born for that, is that it? Just that? What happens when that job ends? Then what?
  2. Purpose is NOT Flow. Flow, as discovered by positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a state of consciousness in which people find genuine satisfaction doing tasks into which they are completely absorbed and which utilize their creative abilities.
  3. Purpose is NOT found in doing. It’s not merely an activity…or a job…or even something about which you are passionate. Passion is driven by your emotions. Purpose finds the reason behind the emotions — and answers the vital why questions of life. 
  4. The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. — Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Purpose IS..

Purposeful. When your purpose is clear you find it applies to all aspects of life: professional, personal and spiritual. Use of our God-given gifts is an expression of purpose. And when those gifts are employed for the benefit of others, in each realm of life, we move closer to full purpose living.

Focused. Purpose only becomes purposeful when finely targeted. Targeted toward others — toward service. Expressing our purpose improves the situations and lives of those around us. Personal relationships flourish. Professional relationships are valued. And our spiritual relationship is deepened by greater and more focused communion with our Creator.

Malleable. Mozart’s music has been “interpreted” by hundreds (more?) of conductors. Did Amadeus’ intentions change? Were the notes he so creatively arranged in astounding sequences altered? No. His purposes for the Ave Verum or The Magic Flute did not change, but the expressions have. Your true purpose may be to guide or nurture others. Imagine how, at different stages of life, that purpose’s expression has changed. Flexibility, even in life purposes, is one of God’s greatest gifts to leaders.

Your purpose stems from your identity, the very essence of who you are. It’s not your resume — that rehearses what you’ve accomplished, often, because of your purpose.

Here are a few questions that may help along the way:

  1. Before school and the world beat it out of you, what did you most love doing as a child?
  2. Think of at least two of the most challenging experiences in your life. How did they shape who you are today?
  3.  What do you most enjoy doing? What makes you happiest today?

One of my all-time favorite authors, Frederick Buechner equates God’s purpose for us with our greatest satisfactions, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” When life purpose aligns perfectly with God’s rich desires for us, we are fulfilled, contented and find deep meaning. We find purpose.

Guest Blog from Norm Mintle, Ph.D.

Adapted from Dr. Norm Mintle’s blog at True North Leadership on Facebook. Dr.  Mintle holds an earned Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership. He has served in executive positions across a broad range of media organizations and as a dean in three universities.

Discover your purpose with Dr. Norm Mintle