Purpose is not a panacea, as many proponents of the concept preach, but it is a powerful construct. Having a sense of purpose has both psychological and physiological benefits. People live longer if they have a sense of purpose, and they report more wellbeing and connection to others. One of the hallmarks of spiritual health is finding and pursuing a sense of purpose—how our unique gifts align with our ideals and contribute to our family, community, and the world in an actionable way.
If purpose has such potential power in people’s lives, why do so many people feel purposeless? Some people find what they think is their purpose, only to face tremendous obstacles. The adjustments they make to address those obstacles can often leave them feeling purposeless. Others find that their obligations pull them from their sense of purpose, and others never discover purpose at all—whether because of fear, structural obstacles, or illness.
Sometimes finding purpose involves taking small steps. Finding purpose requires us to understand who we are and how our talents meet the needs of the world, and since the world is rapidly changing, we have to adapt and be agile. It’s a process of discovery guided by our deepest beliefs.
A funny thing about purpose—it is both informed by who we are and also guides who we are becoming. On one hand, a sense of purpose is shaped by our strengths and interests, and on the other it brings focus to our life and enables us to further hone our skills, aligns us with like-minded people, and helps us prioritize our decisions. A purposeful journey is both rooted in a growing sense of who we are, furthers meaningful connections with others, and directs us towards what matters most. Leading researchers Bill Damon and Kendall Bronk consider purpose as a “north star,” or a guiding light that helps us walk down a meaningful path. When we believe we are part of a greater story—that we have a role to play in that story—we can orient our lives in meaningful ways that connect us to God and others.
UPWARD: Do you have a sense of calling on your life? Can you articulate how your beliefs and values are aligned with your sense of purpose and calling?
Healthy spirituality not only fuels and motivates us through experiences of transcendence and compelling beliefs, but it also guides and orients us towards a life of meaning, mattering, and purpose beyond ourselves. Exploring what that means for us can help orient our journey in the direction that will be most fulfilling for us.
INWARD: Are you able to name your strengths? Your joys? Do you use them in your life?
Being able to identify our strengths, which often coexist with joy, can help guide us in a direction that is likely to be deeply satisfying. We each possess strengths that are meant to work in tandem with the strengths of others, so knowing and using our own strengths as part of this collective contribution is fulfilling by design.
Sometimes identifying our strengths can be complex. Society moves so quickly these days it can be hard to make time for thoughtfulness and reflection. A small but practical step we can take to become more aware of our strengths is embracing practices of mindfulness.
Blogs: Life Off Autopilot (Part 1): The Power of Purpose; Life Off Autopilot (Part 2): The Complexities of Activating Into Purpose; Thrive Book List Purpose Edition; Fuller magazine, Helping Youth Find their Coordinates
OUTWARD: Does your calling or purpose contribute beyond yourself? How do people close to you factor into your purpose?
Because we are designed to grow and exist within relationships, our purpose is naturally bound by a relational tether. As we consider our strengths and what brings us deep joy, we can next envision what greater purpose they serve, beyond personal fulfillment.
When we are able to live out our purpose with those around us in actionable ways, the result is a sense of living on purpose—thriving.
Life off Autopilot (Part 2): The Complexities of Activating into Purpose
When we know that finding purpose is so important for our spiritual health and wellbeing, why is it sometimes so hard?
Subscribe to our newsletter and get our 2024 February Thrive Calendar PDF.
You Got It!