It has been several decades since the last time anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. It has only been a few days since I last asked myself that question!
There are big questions and small questions we ask ourselves all the time. A small question is what do I want for lunch today? A big question might be, why am I here…alive and existing?
Since I don’t know what you like to eat, let’s go with the big question, why am I here?
Other versions could include what am I supposed to be, what is my purpose and the afore mentioned (nice use of the word afore huh?) What do I want to be when I grow up.
Underneath this is a simple but maybe unconscious assumption. I will be most satisfied with my life if I live out the purpose
of my life. Hint your purpose is not to live out your truth…that doesn’t work.
It is easy to mistake this drive with a desire to be happy. If we aren’t happy at the moment we usually try to change the surroundings or situation; move to a warmer climate, get a different roommate, find a new job.
In a recent study of college students however, it was proven to be faulty thinking. Students who changed their environment by adjusting their living arrangements soon returned to their prior baseline of happiness. Ernest Hemingway said “you can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another”.
Students who changed their actions though, found more and longer lasting happiness. Starting new projects, exercising or joining a new club led to positive mental changes. Apparently, happiness depends more on what we do than where we are.
This was especially true when the new actions were consistent with purpose. Students who went looking for a place to contribute and connect found meaning and belonging.
Doing a bunch of new stuff won’t necessarily give you an answer to a big question like what is my purpose. It is more nuanced. There are some other questions you need to ask that will guide what actions you need to take to hone in on your purpose and why you are here.
There is one important caveat to all this. The questions and actions that follow have an underlying assumption. The assumption is this, you were created on purpose for a purpose. You are not an accident and this is not a journey of self-discovery. It is a journey of connecting with your Creator to understand the purpose God has for you.
All of us have the same purpose, to glorify God. Put another way the best life you can live is to love and follow Jesus. Now to get specific and what it looks like in your context, here are some questions you need to answer.
Questions You Need to Answer
We will start wide and then get more narrow. You may need some time on these but it is worth setting aside a few minutes to process.
Who Inspires you most? What about their story or character draws you?
How does your faith integrate into what you are passionate about? (If your passion is not tied to a purpose it ends up burning you out. This is not about a cause but about a big why)
What breaks your heart
What do you love doing? What refuels you?
What activity makes you lose track of time?
Answering these question begins the process of refining your specific purpose.
Actions You Need to Take
This is not just a mental exercise. You need to put some things in motion as you think through these questions.
Do the things you love in a way that helps someone else.
Do what you are good at as an act of service for someone else.
Connect with a person, ministry or group that is working on the problems that break your heart and find a way to get involved.
Ask God to show you how to best contribute with your gifts, skills, abilities and experiences.
Pastor Rick Warren says it this way.
You are God’s poem. You are a work of art. You are unique. There is nobody like you! But there’s more to life than being unique. God wants you to be unique and effective. He designed you the way he did so you could do good works. Even before you were born, God pre-designed a role for you in life. He said, I’m going to make this person and give him certain gifts, abilities, and talents, and I’m going to allow him to go through certain experiences — some good, some painful, and some educational. I’m going to bring all of these things together, because I want something done in the world that will take that kind of person to do it.
We are saved to serve. It’s called having a ministry — using your talents and gifts to help other people. Fulfillment means being who and what God meant for you to be.
I hope you have a good sense of your purpose. When you do, you often get the incredible opportunity to ride shotgun with someone who is still figuring our their purpose. It is a little intimidating but it is also a great gift.
I love what Kara Powell says about this. She is a professor and author who recently wrote “Three Big Questions That Change Every Teenager”. Her heart is to see teens and young adults live the life God created them to live. She has great advice for those of us who have a front row seat to these moments. She tells us the best way to ride shot gun.
What young people ultimately want is an adult who will sit on the curb of their lives, notice and care, say, "Tell me more," Our warmth is far more needed by young people than our coolness. Are you over 30? The little things we do to build warmth and connection pay off in long term relationship and ultimately long term fruit.
Be a guide, ask questions and make connection. It is the best way to help someone answer the question, “what is my purpose?”
Have you heard Dillon's Story? It is real, raw and powerful. He felt he had no purpose but then everything changed. Take a look.
Whether you know your purpose and you are helping someone else or you are working out your purpose, I hope this helps!
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