Living A Life of Purpose
Author: Lori Pender
I talked to my best friend today. She has always been a stay-at-home mom but now that her teenagers are almost out of the house, she’s not quite sure what she should do with all of her free time. She loves children and being a mother has been the focus in her life for so long that she isn’t quite sure who she is without it being her full-time job. Luckily, for her, she already has a sense of the direction she wants to go. Her nurturing spirit is her guiding light. She loves children and realizes the immense amount of satisfaction she receives from caring for them.
This got me to thinking about how we identify ourselves and choose our focus in life. How do we define our personal fulfillment and live our lives with purpose?
A few years ago, I read a fantastic book by Max Lucado called “Cure for the Common Life”. It really resonated with me and I couldn’t help but think about the wisdom it imparted for such a situation as this. It doesn’t matter what phase we are in our lives, it’s never too late to contemplate who we are and what we were created for.
I truly believe that God created each one of us with a unique set of strengths, gifts, and passions.
How different would our focus in life be if we honestly took these things into consideration? Don’t just think about the things you like to do now. Go all the way back to your childhood and recall the things that excited you or that just came naturally to you.
Yes, it does require you to consider the things you have been praised for in the past but it has to be more than that. Sadly, I think this is where so many of us get off track. We confuse the approval of others with our own self worth and use that to guide the direction of our lives.
Allow me to offer you an example from my own life. As a child, I can remember how excited I would get when I would hear about the Scholastic book fair coming to my school. I would browse the pamphlet of available books for sale over and over again and then carefully plan out exactly which ones I could get based on the budget given to me by my parents. They were almost always non-fiction. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about the topics that interested me the most. Fast-forward to my teenage years. I had the opportunity to take “Peer-Tutoring” as one of my electives in high school. It was a way for students to aide Special Education teachers with helping to teach students fundamentals like reading and spelling.
The absolute joy and sense of accomplishment I felt during each one of those classes was unparalleled to anything I had ever experienced before. I enjoyed the relationships I shared with each one of the students so much that I began having lunch with them and helping them to learn as much as I possibly could. My constant motivation was to help them learn in a way they could understand and truly apply for themselves while also helping them to feel seen and heard.
In the following years, other factors played a part in the choices I made for my life. I allowed the opinions of others to dictate the direction I took. My motivation was transformed from what gave me passion and a purpose to how I could earn the most approval from those around me. I lost sight of who I was and what I was called to do.
The good news is that the mistakes I made brought me back to what I was created for. As I got older, I began to recognize my strengths more and more BECAUSE of my weaknesses. I have gained a true sense of just who I am and who I am not. The opinion of others is no longer the motivating factor of my life. Fortunately, my realization was not too little too late. I have been now been given the opportunity to do exactly what I love and hopefully, help others to navigate their way through the chaos of life.
I can’t help but wonder how much more fulfilling our lives would be had we realized these things about ourselves when we were younger and considering a career path for our future. They key to discovering your unique purpose in this world will require some deep reflection. What has always come naturally to you? Make lists of times in your life that have given you a sense of true personal fulfillment. Ask yourself why. What was it about those experiences that motivated you and inspired you? Was it the process? Was it the people who benefitted from what you had to offer? Or was it merely the approval and recognition you received? These are important distinctions to make.