10 Common Myths About Purpose And How To Move Through Them.

10 Common Myths About Purpose And How To Move Through Them.
Photo by LexScope / Unsplash

I write a lot about purpose.

I do because of all the top development practices; discovering our purpose can be among the most challenging.

I work with people daily who feel they are merely drifting through life.

That’s not our God-designed life.

Purpose is complicated partly because we have complicated it; we’ve surrounded it with misconceptions and myths.

Let’s debunk ten.

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My Purpose Must Be Original

You are in a battle against yourself if you are competing for originality. Your life purpose is not originality, but authenticity.

Seek first who God made you to be, not the mold others have handed to you. It may be weird, but it might also be common. It doesn’t matter as long as it is you.

Purpose Is A Luxury For The Privileged

Because it can be a long and difficult road to find purpose, many will dismiss it as something reserved for the elite or fortunate—those with enough time and money to search for purpose.

A hunger for meaning is built into human nature. It is a gift given to us.

Dismissing it (for whatever reason) is simply denying the gift.

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said it this way, Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain, but rather to see a meaning in his life.”

Purpose Is Abstract and Impractical

The idea of knowing our purpose can feel distant and philosophical. But purpose is utterly practical.

Finding your purpose means giving your actions more meaning by clearly understanding your big goals and what drives you.

Think of purpose like a map and achievement like reaching your destination. Without a clear map, you're just wandering around. Knowing your goals gives you direction and motivation to get there.

People train for and run marathons not because they enjoy being miserable but because they have discovered a purpose hidden behind the pain that many people (myself included) have not yet discovered.

My Purpose Should Come To Me Like A Revelation

Purpose is often messy.

We often think our life purpose will come to us fully and will be crystal clear.

Purpose is a lot like wisdom in this way. We don’t receive it; we must discover it ourselves after a journey few are willing to make, and nobody can take for us.

Purpose Is All About Me

Finding your "why" isn't about hiding in a cave or becoming a monk. It's about rolling up your sleeves and experimenting in the real world.

That type of “purpose” is selfish and self-driven.

Purpose always comes back to others and to something larger than ourselves.

“You have to build meaning into your life, and you build it through your commitments—whether to your religion, to an ethical order as you conceive it, to your life’s work, to loved ones, to your fellow humans.” -John W. Gardner, public official and political reformer.

Purpose Is Out There For Me To Find

We will find our purpose by bumping up against the world. That is true.

But your purpose is not hiding under a rock, ready to be found. It’s waiting to be cultivated.

Here is an excerpt from my free email course, Purpose Made Simple:

In your pursuit of a sense of purpose, focus as much on making your life meaningful as in taking meaning from it. 

  • School bus drivers bear enormous responsibility—caring for and keeping safe dozens of children every day.
  • Cashiers can be a friendly, uplifting interaction in someone’s day—often desperately needed.
  • Environmentalists keep the rest of us focused on the value of caring for our home planet—and often receive an erroneous amount of criticism for it.

Purpose is the quality we choose to shape our lives around.

eyeglasses with gray frames on the top of notebook
Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

I Have Just One Purpose

That’s a lot of pressure, huh?

One thing that will solve all your problems, push you toward fulfillment and make your life worth it at the very end.

The poet Walt Whitman once wrote, “I am large. I contain multitudes.”

I think the same is true for our purpose. God made us complex, and so our purpose will likely not boil down to a singular thing.

My Purpose Has To Be Big And Bold To Have Meaning

Think of purpose like a tree. It doesn't matter how tall it is; what matters is how deep its roots go and how true it stays to its nature. Even the smallest tree can make a big difference.

Forget the 'who has the grandest purpose' game.

Your purpose isn't measured in headlines but in the depth of your commitment and the truth in your actions.

Richard Leider says it well: you can dedicate your life to a grand cause (your 'big P' purpose) or focus on making a difference in one person's life every day (your 'little p' purpose).

Both are equally valuable, and those everyday ripples can turn into remarkable waves over time.

Purpose Will Manifest Into A Perfect Job

There is no one perfect job.

You can have a great job. You can have a life-changing job.

But you will never have a perfect job because we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.

The key is to infuse your work with meaning.

  • Kindergarten teachers are training our youth, helping working families, and being a loving presence to little ones.
  • Sanitation workers are doing work many would hate doing but absolutely depend on to keep our cities clean and inhabitable.
  • Bank tellers are the trusting face between a person and their money; they exude confidence that a person’s hard-earned money is managed well.

We can infuse any job with purpose, excellence, and contribution.

woman standing in front of children
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Once I Find My Purpose, I Can Move On

There is so much richness ahead of you. Once you feel a level of fulfillment and drive in one area of your life, diligently work to discover it in other areas.

Education, marriage, children, midlife, community, and faith are all breakthrough zones of your life.

These are all areas waiting for your next breakthrough.

What if you could spark your next breakthrough in under 5 minutes?

When you subscribe to the Three Minute Newsletter, you will receive one idea, one quote, and one exercise each week that could spark your next breakthrough. No fluff, no filler.

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Last Thought & Quote

There are many myths about purpose. It’s hard enough without debunking all the myths that surround it.

But purpose is worth the effort. It is essential for crafting a good life—a God-designed life.

“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.” -John W. Gardner, public official and political reformer

Reflection Questions

  1. Have any of these myths hidden your purpose in plain sight? Look back at the myths you previously identified. When you consider your past choices or hesitations, do any of those ideas resonate? Did you ever avoid certain paths or opportunities because they didn't seem "grand enough" or because you felt pressure to find a single, definitive purpose? Examining these moments can reveal hidden assumptions and beliefs that might hold you back.
  2. Which myths are the loudest bullies in your pursuit of purpose? Identify the specific myths that whisper the most doubt in your ear. Are you afraid your goal isn't "impactful enough"? Do you worry that purpose needs a grand announcement? Once you pinpoint the most intrusive voices, you can start dismantling them with counterarguments and evidence. Remember, your purpose is personal and meaningful, not bound by external expectations.