No one taught us about purpose.
School and university have tended to always be about job and career, and words like purpose aren’t used. When we were little we were always asked ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’, and we were expected to answer ‘teacher’ or ‘fireman’ or ‘lawyer’ or ‘doctor’ or ‘nurse’ or something else that was about a job or a career. No one ever asked what would you like to be like when you grow up? Or what do you think you’re here for? Or what gives life meaning for you?
Some of us found some opportunity to explore this within religion, but religion is not always a guarantee of meaning, or possibly one’s quest for meaning goes beyond one’s religion. Maybe you find you have questions that your religion can’t answer. And so, a broader spiritual exploration helps. (Of course, for many people these two – religion and spirituality – overlap a great deal, but for a great many they are quite exclusive of each other.)
And herein lies the problem with why purpose wasn’t taught. It’s fundamentally about spirituality. And modern education, sadly, doesn’t go there. When we took Christian instruction out of school we threw the proverbial baby out with it, and any opportunity to include the language of spirituality within education. Even the concept of finding meaning in work hasn’t caught on much within education yet, although it has started to enter the lexicon of modern business. It was certainly important to me when I ran various organisations to find out from staff what was meaningful to them and where they wanted to go in their work life.
Some time ago, I was listening to a video of Esther Hicks. (If you don’t know of Esther & Abraham, look for them on YouTube and enjoy!) Esther said that our primary responsibility as parents (all things being equal and our kids are fed and clothed and so on), is to assist our children to connect to their own purpose in life. This was so meaningful for me, and I believe it with all my heart. Of course, if we’ve no idea about purpose generally, or our own specifically, then we’re less able to help others with theirs, most especially our children.
This language of purpose is now being heard more widely, although for the most part our understanding of it remains limited. More and more people want lives they believe in. They don’t want their lives to be about acquisition and achievement; they’ve realised that those things have only ever made them happy for about five minutes, or maybe a day, and then they want the next thing. And so the hope arises: ‘there has to be more than this.’
And then often rather late in the day we’re finding ourselves in our middle age or our third age wondering what our purpose is, wondering if we still have time for it, maybe wondering at what we might suddenly even see as the pointlessness of so much else we’ve done before now.
The thing is, you’ve actually been on your purpose journey all along – you just didn’t know it. Now you’re becoming conscious of it. And it’s not about whether you still have time for it – it’s there as long as you are. And nothing you’ve done is pointless – it’s all absolutely as it should have been and now you’re going to find out how useful it all was. Now it’s all going to start making sense, and now, finally, you’re going to be having this conversation out loud, along with thousands and thousands of others, and between us we’re going to make sure that those that come after us ‘get’ this.
Happy New Year.