What's My Purpose? Asking a Better Question.


I’ve observed in my life and the lives of others that our effort to live with purpose and meaning often creates disillusions. False expectations.

My primary work is to come alongside individuals to help them discover and affirm just who they are; to understand and embrace their one-of-a-kind, true self; to identify and live out a sense of personal purpose. And in doing so, there is a risk that I can over-promise and under-deliver.

Whether with me or any other process, it’s a false expectation to think that the pursuit of purpose…

  • produces the perfect job description for which one was born to fulfill;

  • will land him or her in the next right role;

  • generates absolute knowing about what to do.

It’s delusional. And therefore, disappointing.

Parker Palmer observes: “When I’m sure I know exactly what I’m doing and why - so sure that I miss vital clues about what’s actually needed and what I have to offer - it’s a sign that my ego’s in charge, and that’s dangerous.”

Do I, then, have personal meaning? Can I live with a sense of purpose?

Although each of us is a unique, one-of-a-kind human being…we aren’t “it.”

John Andrew Holmes (1773-1843) said, “It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”

In his book, On the Brink of Everything, Parker reminds us that each of us is one among many. This perspective demands a humility that accepts we are responsible to live with honest intention and a brave willingness to serve others, rather than merely pushing through life and relationships with my purpose, my sense of meaning.

I intend to coach my clients to embrace their essential gifts and skills, to express their unique personality and be who they are intended to be. But I hope to help them do so with curiosity and questions, always asking: is my pursuit of meaning about me? Or is it about serving others?

It’s true for me too. When my sense of purpose, my pursuit of meaning, assumes I know with certainty, the what and when and how, I forget that meaning, true meaning, is found in love…and that’s always about someone else. 

That’s why – if my process with someone is most helpful – their personal mission statement won’t reflect ambition toward personal goals and success. Rather, we tap what is true for every person who is learning what it is to be fully human: love that puts others first and leverages our uniqueness to live that love faithfully

Maybe there’s a better question than “What’s my purpose?”

Parker suggests asking, “What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to give myself to?”

 What do you want to give yourself to?