Living A Life With Purpose

By Barbara Meltzer

How many of you have been thinking about wanting to find your true passion and purpose in life? I know that I have. For me I think it is a commitment to something outside of myself — something that is central to how I live a fulfilling and engaged life. My work certainly gives me a sense of purpose.

It’s an interesting topic and one that has moved to the forefront of our consciousness as the baby boomers have aged. With an extra 20 or so additional years to live, more thought is being given to how we might do that. Two decades of retirement without work no longer sounds enticing.

We also find that there is something about passing midlife that kind of pushes us beyond such fundamental tasks as parenting and productivity to seek meaning and authenticity. Our motivating force shifts from success to significance.

When I talk with clients, friends and colleagues about this, they often ask the same two questions. Is there a difference between passion and purpose?   How do we find our purpose?

Passion vs. Purpose

Purpose is externally oriented and involved with other people and the physical world, whether it’s the production of things or services, the creation of something or a solution to a problem, said one source.

Passion, on the other hand, is inner oriented and self-directed.  It is usually not based on rational planning or what others need or want, but comes from purely internal motivation even if no one else is interested.

Another source posits that passion can be purely self-indulgent and pursued for your own pleasure; purpose can’t. Purpose is not selfish, but involves serving others. It is not, however, servitude. It’s about adding value in the lives of others while creating value in your own life.

It is possible, too, that your purpose may flow from your passion or your passion may flow from your purpose. In some cases, the person finds their cause. In other cases, the cause finds the person. Passion can be unbridled, but purpose is focused.

Passion is a ‘what’ and focuses on nouns. What do you love? It’s about the objects of your desires. Purpose is your motivation, your why. It brings in action so it focuses on verbs. Purpose completes you.

I encourage people to find a purpose- a way to leverage your passion and skills to find a need in the world. Work towards something that is useful for others.

Tips for finding your purpose

  • Think about what you want to do with your time, money and talents.

How can you pursue your interests and utilize whatever abilities you have in a way that might help others and redefine success for you.

  • Write your values and interests down.

Nothing helps crystallize your thoughts like seeing them on paper. Take time to contemplate your strongest-held interests and central beliefs. What is most important to you?

  • Ask yourself how you want to be remembered.

Contemplating your legacy—the accomplishments that live on after you pass—is key in resolving your reason for being. This can help guide you towards finding a purpose for which you will be proud to be remembered and is compatible with who you are and how others see you. Deciding how you want to measure your life means making a stand for something and then living your life in alignment with it.

  • Don’t confuse purpose with passion.

While your purpose and your passion can match up, they might not. Most people have or can find something that gives them purpose, but isn’t necessarily something they feel passionate about. Fewer people find passion; most find purpose.

  • Craft a vision statement and create a plan.

It’s nice to have dreams and goals, but to make them a reality you must create an actionable strategy, complete with concrete goals. Begin with a vision statement that resonates with your core desires and fill you with excitement.

  • Find a compatible organization.

Once you have an idea of your purpose, motivate yourself by seeking out similarly minded people. Find a cause or activity you care about and find a way to engage in it. You can start by becoming a volunteer.

  •  Take time to reflect

To find and follow our purpose, we must reflect upon our talents, skills, expertise, passions and deepest values—upon what we care about and what we can contribute. Often we will find our purpose at the spot where they all intersect.