The Healing Journey Part Five: With Purpose, On Purpose, For A Purpose
We all want our lives to matter. Deep down inside, whether we admit it or not, we all want meaningful lives. We want to think that we are important, somehow, someway, to somebody. There is a need in each of us to feel significant. We have all been created for a purpose, and if we don’t find and live that purpose, we will feel that life is empty and meaningless. We may deny it or more often we simply try to fill the empty space with other things.
Friday, I heard my mentor John C. Maxwell speak on his new book, Intentional Living, and how to live a life of significance. The concept resonated with me, and has for some time since I discovered my purpose in 2013. Maxwell calls it a Life of Significance and says “Intentional living starts with intentional thinking.”
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end. He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.... ~Linda Ellis, The Dash
I call it living With Purpose, On Purpose, For A Purpose. I have always been very intentional and living with purpose, on purpose has always come naturally to me. I believe that the circumstances of my teenage years shaped me and who I am today. For years, I was determined that if I ever escaped the oppression I was living in and the emotional and sexual abuse my father subjected me to, I would live life to the fullest. I wistfully thought of those lucky people who got to go to college and I was jealous of some of my friends who had a job and their own income. I longed to have the freedom to make my own choices. Freedom to choose how I could cut my hair, what I could wear, who I could talk to, whether I would date, get married, earn a living, and so many other choices that many people take for granted.
Once I escaped from my father and I suddenly had the freedom I had always longed for, I realized I had the opportunity of a lifetime – to live my life. With freedom, comes responsibility. So, living on purpose was an easy decision. When I decided to go to school at 21, I decided to go all the way and I set a goal of getting my MBA by the time I was 30. I missed it by six months – I was a few months past my 31 birthday when I graduated – but still, I consider it a success to set a goal and work towards it for nine years, attending school at night and on the weekends while working two jobs and keeping a family. It takes commitment to live on purpose. There were many nights and weekends I spent studying and writing essays while others were out squandering time and having “fun.” I don’t regret that. For thirteen years after leaving home at 19, I did pretty good at living on purpose and with purpose.
But, I didn’t live for a purpose. I was intentional about a lot of things – health, exercise, diet, work (too much work!), family – but I was missing the part about living to fulfill my purpose. Not because I didn’t want to, I simply didn’t know what my purpose was. Mark Twain said it best, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” In 2013, thirteen years after leaving home I discovered my why. I realized that the years I considered to be the worst years of my life were the years that gave my life meaning. The experiences that shaped me that were so terrible, the brainwashing, the sexual abuse, the times I was forced to play a wife for my father, the times he shared me with other men, the times I was tied up and beaten, all of those awful experiences that I don’t like to remember today are part of what made me who I am today.
Today I am proud to be a survivor because that means I survived. And, those worst years of my life become a good thing when I realize I can use them for good. I can use them to bring hope to someone else. I fulfill my purpose when I help someone else realize that no matter how bad life gets, we always have the choice in how we respond. We always have the freedom to choose our attitude. Viktor Frankl said, “The last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” We always have the freedom to choose faith over fear. We always have the choice to claim grace and have gratitude. Someone close me to me once said, “Freedom is such a sacred thing that not even God Himself imposes His will on any man.”
Finding your purpose is a journey and there aren’t any shortcuts on life’s journey. Even now, as I live my purpose, I am defining and continually refining how I live that purpose. I like to ask myself three questions each morning: 1) What will I do today to add value to someone? 2) What will I do today to move forward towards my goals and purpose? and 3) What will I do today to help me be better tomorrow?
These may not be the questions that you need to ask yourself. You may need to ask and answer different questions such as what are you passionate about. Perhaps you already know what your purpose is or perhaps not. If not, I recommend Intentional Living, by John C. Maxwell and his free 7 Day Experiment to help you start living a life of significance and start living for purpose. Even if you do know your purpose but find that you aren’t truly living it, the 7 Day Experiment will change your life as you realize it doesn’t take a lot of time or money or energy to live your purpose and live a life that matters. It’s not just about living life With Purpose, On Purpose. It’s about living life For A Purpose. In the words of Linda Ellis, “What matters most is the dash between those years.”
Note: This article is one of several in a series. Sign up here to receive my blog in your inbox and get the next article in the series by email.