It is common to believe we were all wired to be something special, but does this mean it just one thing for every lifetime? Is this special something connected to a career or accumulating worth? These two questions are worth pondering, especially since as parents, teachers and mentors, we will teach new minds about how to find their life’s meaning.
Our purpose becomes greater as we mature
Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and they will say things like a firefighter, police officer, doctor, astronaut, pro athlete or a teacher. Chances are the adults around them or something they picked up from watching television influenced these ideas. But the fact is that very few of the desires we had as children become our true calling.
As children grow older and go to school, the pressures grow to conform to the societal rules being taught by their parents and teachers. This is how they learn to be what others want them to be, but this can keep them from getting in touch with their true wiring. Sorting through all the confusing shit society, parents and mentors taught us and then discovering our true calling becomes our greatest existential dilemma. This is the path to our calling.
A lesson from Superman about choosing your purpose
Imagine what it would be like if everyone saw you as their savior. This is what Superman faces 24/7. It must be a real pain in the ass for him to be enjoying Easter dinner with his family and suddenly get a call from the Pentagon to stop some oncoming meteor bound to destroy the state of Montana. Yet, Superman can always be counted on to save the day.
The important lesson to note is that it is not his x-ray vision, speed and strength that make him a superhero, it is that he uses his strengths to make the world a better, safer place.
This is how it works for you. Your title, power, wealth, etc. does not determine your purpose, your efforts to use your talents to create a greater good spell it out.
A life well lived has many purposes
Where we differ from this fictional character is that our purpose changes over time. Take former President Jimmy Carter, for example. There was a time in his life he provided the world with peanuts from his farm in Georgia. Then he would go on to lead the free world as president of the USA. After his presidency ended, he became a builder of homes for people who needed them working with Habitat for Humanity. He still builds these homes, but he is so much more! He has become a worldwide symbol of how to bring peace, justice, generosity and kindness for the afflicted, persecuted and the impoverished.
Even my life has had four distinct phases with a different purpose. My first purpose became clear when my parents sent me to the U.S.A. as an unaccompanied youth seeking refuge from Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba. The early years I spent as an immigrant in the United States, especially the ones after my parents and I reunited, taught me the most basic of all human purposes, how to be a survivor. I had to overcome difficult life challenges with dogged determination and resilience. I shared this purpose with my two brothers.
My second life purpose arose when I became a civil engineer and became an expert in working with others building roads, bridges and systems that enable people and freight to move from point A to B. This was a rewarding purpose that also gave me a new perspective on life and humanity.
I had to learn to hone my life’s third purpose when I moved into leadership/management positions. I discovered that being an engineering expert was not enough; I had to learn to motivate and inspire diverse groups of people. This did not come naturally at first. I had to dig deep to push away my ego on behalf of a greater cause. Eventually, I got the hang of it. This new purpose has given me an unshakeable passion that sticks with me even now, uniting people, organizations and communities behind a great mission and purpose.
Today, I am well into my fourth life purpose, shining a light on some of life’s great mysteries and lessons I have deciphered throughout my journey so that others may discover these gifts in their own lives. I share these revelations through my speaking and writing.
Think back on all the wonderful people in your life and see how their purposes blossomed in this very same way. Your life has similarly evolved.
Take the time to examine your life. You will see similar patterns as I show in mine. You too have hammered out different purposes with everything you have experienced and by every decision you ever made. Your title, power, wealth or strength may have come and gone, but they never defined your purpose. Like Superman, the commitment and effort you made to use your talents to create a better world clarifies it for you.
Recollecting your life gives you a fuller view of the beautiful pattern you have woven out of every piece of scrap material that make up the quilt of experiences that is your life. You will realize how you became better, wiser and more powerful. Knowing this about yourself gives you the confidence to handle everything that comes your way.
Remember, paying gratitude for life forward will fill you with joy and serenity.