Have You Found Your Purpose in Life?

January 15th, 2012 by LaRae Quy

Two Paths Diverged in a wood

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When we were young, the purpose of life was very clear—have fun! We focused on being independent, doing things our own way, seeking adventure, and looking for the best in ourselves and others.

And then we graduated from school, got jobs, and took on adult responsibilities. Suddenly, the purpose of our life had more to do with meeting the expectations of others and less about what we wanted for ourselves.

As a result, we start to live more on the fringes of other people’s lives than in the middle of our own. But here is the thing: when we don’t live life for ourselves, it’s impossible to find fulfillment and purpose.

This is the adventure of life—to find our purpose. At the end of the day, we’re the ones who must take responsibility for the choices in life that we’ve made along the way, so we might as well live it as our best.

A serial number on an offical German personal ...

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Personal Identification

As an FBI agent, I relied upon a suspect’s identification to tell me the basics: name, date of birth, place of employment, and Social Security Account Number. This gave me a legal description of the individual but nothing more. To move into the personal identification, I needed to flesh out the details of the person.

Too many of us live our lives as nothing more than a legal description. We have become part of the gray masses that are indistinguishable from one another. We have not dug down to find our true character, we lack the confidence to reach for the higher goal, and are filled with too much fear to move out of our narrow comfort zone so we can become a bigger person.

Personal identification is a means for each of us to work towards finding our purpose in life. It takes work because we want to create the life we want to live, and not a version of what someone else thinks will work for us.

Over the next few months, I’ll be talking, and writing, more about Personal Identification and will break it down into the development of three areas: professional development, personal achievement, and spiritual growth. We’ll take a look at how to find our purpose in all three areas of life.

Let’s start with professional development.

Who Are You At Work?

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07

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Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, an the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the way only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”  Steve Jobs

Less than twenty percent of Americans can answer the following questions with any clarity. How would you answer them?

  • What is my job?
  • What about my job really counts?
  • How well am I doing?
  • Is my job an expression of my personal values?
  • Can I list my 5 top personal values?
  • In my job, am I building a life of success, but not of significance?
  • What can I (or my employer) do to help me become more passionate about my current role?
  • Is there another job I’d rather be doing?
  • Why aren’t I doing it?

There is a silent killer that stalks America and it is called “rustout.” It’s actually even scarier than “burnout” because, while burnout can wear down your body, rustout can wipe out your soul and spirit.

“Rustout is the slow death that follows when we stop making the choices that keep life alive. It’s the feeling of numbness that comes from taking the safe way, never accepting new challenges, continually surrendering to the day-to-day routine. Rustout means we are no longer growing, but at best, are simply maintaining. It implies that we have traded the sensation of life for the security of a paycheck . . . Rustout is the opposite of burnout. Burnout is overdoing . . . rustout is underbeing.

Richard Leider and Steve Buchholtz, The Rustout Syndrome

Write down ways you can stretch yourself in the next few months. How well did you answer the work questions with clarity? Which ones were the most difficult? Why? What areas of rustout do you suffer at work?

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4 Responses to “Have You Found Your Purpose in Life?”

  1. Justin Mazza says:

    Hi LaRae,
    Lately I have been on the fringes of burn -out. I use my feelings to gauge where I am at the moment and see what direction I need to take. Do I need more growth or do I need to first re-charge my batteries.

    I was at the “rust-out ” phase for a small period until I started my blog a year ago. There are so many growth opportunities online that I could stay in growth mode for a long time.

    Take care.

  2. LaRae Quy says:

    So many of us live in the fringes of other people’s lives and not in the middle of our own – and yet, in our own life is where the adventure and excitement can be found! No more voyeurism . . . among other things 🙂

    I am drawn to the term Personal Identification for many of the same reasons as yourself. Until recently, working class people didn’t have the luxury of taking the time to become self-aware! It was a rich person’s indulgence. Freedom of thought and speech are the foundation of personal identification. What is ironic is that with the freedoms and tools available to most of us, there are still those who don’t make the effort to develop their Self.

    Self-awareness is hard work and there are those who prefer to remain in fantasyland . . .

    BTW, loved your post on What Can Woody Allen Teach You About Writing!

  3. Bell says:

    LaRae, this was a thought-provoking post. The “living on the fringes” metaphor was rather elegant, I don’t think I could have put it better myself.

    Every society forces individuals to choose: will you be subsumed, or would you rather stand out? In a world where education adheres to the factory model, it’s so much easier for people to choose mass over individuation, i.e., running with the crowd as opposed to carving your own niche.

    The industrial revolution necessitated learning by rote and workers that functioned as cogs. It’s had an enormous impact on everything we think, say and do. Personal identification in the 19th century was for the idle. People of low social status weren’t ascribed full personhood (and in fact it took quite a while for universal suffrage to catch on; up until recently, in historical terms, only landed gentry could vote) and therefore had no say in lawmaking or public organization.

    At least that’s the way it was supposed to go. Thanks to a long line of pariahs, protesters and freethinkers, the notions of universal human rights and freedom of speech finally emerged; these are the foundation of any discourse on personal identification. Without recognition of the fact that individuals have the right to develop their identity, their Self, and to do better in life, our civilization wouldn’t be going anywhere.

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