The Seeker of Peace

Purpose and Passion
November 19, 2008, 8:41 am
Filed under: spirituality, World | Tags: , , , , ,

For a long time, I’ve been searching for a purpose for my life. I’ve read many stories of people who knew from an early age exactly what they wanted to do. When I made my career change from software to investments a few years ago, I used the book The Pathfinder. The author, Nicholas Lore, describes his passion for career counseling, and encourages others to do work they’re truly passionate about.

Lore, like many other well-meaning sources, suggested that if I found just the right work, work would be like play. The hardships and challenges wouldn’t seem so bad if I were passionate about my work. Work would be an integral part of my life, not just a job. In short, finding the right purpose would make me happy.

I managed to believe this despite my increasing frustration with my software career. I loved software as a youth, and programmed for fun. When I started doing it for pay, I could bring an energy to it that made highly successful. That didn’t stop it from growing old after a couple of decades. I convinced myself that that hadn’t been my passion, and I just needed to search further.

Unfortunately, my new job, while interesting and rewarding, hasn’t been a magical panacea to make me happy either. The more I think about it, the more the whole idea of “finding a purpose” based on my passion seems like a very ego-driven exercise. After all, how much more extremely judgmental can you get than having your ego pick your passion for you?

I tried the alternate approach of asking God for guidance in my career. As I wrote last week, that didn’t work. Yet I felt it was wrong to go through another ego-centric exercise to consider yet another career change.

Now, I’m wondering whether the “purpose with a passion” idea even has merit. There are several lessons in the Workbook of A Course in Miracles that equate “my function” with happiness. That made me wonder if the cause and effect are reversed: perhaps those people who find happiness are able to bring passion to their work, rather than passion for the work making them happy.

I’ve been trying for several days now to see my purpose as being simply to bring peace and happiness to those around me. That’s not easy. Taken seriously, it means not complaining, not attacking, not whining, and not doing all the other things that bring others down. I’m failing at it frequently, as old habits are hard to break. But, I’m getting better with practice.

My hope (which I’m trying hard not to turn into a belief or expectation) is that this approach will ultimately render the question moot. If I can make others happy, and am happy myself, does it really matter what I’m doing for my job? And maybe, at that point, things will just work themselves out with my career without any need for me to make another ego-based decision.


6 Comments so far
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While I am sorry that you are struggling, I think its refreshing to see you taking a proactive approach and trying to seek out your purpose. So many people just wait for good things to fall into their laps. It can be so hard to find purpose, and often in America, we are taught to find our purpose in our work, and are driven to workaholic status. While it would be great to have a job we loved, I don’t think its healthy for the job to be our everything, because then when it isn’t going well our world will seem to crumble. I loved reading this post because I feel like I’ve struggled with a lot of what you are and it lead me to change my career path because of it. That being said, I found my purpose outside of work (my faith… for others its art or family or whatever) and then redirected my work to fit that greater influence in my life.

I guess what I am trying to say is that after reading this post, you are in my thoughts and I hope your journey works out and whatever decision you make is the best one for you.

Comment by anotherworldcitizen

“If I can make others happy, and am happy myself, does it really matter what I’m doing for my job?”

One part of my divided mind says, “No, it doesn’t matter”–especially because my job is just an illusion anyway. The other part says, “I want to be special”–and surely this job isn’t anywhere near special enough.

Comment by Sarah

I had a conversation about life purpose with a friend recently, and I mentioned that I’m coming to the realization that my life purpose involves loving and forgiving. She was adamant that that CANNOT be my life purpose. She said “those are lessons; those are NOT your life purpose.” Although I disagree, I contiue to think about what my life purpose really is.

Comment by Sarah

Sarah –

Maybe “life purpose” is one of those terms, like “God,” that’s so charged that it’s difficult to discuss. If you’re committed to loving and forgiving, I suspect that you’ll find something to do (such as a job) that provides an outlet conducive to more loving and forgiving.

If that happens, which is your “purpose”: loving and forgiving, or whatever means you found to enable loving and forgiving? I think it’s the former, but your friend might argue for the latter.

Comment by The Seeker of Peace

I just read your thoughtful, searching quest for purpose and peace at work. As the fellow who wrote The Pathfinder and created the field of career coaching, I have worked with many thousands of people with the same yearning and commitment as you. What I have found is that it is not so much a matter of finding your purpose as it is creating it. Built into the meaning of the word “finding” is that what you seek is already there waiting for you, you just have to uncover it, like finding a crayfish under a rock. The only problem is that there may be nothing under the rock or it might not be just the right crayfish for you. I have found that many of our clients who have generated a peaceful, purposeful life of fulfillment (and also success) have stopped looking for the holy grail and realized that they had to create it, design it, piece-by-piece. After all, we are made in God’s image right? Well, what is it that God is so good at? CREATING! To me living a fulfilled life at work involves crating, designing work that combines ALL the important factors that are part of you – work that is an elegant match for your natural gifts, that fits well with your personality (you don’t have to pretend to be someone else at work), you live from a purpose, so you are not just working for yourself but to contribute, to make a difference in some way that you are passionate about, that you are passionately interested in the subject of the work. Also the workplace environment fits you and your most important values are sufficiently rewarded. To create this kind of life requires that you make creating this new work the biggest project in your life, become unstoppable in getting there (like Obama or Madonna or Hannibal) and don’t listen to the voices in your head that tell you to compromise, to give up. Sounds like a lot of work? It is, but it is a lot less work than putting up with a life not lived from a passionate purpose. – All the best to you, Nick Lore

Comment by Nicholas Lore

Hi Jim… I’m glad I followed the link to your site. I really enjoyed reading this post.

Okay, I’m going to take a rather contrary sounding approach. What if life has no purpose? What if you have no function? To me, not only are these equally valid possibilities, but they are in fact closer to the truth. Where is it written that life must have a purpose to be happy, fulfilling, joyous, peaceful? I don’t know about you, but outside of the self-help movement, I’ve never found that one.

To follow the line of thought you left on my last post, I would maintain that in the realization of what you are will come all the happiness and “satisfaction” that you will find in life. Then, you will simply do what you are called upon to do. To many in the world, it might be difficult to ascertain your “purpose” or “function” from moving in this way, but so what? Life will still be fulfilling, rich and happy. And amazingly helpful to others, too.

I think you nailed it: “perhaps those people who find happiness are able to bring passion to their work, rather than passion for the work making them happy.” You will find this happiness you seek by one simple thing: knowing the truth of what you are. Awakening. Realization.

Again, very nice post. Thanks for being so open about your search. Namaste.

Comment by Tom Stine

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