This person has elected to stay unnamed.

Purpose with a small p

It started in my early twenties, towards the end of my time at university. I began “waiting for my epiphany”, as I would tell anyone who asked about my plans for the future. Even though I was half-joking, secretly I was really hoping for my own road-to-Damascus moment of blinding clarity that would set me on the right path.

I wanted someone, something to reveal my Purpose, my Mission, the thing that would make my life’s labour useful and bring me meaning and fulfilment.

I started travelling and exploring the world. Perhaps the epiphany was waiting for me somewhere else. Perhaps the hing-That-I-Am-Meant-To-Do-With-My-Life would show itself in another country.

Flash forward a few decades and I was in another country but there still had been no epiphany. I had come to believe my life was so meaningless that it was worthless. My job meant only a pay cheque. I counted my days at work as a cartoon prisoner counts their sentence on the walls of a cell.

I decided that God had forsaken me, even betrayed me by giving me privilege and education and desperate goodwill but no reason to be alive, no Purpose, no one. I was taking someone else’s place and space.

I needed help. An online meditation series reminded me that once I had been happy, always with a song in my head. But the psychologist kept bringing me back to my father, dead for more than 10 years.

It was a life coach who met me where I was. It’s an inside job, he said.

Erich Jordan helped me to take my seeking inwards. Define your values, he said. Draw a picture of your ideal home; figure out what gives you ‘flow’; write something and see how it goes. Just choose a direction and get moving, step by step. You can always course correct.

And this has turned out to be my epiphany.

It is all an inside job; there is no outside oracle. It is up to us to dream our wildest dreams, give form to our visions, set some goals -- our own, not someone else’s. And take the first step.

It all comes down to inside attitudes and thoughts. The outside world may bring a boring job or painful relationship; the inside world holds the power to respond and to change.

And so it is with Purpose. It will not be handed to me on a road to anywhere. It’s inside. The key is to stop waiting and to get going. Break it all down into manageable, concrete goals and start walking, one step at a time.

Lots of purposes, then, but with a small p. Perhaps there will one day be a grand and noble Purpose, but that does not matter anymore -- as long as I am moving forward, on my road to somewhere, one step at a time, on purpose.

This epiphany of mine did not come as a single flash of blinding light; rather, it is a dawning that still needs work, including with a good coach.

Before you try to fix the world, fix your life, says psychologist and author Jordan Peterson. Meaning starts with assuming your basic responsibilities, he says. Get a job, get healthy, get learning, get involved, look after the people around you, be a good person. Implement the best plan you have at hand. Do something, fail as you try. Get at it, don’t waste time. There is an existential weight to not being who we are, so “pick up your goddamn burden and walk up that hill.”

Start with you. The rest will follow. Even, maybe, Big P projects.

Entrepreneur Gary Keller has built a brand on focusing on the ONE Thing approach of accomplishing your Purpose. But if you don’t know what that is, he says, just “Pick a direction, start marching down that path, and see how you like it. Time brings clarity, and if you find you don’t like it, you can always change your mind. It’s your life.”

We are responsible only for ourselves, says author Don Miguel Ruiz. “You didn’t come here with a great mission to change the world, change society, but surely you come with a big mission, an important mission. The real mission you have in life is to make yourself happy, and in order to be happy, you have to look at what you believe, the way you judge yourself, the way you victimize yourself,” he writes in The Mastery of Love.

An inside job. Taking small steps forward.

“Most people struggle with purpose. It is almost too big to bite off,” says sports psychologist Michael Gervais in an episode of his podcast Finding Mastery 5. He speaks of “minipurposes”, for example, weekly training sessions or the next important events in the calendar. They are all milestones on a road that may lead to something bigger.

Step by step, moving ahead with purpose, on purpose. With a small p."
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