Sam Holstein

What It Really Means To Have A Purpose

There are a lot of people out there who are waiting for their ‘purpose’ to strike them like a bolt of lightning.

There are also a lot of people out there telling them “you are delusional” and “there’s no such thing as purpose.” (These are also the same people who say there’s no such thing as a dream job).

Both of these groups are wrong.

There is such a thing as a passion, a purpose, a calling, but so many people are mistaken about what it means to have one that nobody can tell who does and who doesn’t.

As someone who’s found a purpose (at least for now), I’d like to clear up a few of these myths.

Myth: Finding your purpose is like getting struck by lightning
Reality: Finding your purpose is a long search

Before I found my purpose, I thought finding a purpose was like getting struck by lightning. I thought all I could do was stand around and wait for it to find me. In the meantime, I drifted through my life without a strong sense of direction.

After I found my purpose, I realized the truth — it has to be found. To find your purpose, you must search for it.

Searching for your purpose is a painstaking process. It’s like dating. You have to go on date after date after date. Each date that isn’t ‘the one’ teaches you about what ‘the one’ looks like.

The good news is, whether you search for a year or for a decade, the moment you finally realize what your passion is will feel like being struck by a bolt of lightning.

But lightning won’t strike you randomly. You have to find it.

Myth: Your purpose is written on your heart, like fate or destiny
Reality: Your purpose is based on who you are and where you are

Before I found my purpose, I had a vague notion of a purpose being something innate to who you are, like eye color or personality. I felt God wrote our purpose on our hearts, and it was our responsibility to act that out.

But I looked in my heart and didn’t find a purpose written there. There was no spiritual ink that read entrepreneur or writer. There was no spiritual ink at all.

For years, this stressed me out. I clearly didn’t have enough self-knowledge, wisdom, or penetrating insight to see God’s indelible spiritual label. My job was to act out this spiritual truth, and I was failing on the job.

It took finally finding a purpose for me to realize there was no ink in the first place. Purpose isn’t metaphysical. Your purpose is simply whatever lies at the intersection of your skills, your interests, and what the world needs. In that intersection is a lot of different options, any one of which you could pick as your purpose.

Myth: You only have one purpose your entire life
Reality: Your purpose changes over the course of your life

Who we are changes over the course of our life. Since purposes are at the intersection of skills, interests, and need, and all three of these things are subject to change, what our purpose is can also change.

For instance: Many parents consider it their purpose to be a parent, but your purpose can’t be to be a parent until you actually are a parent. Before parents were parents, their purpose was something else entirely.

If you have pursued one purpose for ten or fifteen years only to find it doesn’t satisfy you anymore, that doesn’t mean it was never your purpose. All it means is that you’ve changed.

Myth: Your purpose is the only thing you focus on in life
Reality: You have other interests besides your purpose

In another article I wrote about purpose, many people commented and said “You know, life isn’t all about work/following your purpose. People need time to relax.”

This is the most common myth on this list: That once you have found your purpose, it becomes an all-consuming fire which burns up the possibility for anything else.

This is patently false. A purpose is just one part of a healthy life. A healthy person will spend time carrying out their purpose, but they’ll also spend time taking care of their health, with their family and friends, and pursuing other interests.

What makes a purpose different from these other parts of your life is the way a purpose provides a direction of movement. A purpose pulls you through your life the way a sailboat pulls a wakeboard. When a wakeboard is pulled through the water, the rider can ride the waves. Without the sailboat pulling the wakeboard, the wakeboard rider will just float around.

Without a purpose pulling us forward, we will never ride any waves. We will just float.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be riding waves.