15 February 2016

The aimlessness of purposelessness

Author: James Middleton

I’m sitting at a pretty funky coffee shop waiting for a meeting to begin and suddenly had a wave of inspiration hit me around what to write for this post. It probably has something to do with the fact that there’s a slight breeze, Lions Head is peering contently at me and there is some good music making its way to me from inside. Once again, I’ll be writing from experience (whether it’s mine or somebody else’s, you’ll never know).

The power of purpose

I am a strong believer in how powerful (and crucial) it is to have some form of purpose. I would go as far as saying that without it, people are largely ineffective in doing anything that has some form of tangible, intended impact. How can I make such broad, sweeping statements? Let me explain my thinking…

I would define purpose as being an end goal or state which has personal meaning to the person involved. It gives one a picture of a future outcome that seems to stir something inside of them. If the purpose is genuine and powerful enough, it will cause people to take action. In this way, it almost acts as a fuel for getting stuff done.

How purpose fuels us

Based on my non-scientific definition of purpose, what would happen if we didn’t have a purpose? Well, we wouldn’t have an end goal or state in mind that does anything inside of us. There would be no direction, no internal force and therefore no emotional energy to go anywhere. We’d be static.

Give us a purpose though, and everything changes. Suddenly our thoughts are occupied, constantly wrestling, imagining, planning and piling up. We have a future destination in mind and we find it filling us with energy and enthusiasm to reach it. It’s almost as if purpose is a giant magnet out in the future and we’re a shard of metal, constantly being drawn towards it.

The right purpose

The last thing I want to mention when it comes to purpose (and what I believe about it), is the direction in which it operates. I believe it can go one of two ways… Firstly, purpose can be an inward thing, something that is focussed on oneself. Secondly, purpose can be outward where the focus is outside of yourself, on the external world. While it may be quite a simplistic way of categorizing purpose, I find it useful to think about it this way.

I believe that external focus is the “holy grail” when it comes to being truly effective. There’s something about giving, serving and sacrificing for something outside of yourself that is raw and real. It reaches deep into our hearts and tugs at our deep inner stirrings. On the opposite end of the spectrum, an internal purpose where the focus is yourself will never satisfy or be enough. When we are the object of our own focus, we never fully reach a point of satisfaction. We tell ourselves we can always earn that little bit more, be a little more comfortable, look a little thinner, be a little stronger and be adored that extra bit. It never ends.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Improving yourself is not a bad thing in and of itself. I just believe that having that external, magnetic purpose drawing you in, pulling at your heart and leading you to take action will improve you in ways that are better than you could ever imagine!

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