I had a wonderful, impromptu conversation recently. The woman I was talking to confessed that she has a good life but she feels that she’s not contributing to the good of the world or of other people. She misses a sense of purpose. This intrigues me. My first thought was – of course she’s contributing! Simply by being who she is, she contributes to someone’s happiness. I certainly had a great afternoon talking to her!

But I do realize that many of us are searching for a sense of purpose. As we reach those achievements we strove for when we were young: a family, a home, a career, recognition, etc., we start looking at the larger picture. Have I been true to myself? Have I done something of intrinsic value for the world? Has my life made a difference somewhere, somehow?

And the next question is: So what can I do? What is my specific contribution to the world, my purpose? And often answering this question means letting go of the expectations that other people have of you and letting go of the expectations that you grew up with.

This delightful illustration came to me by way of my friend Danielle van Kampen. I think it gives a great overview of the subject. So often we restrict ourselves to that which we are good at and can get paid for. But because we have overlooked that which we love, our work lacks passion. And if we overlook that which the world needs, it’s just a profession and not a real vocation. And at some point we start feeling tired… or maybe at a dead end… or maybe just confused.

The good thing is that this uncomfortable feeling is the start of a new journey. That journey requires taking a close look at what you yourself think is important in life, not what others think.

By putting together all four elements you arrive at that mix of passion, mission, profession, and vocation that we call Purpose.

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