What Is Your Purpose?

Do you know what your life purpose is?

Most people don’t. At least not the ones I ask.

Yes, we all have purposes inherent in our roles as friends, husbands, wives, parents, employees—as just plain people.

Keep food on the table. Raise responsible kids. Work hard and pray for a raise. Be honest. Learn the word of God and follow it. Good purposes. Ostensible ones.

But what is your real purpose? What did you come to earth to accomplish, to be? What is something only you can uniquely do?

Do you know? Can you know?

I believe you can. I believe you should. Here’s how I came to know.

I have asked myself the same question for most of my life, but a little over three years ago, on October 14, 2010 to be exact, I opened a Word document on my computer and wrote what I thought was my life purpose. Actually, I wrote it and rewrote it. Over and over.

Now I have a written the 38th draft of my life purpose (I kept track of the drafts) and I know what my purpose is. I really do. It’s a simple phrase. It’s only nine words long. But it is a purpose that informs and suffuses everything I do.

Because of it, I know what I am going to do tomorrow and why. And the next day. And next year. That purpose is clear to me. I don’t have to wonder about it, not anymore. I have a path to follow and with a sure destination.

Try this. Write your life purpose down. You’ll be close on the first try. Then keep going. Write until your heart and head are lined up, until they agree on at least one thing. It will set you free.

Do you want to know what my life purpose is? I’ll tell you.

I inspire others to see the best in themselves.

That’s it. Simple but true.

There Is No Such Thing As Failure

This morning when I woke up, I could see something I had not seen clearly before. It’s this.

There is no such thing as failure. There is only giving up or not giving up.

But no matter what, there is always learning. And growth. There isn’t any such thing as not learning.

There is such a thing as not believing, but that is only a longer path to learning. 

There are mistakes and sins, but they are not failures—not entirely. They are learning experiences locked in by trauma. We try to avoid them, but they haunt our days like sad memories.

So I tell myself: Press on. Learn from this. Forgive yourself. Don’t give up. Today is a new opportunity to learn.

I am a big fan of failure. Failure is a good friend of mine. A familiar friend. All my successes are built on the rubble of failure. There is no other foundation for success. It’s okay.

We are afraid of failure because we are afraid of shame and embarrassment. But most shame and embarrassment, in my experience, is deception. Some of it is a protection, but most of it is a lie.

When I forgive myself, it reconstitutes what looks like failure into a step up. An opportunity. A blessing.

I will fail today with a smile on my face. And a sense of humor. And a sense of hope.

A Lesson from a $50 Bill

I saw a little object lesson on Sunday that I’ve never seen before. The teacher of a Sunday School class held up a $50 bill. She asked, “Does anyone want 50 dollars?”

Hands shot up. Groans and giggles rolled over the classroom.

She crumpled up the bill into a ball. “Do you still want it?” she asked.

The second response was a bit more enthusiastic than the first.

Then she wrote on the bill and abused it in other ways. She asked us to imagine her stomping the bill into the dirt.

“Still want it?” she asked again.

Of course the same folks still wanted the bill (though they never got it).

Her point? The bill still held its value, even when bad things happened to it, even though it was in worse shape than when we first saw it.

Shape and condition do not determine the worth and value of a $50 bill, and it does not determine our worth.

Each of us is beyond value, no matter what condition or state we currently are in.

You are priceless, no matter what you imagine about yourself. Do you accept that?

Just Be You

Today I heard a story from the mother of a five-year-old boy. His name is Elijah.

“Elijah, are you a good boy?” his mom asked.

“No,” he said.

“Well, then, are you a bad boy?” she asked.

“No,” he replied again.

“What are you then?”

“I’m just Elijah.” 

Elijah makes a point I’d like to talk about.

We all would like to be better and do better. Can you think of anyone who would not like to do better in their life than she is now doing?

But there is a big gap between who you are today and who you want to be. In fact, there is a lot of pain in your relationship with your future self. Who is she? Where is she? Who is she with? Is she healthy? Is she more attractive or less attractive? Is she lonely? Did she accomplish what she was meant to accomplish?

Have you felt that pain?

What if I told you that you are already that person? Yes, already the person you dream of being. That you are already more than you could possibly imagine just by being you?

Yes, you can’t do and have everything you want at this moment. What if you could? What if everyone could? WELL, LIFE WOULD BE INCREDIBLY BORING.

You’ve made mistakes and have regrets? Are you unique in making mistakes and having regrets? NO. IF YOU DID EVERYTHING PERFECTLY ON THE FIRST TRY, YOU WOULD BE INCREDIBLY BORING.

You know what you want because of who you are and who you were before you came to this planet. I believe it is part of your spiritual DNA. You are a daughter of God. You are a son of God.

Do you know what that means? One thing it means is that you have the ability to become your best self. And becoming your best self means living up to who you already are. A daughter or son of God.

Our Heavenly Father made life interesting. He made it possible for us to make mistakes. He granted us the gift of educational mistakes. Even though He could, He doesn’t tell us every minute detail, every precise step of our journey. That is up to us.

It’s your trip. You are the travel agent. God gave you that privilege. The choice you make in the next minute will impact where you are going later today, tomorrow, next week, next year.

If you have a really big goal like writing a book or climbing a mountain, what are you going to do in the next minute? I mean it—the next minute.

Why would you do nothing? Because you are afraid of who you really are. And that fear blocks you from knowing what your next step is.

We have all seen and experienced the waste of energy in pretending to be someone you’re not. (Another form of fear.)

Try this. It will take a bit of imagination, but it works. Shake hands with your future self and say, “We need to get better acquainted!” After you’ve had a chance to chat for a minute, ask, “What’s my next step? What do I do next?” Then listen. And obey. (The more you listen and obey, the clearer and quicker the answers will become.)

It’s a game. Learn the rules. It’s fun. Life is fun. Life can be fun for you again. Seriously, I think it was meant to be fun. That’s why we don’t know everything about the trip. But you can know the next step.

(Even pain and tragedy can yield a joy that we could not otherwise have. I know that one is tough, but I have learned it from experience.)

Thank you, Elijah, for reminding me how important it is to be who you are.

P.S. Being who you are is not an invitation to be your unexamined, natural self. It is an invitation to reach higher, to see and believe in your best self, enabled by the grace of God. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). You and I must be winners with a promise like that. At least we can be if we want to be. Only your best choices match who you really are.