I was talking to my husband the other night and said something along the lines of, “Wow, I’m going to be 32 next week and I’m not at all where I thought I’d be career-wise.” He responded, “Look at your life – you just graduated with your MBA, you have a smart and beautiful two-year old daughter that thinks the world of you, two dogs to keep you company while I’m away (he works as a firefighter on 24-72 hour shifts), we bought our perfect home last year, and we travel and go sailing every summer on Lake Michigan. You have a pretty good life.” I pondered, “Yes, we do have a beautiful life.” We are very lucky at our present life situation, and I realize this.
Yet, this brings up the question, “Why do we let our jobs define who we are?” I would love to find fulfillment in work, however, what if my purpose in life is beyond work? I am a writer, by nature. I have journals full of short stories I wrote when I was ten years old. Words have always flowed naturally to me and when I get an idea I run with it. I have an innate feeling part of my purpose is writing. But I’ve never been able to make a living out of writing. Is that okay? I am beginning to think, yes, it is perfectly normal to to be passionate about things that have nothing to do with my day job. It’s just trickier to navigate.
The average American worker spends approximately 38.6 hours on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015 Data. Add in commute time – mine is approximately one hour total per day- and you are already dedicating 40+ hours to a job that pays income and benefits but that you do not truly find your life’s purpose in. How does one then find the time to explore their true passions, whether they are writing, singing, creating crafty items to sell on Etsy? Throw in a marriage, children, managing a household- and it is difficult to find the hours or even minutes to dedicate to your passion projects.
Then comes the question, “What is my true purpose in life?” I’m not a doctor – my purpose is not to save people’s lives. I’m not a lawyer – my purpose is not to defend people’s innocence. Policeman, firefighter, teacher, human rights activist – all of these professions are observed to the outsider as having a true purpose. I work in corporate America and undoubtedly I’ve gained valuable skills in my tenure. Yet, I cannot say with certainty that I’ve found my life’s purpose in my work.
What if a life purpose is made up of several pieces of one’s life that all tie together to make a complete picture? I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a professional, a women’s leadership advocate, a writer, a dog lover. All of these pieces make me who I am, and giving more energy and attention to one or more of these pieces per day is a normal occurrence.
My acceptance of my life’s purpose as being a puzzle with several pieces to tie together, brings clarity to my current career situation. It may not be perfect and I may not find 100% of my life’s purpose from it, but it is meant to teach me a lesson and give me knowledge to continue on my journey.
For those who can say with certainty, “My life’s purpose is xyz,” I commend them and am so happy they can pinpoint it. For the rest of us, I think it’s ok and quite common to feel there’s not one major overall life purpose we must fulfill. If you can figure out how the pieces of joy and fulfillment fit into your life, I think that will determine your path forward. It might even lead you to unexpected places where you may stumble across more pieces of your life’s purpose puzzle.