October 1, 2008

Finding a Purpose

On my last irreverent post, it was pointed out that some people’s purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others. (That could have been me in my twenties.) Those people who seem to be disaster magnets are those who are at the whim of the currents of life. They make no plans; they have no goals; they don’t think past the moment to possible consequences of their actions. When the inevitable happens and bad things occur, they moan over the “bad luck” they seem to attract.

Have you ever noticed how the goal-driven, purposeful people have seemingly such good luck? It’s no accident. Having a clear goal in front of them guides their decisions daily. Knowing what you want gives you direction, energy, and a sense of control. Even when uncontrollable events interfere, it’s only a momentary distraction. They swim where they wish, mindful of the currents but in control of their direction. These are the people with purpose.

Purpose does not have to be grand. You don’t have to save the world. But why are you here? Do you know? What is important in your heart? How do you express that daily in your dealings with work, people, and leisure? Can someone who knows you well name your purpose? Can you?

Your purpose can change with your circumstances, but there is an underlying principle in all you do. What is yours? Is it directed inward—to reward yourself—or is it directed outward?

I challenge you to find one thing, only one thing, to place in your daily life that is for the good of others. Such a simple act as always smiling when you make eye contact can be the one thing that makes another’s day better. Perhaps you can always allow a merging driver into your lane—even the jerk who speeds past everyone and puts others at risk. Say “You’re welcome” every time someone says “Thank you.” In a long line, be patient and calm with the cashier. Ripples in a pond, good acts are replicated and passed on.

There was a drive-through I visited several times a week to pick up a diet Coke. (It has since closed.) They greeted me enthusiastically every time I came. But it wasn’t like that at first. What was the difference? One morning I was in a really good mood and I started my order with a shout of “Good morning!” The person at the speaker responded, “Well, good morning to you too! How can I help you?” This was certainly perkier than the greetings I had been getting. So each morning I came, I started my order with "Good morning!” The server commented over time how nice it was to be greeted so warmly, so I’ve tried to do it whenever I stop at a drive-through. Does it always make a difference? I don’t know. But I know it made a difference to one person, so why not continue?

Such a small thing. I’m certainly no saint, but it fits my purpose of finding the good in people and letting them know. It builds bridges, and that’s what I want to do.

What’s your purpose?


Java said...

I've had many different purposes at various times in my life. Right now I'm feeling around for my new purpose. I'm not sure what it is, but I am working on it. In the meantime, I'm still fulfilling a few of the other purposes I still have.

One of my purposes is to be Useful as well as Ornamental. Or, to put it another way, Fish or Cut Bait.

Me Online said...

Wow! What a challenge! I hope that I have several purposes in different facets of my life. Right now, I "think" one of my purposes is to look kids at school in the eye and maybe let them know that they are seen as individuals with worth. I observe adults do that and NOT do that all the time. I really want to be an adult that listens.....to my sons and other peoples sons and daughters.

Ur-spo said...

I wanted to say thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving those thoughtful comments.

i hope all that i do has purpose, or from it purpose can be derived.

i recall a story of how a certain person asked God for a special purpose. She was told 'your special purpose is to be a light, a sane voice, in that crazy neighborhood in which you dwell"
She replied "that's my purpose? To be a light? I'll get them a lightbulb now give me a PURPOSE!"

Sooo-this-is-me said...

I usually go about my day being friendly with people I come in contact with. I don't go out of my way as I am really shy but towards the people I have to deal with I am always friendly. Like you said with "ripples in a pond" I kind of always hope if I make one person feel good they will pass that feeling on to someone else. As for people who just want to be bitter, that is their problem, they can deal with it. I guess one purpose I do have is to smooth things out for people, I try to keep conflict out of the picture, I just feel life is so much better without it when possible.

somewhere joe said...

In my experience, purpose finds even the most dedicated slackers among us sooner or later, dammit.

evilganome said...

I am not sure about purpose, but I have found that smiling at people and being pleasant can keep you in a good mood and quite often can change encounters with strangers from unpleasant to pleasant.

Patrick said...

There's a quotation from Thomas Jefferson I like to remind myself of from time to time: "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."

I've been feeling rudderless and goalless for some time, as you probably know. The blog was started in part as a way of seeking a purpose, or at least focus. I don't feel like I've found the deeper, driving purpose just yet, but my sense of optimism is rising, and all those seemingly small interactions, the little ways we can acknowledge one another's beauty/divinity/humanity or what-have-you, yes, my appreciation for their worth is growing too. As good a place to start as any, I would say.

Thank you, my friend. This post came at a good time for me.

Roxrocks said...

My purpose is to grow my kids and my marriage to the best of my capabilities.

I make it a point to say Bless You when someone sneezes. Even if they are two aisles over in the grocery store, I'll holler it out.

tornwordo said...

I always think of this life as the free pass. Like I've had so much drama and responsibility in the other ones, I've just got to learn how to sit in peace and observe during this one.

That or helping others, I can't figure it out yet. I'll let you know when I do : )

Greg said...

We have many different purposes at different times. Generally, I try to do the little things I can to make the world a better place...usually for others, but lately, I'm trying to remember to make some improvements for me, as well. I have a feeling those may have some broader implications, too.

Love that quote about Luck. That Jefferson--what a card!

bigislandjeepguy said...

i don't know about "purpose" because that word intimidates me for some reason. i know i would like to affect people in a good way in my life; make a difference, make an impact. i'm not sure how, really.

maybe it's simple ways like telling someone when they have given me good service or helped me someplace AND telling their supervisor. complimenting people on their talent, what they're wearing, their new haircut. saying good morning or hello or smiling at someone who is walking toward me on the street. i like to engage people in simple conversation standing in line at the grocery store, or seeing a tourist looking at a restaurant menu posted on a window and telling them they should try the place out...the ahi sashimi is ono!

i don't know that any of that is really defined as "purpose". but i'm not really sure what you'd call it.

great post that made me think, birdie. i came back to it for a few days, really unsure of what to write, but wanting to comment.

Y | O | Y said...

Right now my purpose it to watch over my mom with Alzheimer's disease.

As far as the purpose of my life? I don't know. I just live by the golden rule and hope that's enough!