As I spent this past week driving half way across the country, I took up listening to some motivational podcasts! One that really caught my attention was titled, “The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast.” Within this series he goes into great detail over creating a culture of collaboration, embracing your strengths, and the ever so complex question, “What is MY purpose?” The particular podcast that I wanted to hone in on was his episode titled, “The Complexity of Purpose.”
Within this Andy defines the meaning of purpose as, “a means to an end.” In other words purpose isn’t about getting hung up on ourselves, because to find purpose is to ultimately find a means to an end that is not “you.” What I loved about his rationale was that he sheds light on the fact that we often ask ourselves all the wrong questions. “What am I here for?” “What is MY purpose?” With hopes of trying to make our lives count and make a difference, there is a flaw in this approach. It isn’t so much that the questions we’re asking are bad, but that we’re merely looking through the wrong lens.
For us to truly begin the search for our purpose, we must start seeing everything that we’re currently doing through the lens of means. He suggests that, any time we make an end a means, you find purpose. By looking at situations as a means to an end, you quickly reveal the purpose behind it. While this doesn’t exactly make sense yet, let’s put this thought to action. So you’re currently in a job you hate? Your job is not an end, your job is a means to an end. It has a purpose. Every job that results in a paycheck, job stability, a roof over your head, etc., holds a purpose. It’s not so much a matter of your situation, but a tweak in perspective that reveals the bigger picture.
I took this notion and applied it to my current situation. While I so desperately crave finding my purpose in this world, I can’t look past the season of change I’m in right now. Even though this change is by no means an end, it does serve the purpose of being a means to an end. I’ve experienced growth while dealing with so much uncertainty. Growth that can be seen spiritually, relationally, mentally. It’s not ideal, it’s not my desired destination, but it does serve a purpose. By using this rationale I can not only come to terms with this season of change, but also slowly begin to focus on the question, “Who am I here for?”
By reframing the question from “Why am I here?,” to “Who am I here for?,” I have changed it to find a means to an end that isn’t simply ME.
Andy sheds light on the fact that purpose is, as he defines it, the pathway to meaning. He exclaims that you can’t have meaning in life if you’re not willing to be a means to an end. Further, those who devote themselves to themselves will only have themselves when it’s all said and done. Looking through a biblical context, we were designed with more in mind! This declaration is something I strive to call over my life daily. By standing on the precipice of sacrificing myself for the sake of saying yes to others, we can start making sense of why we’re here and who we’re here for.
I’ve really struggled with this as of lately. Feeling like I have to find a job that holds meaning.. one where I wake up and know that I’m making a difference. Belonging to a cause that renders greater things than just myself. It’s good to pay attention to what stirs your heart, but it takes more than just a stirred heart to find and execute your purpose. Alongside that, Andy calls on two additional components that must be present. He states that “purpose is often found at the intersection of a broken or stirred heart, opportunity, and skill.”
Upon hearing this, I started really giving thought to what my skillets are, what opportunities I have at my disposal, and who or what stirs my heart. I came to the realization that I’m simply not living a time in my life where the opportunities are there for me to act on something that takes me beyond, well, myself. And that’s okay!
Now that isn’t to say that I can’t make my passions a hobby of mine! Perhaps it takes shape in the form of volunteering, joining a life group, giving up my weekends to coach little league, etc. The bottom line is I came to the harsh realization that, while living a life of purpose as a full time job is commendable, I’m not in the season of life to make the sacrifice just yet. The financial sacrifice, the career sacrifice, etc.
So, what now?
Well, now more than ever is the time to build myself up! Save money, focus on who I’m here for, sharpen my skills, give more, serve any way I can, etc. I’ll start by finding a local church and surrounding myself with on purpose people. Maybe get more involved in my volunteering effforts, who knows!
One final thought that I felt worth mentioning. There was a study done that shed light on the notion that we become like the people we associate with, not just behaviorally but neurologically as well. It’s safe to say then that if we wish to maximize happiness, lead a positive life, and move in a giving direction we must strategically surround ourselves by those who embody these traits. I was fortunate enough to have such a phenomenal support group back in Arkansas, but now I must rebuild.
It’s exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time, and all the while it serves a purpose.