Lisa Murray, M.A.
Four Key Elements To Discovering Your Purpose
And how to make the days ahead the most meaningful ever
Delores had always been a vibrant, passionate woman. She had been active in her church, taught Bible studies for more years than she could remember, and routinely invested herself in the lives of the women she taught.
Sitting with her, her eyes welled up with tears. She seemed lost.
Ever since she retired and relocated to be near her children, she hadn’t been able to find a church community in which to invest herself. Every church already had their programs, their teachers. Her children and their families were busy with their lives and she struggled to nurture the kind of relationships she had always dreamed of with her grandchildren.
Her husband was now passed and this woman who had lived with such strength, passion, and purpose, now struggled to make sense of her life. She ached to have a place to plant herself. Her spirit was parched for soil in which she would thrive. Lonely, she began to sink into depression. Was this it?, she wondered. Was there a purpose at all to her life?
Katie is in her late 20’s. Though she has a job, she longs to find her purpose in life – God’s unique calling to which she can dedicate her life. She searches to find her purpose every day in her career and her relationships, yet ends up feeling more confused and farther from her pursuit than ever.
Without a compass to give stability, direction, and meaning, she remains locked in a cycle of emptiness and wandering. Some days life feels overwhelming, almost unbearable.
Most of us can recall similar feelings at some point in our lives—the emptiness, the yearning, the confusion, the lacking, and the depression. They all merge together, and they always seem to present themselves in the dimmest moments of twilight.
We all need purpose.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian existential psychologist, created a school of thought called logotherapy. Frankl believed that our dominant driving force is to find meaning in life.
In the 1940s, Frankl was held prisoner in Nazi concentration camps. He felt the horror of losing everything only to be tortured and terrorized. With all the agony and brutality, what kept Frankl from giving up his relentless fight for his life?
Purpose. He found meaning in his struggle, and that’s what gave him the power to push forward through unimaginable pain.
After escaping the concentration camps, Frankl published a book called Man’s Search for Meaning, which explores his experiences and includes an overview of logotherapy. A quote by Nietzsche nicely sums up his philosophy on how people were able to survive the camps, without losing the will to live:
He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.
That is the power of purpose. We can find meaning and purpose in our relationships, we can find it in our values and beliefs. We can find purpose in our relationship with God, and we can explore our God-given passions to cultivate potential purposes for our lives.
In my book, Peace For A Lifetime, I explore three things that must align for us to discover our purpose: identity, beliefs and values, and passions. However, there’s one vital piece to the purpose puzzle that’s missing.
God’s purpose will always be connected with giving, not getting.
We tend to look for something external that will provide direction or purpose, that will fill the void inside. It’s counter-intuitive, but our search for purpose will emerge from what we are giving of ourselves to others.
Viktor Frankl described,
Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
Do you want to be loved? Love someone. Would you like more joy in your life? Give joy to people! Sounds so simple, right? The more we learn to serve others, the more fulfilled and satisfied we become.
God’s purpose will always align with how He has made us.
As we define our identity (our core strengths and weaknesses) and our most deeply held beliefs and values, our curiosities used in service to others will explode into a relentless passion that emerges into a vibrant dynamic purpose.
- Know your identity – write down a list of strengths and weaknesses.
- Define your beliefs and values – write down your beliefs about life, faith, relationships, work.
- Explore your passions – write down a list of things that interest you or make you curious.
- How can you use the above three to serve a cause, a person, a community, or an organization other than yourself?
Once you identify these things, you will have a map to begin discovering your purpose. It may not include fame, it may not have a giant salary attached to it; it may be different than you had ever dreamed. Yet finding and engaging the purpose for which you were created will provide the greatest meaning and satisfaction you can imagine.
Do you enjoy talking with people? Where can you begin volunteering to talk or read with people who perhaps are lonely and would love a good conversation?
Do you enjoy cooking? How can you identify individuals, families, or organizations within your community for whom you can begin cooking meals?
Are you gifted at teaching, writing, organizing, helping? There is no right or wrong. Get creative and try out several things.
Your purpose today may look different than it did twenty years ago. God is always growing us to develop different passions and purposes for every season of our lives.
Explore the things you love today and begin to look for ways you can use a gift to bless someone. In the end, you will be giving yourself the biggest blessing of all. You will be living your life on purpose with purpose.
Lisa Murray is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Franklin, TN, with an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, as well as a graduate degree from Trevecca University. In 2007 Lisa founded the Counseling and Family Ministries at Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, TN, where she not only works to help individuals, couples, and families, deal with the complexities and challenges of life and relationships, she also treats a full spectrum of mental health issues.