We have all known the feeling of just floating along, moved by nothing more than what needs to get done today or what decisions we made yesterday. Each of us at times has felt a certain loss of commitment and connection, that combination of enthusiasm and seriousness that is associated with purpose. There have also been times when we feel we don’t know what we’re doing and the rapidness of change in our world has left a void.
So how does one find purpose amidst non-stop competing demands and challenges? And what is so important about purpose anyway?
Purpose lies at the turning point between being alone and being with others, reflection and action, being and becoming. Purpose, whether for us as individuals or as part of an organization or community, is a repository for the meaning we bring to what we do. To have purpose, one must declare one’s intentions. To live with purpose, we must have a destination that is outside ourselves. Purpose, in fact, runs like a thread through all aspects of our lives; it is not even a conscious process though we all know that searching for meaning can be daunting, discouraging, and just plain hard.
I’ve come to the conclusion that purpose is elusive because it needs to be. We might wish that once we have “achieved a purpose” we could forget about it and get on with our day-to-day obligations and tasks. But purpose is also a container for our yearnings, a sail trying to hold the shifting winds of expectations, needs, dreams, and hopes. The intangible nature of purpose encourages us to remain in conversation with neighbors, to be more tolerant of ambiguity, and less judgmental of others and ourselves.
Purpose is dependent upon a collective state of mind; strong relationships among members; unity and trust; a sense of urgency; interdependence; competence and creativity; steadfastness; leadership throughout the ranks, and most importantly, understanding that WE are the organization and community at large.
It is the pattern we each build and sustain to support and explain who we are, how we connect with others, and what is important in our lives.