Many of us have pondered the age old question, “Why am I here?” but few of us have actually stopped to answer it. Likely because there is no single correct answer and each of us must search our own heart for the answer that is uniquely ours. That takes work. But it’s important to live our lives with intention, passion, and purpose, because for most, purpose is synonymous with happiness.
Purpose gives us meaning and a reason to get up in the morning. It helps us greet each day with anticipation. It keeps us healthy mentally and physically. It moves us forward in life, and helps us to achieve our goals.
But sometimes, especially after a significant loss (the death of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of job, or when the kids go off to school) we find ourselves feeling empty—as though life has lost all meaning. In many circumstances it’s because our life-purpose has centered on someone else instead of our own need for self-fulfillment. It’s not always intentional. Often, our time is spread so thin taking care of others that we just don’t have time to care for ourselves too. We are caregivers for aging parents. We overcommit ourselves at work, church, and in our communities. We feel the pressure to be super-parents running our kids everywhere from sporting events to music lessons. We give, and give, and give, until we’ve completely lost our own sense of self, but it’s time to get back on track.
So what is your purpose in life? Is it your own, or does it hinge on what someone else does, thinks, or feels about you? Are you prioritizing someone else’s needs or opinions above your own?
A successful businessman took a vacation to a remote island where he could get away from life’s daily pressures and relax on the beach. While there, he encountered a local fisherman lazing around the dock. Day after day the fisherman would lay there sunning himself and drinking a cold beer while catching one fish after another. By mid-morning he’d have a basket full of fish, and would head home to his wife and children. Finally, the businessman stopped him and said, “This spot is a gold mine! Why don’t you get some boats, hire some extra hands, and in a few years you’ll turn your little fishing spot into a million dollar business!” The fisherman asked, “And what would I do then?” The businessman replied, “Well, you’d have so much money you could take trips to remote islands where you could fish, lay around sunning yourself and drinking beers, and then go home to your wife and children.” Confused, the fisherman said, “But sir, I’m already doing that.”
The Lesson: Many times our spouse, family, friends, or even a well-meaning acquaintance will think they know what’s best for us, but we must fulfill our purpose in our own way.
This is one of the few times that it’s OK to be completely selfish. As a matter of fact, be as selfish as you can be. Connect to the passion and purpose that is exclusively yours. We will always need people to help us along the way and to encourage us, but never base your purpose on someone else.
This is about you. So ask yourself again, “Why am I here?” and don’t stop asking until you have the answer. Your happiness depends on it.