The all-time best-selling hardback book is entitled The Purpose-Driven Life, and it was written by a Christian pastor who sold tens of millions of copies to readers both within and without religious circles. The reason it sold as much as it did is because people were intrigued by the title and assumed that the emptiness in their own lives had to do with not knowing their life’s purpose.
Guess what? Like most literary fads, the book came and went, and people are still in the same state of confusion. Why? People remain confused because they are not in search of purpose. They are in search of fulfillment.
In Search of Satisfaction
This may sound like semantics—i.e., that I’m quibbling over the meaning of terms—but the idea of “purpose” places the emphasis upon an external goal. For example, you’ll often hear a mother say, “I live FOR my children”, which is actually not true. What you live for is the satisfaction that comes from manifesting your passion and talent for mothering.
You’re in search of satisfaction. I guarantee it. Deep down, what you do, you do because you’re after fulfillment. What is fulfillment? It is a satisfaction that is the direct result of you fully developing your own abilities or character.
I don’t mean to imply that a mother doesn’t live for her children in the sense that she only cares about her own satisfaction. That would be grossly untrue. The point is that personal fulfillment is built into the system. You do what you do because you’re fulfilling your calling in life, and when you fulfill something, you feel fulfilled.
Shifting from Self-Help to Personal Development
If you truly want to live a fulfilled life, then you must focus on personal development not purpose development. This is why I don’t care too much for the term “self-help”. The idea of self-help makes you sound like a victim or patient: you need help to get out of the illnesses of life.
Personal development basically says, “I have talents, abilities, interests, passions, and characteristics that I must develop in order to experience true and lasting fulfillment while leaving an impact on this world.” Big difference.
When it comes to life coaching, my starting point in dealing with a client is to see them make that mental shift from self-help to personal development. I want them to leave the land of “woe is me” and get on the path to becoming a bad ass.
Purpose Follows Personal Development
However, the idea of purpose comes in when you establish the “moral reason” for why you’re developing yourself. For example, I define success as “maximizing one’s resources for a purpose greater than themselves,” but you’ll notice that what comes first is maximizing who you are, i.e., personal development.
Purpose follows personal development as you establish the moral reason for what you do. To use the example of the mother again, she is developing her abilities as a mother for a purpose greater than herself. What is that purpose? Is it so that her kids grow up to be healthy adults? No. That would be too limited, because I guarantee you she’s already thinking about her grandchildren no matter how old her children are. Her understanding of her purpose goes beyond her own children.
Your Answer(s) Begin Inside You
That’s why true mothers help out younger mothers. It’s why true mothers are prone to help other mothers when that help is needed. Motherhood is like being a member of a huge international club in which only the members understand why they’re even there.
Mothers understand that without them fulfilling their gifting as caretakers, nurturers, teachers, etc, then the world would collapse upon itself. Mothers instinctively know they keep the world together. Mothers are the perfect example of how you maximize your resources for a purpose greater than yourself.
What I’m saying is that you should focus more on personal development than trying to find your purpose. The answers you need are not external to you. They begin inside you as you take into account your own resources (talents, abilities, interests, characteristics) and work diligently to see them fully developed. The end result is that you start living a satisfied life.
Have you started this process yet? Could you list your primary areas of interest and ability? How about giving me a little taste of that in the comments below?
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