A Perfect Example of How to Live with Purpose
So many people talk of how to find purpose in life. They struggle with feelings of frustration and confusion as they search to find meaning and relevance in their daily lives. They know that greatness lives within, but they don’t know how to access it. Life feels aimless – a perpetual purgatory.
This week we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who lived a life that forever changed the legacy of a nation, and the lives of those that came after him. A shining example to the world of walking, breathing purpose. What can we learn from such an example of how to live with purpose that might help the rest of us?
Flow with the current, not against it – and be brave enough to ride the wave.
Dr. King was a reluctant hero. He never chased the spotlight; he was chosen by the people. His early days were a struggle as he adapted and came to terms with the responsibility being placed on his shoulders. Though only 26 when the bus boycotts began, he rose to the occasion. People sought him out for help, he knew he could help, and so he did what he could. Today, what he did can be summarized into a few simple sentences, but those early decisions couldn’t have come easy. Still, he decided to flow with the currents of his life, and by doing so, he was shown his purpose.
I love the term co-creator because it accurately describes the responsibility we have to create for ourselves the life of our dreams, while at the same time making clear that there’s more at play. Who we are and who we become is not only for us to decide. You can clearly see this truth unfold in the life of Dr. King. He was born for such a time as his.
We too are born for such a time as this! If you’re constantly being pulled in a certain direction, led down a particular path, there may be a reason. Maybe you’re resistant because you feel unprepared to handle what you feel is being asked of you, or because you don’t know where it will lead. Be brave enough to take a chance and find out. Just put one foot in front of the other and let life unfold as it may.
Be willing to follow your passion even if it leads you down a bumpy road.
Dr. King was willing to lead even though he didn’t feel ready because of passion. He had a burning desire for justice and specifically justice for his people. Passion gave him the strength and courage he otherwise wouldn’t have had. Passion meant he couldn’t see what was happening in his community and not respond – especially when called upon. His passion ran so deep that he was willing to die for it – and in the end, he did. But what a life he lived because he gave into it.
Passion is the lamp that lights the path to our purpose. If you want to know what you should be doing with your life, follow your passion. It may not always be the easy thing to do, but it will always lead you down the right path. If you can embrace this belief, it will give you clarity and the courage to pursue your passions fully, wherever they lead.
So what gets in the way of finding purpose in life?
Relying on outside validation.
If you need reassurance that you’re making the right decision or you’re easily dissuaded by other people’s logic, you’re going to have a hard time. When a painter paints, it takes a while before it looks like anything of note to the outside observer. It’s only the painter that can see what isn’t obviously apparent. There’s a point where that changes and everyone can see what has now become obvious. If before that point he were to listen to those who said his painting looked like trash – which it probably did – he’d never get anywhere. You have to believe in your purpose enough to drown out the critic. You have to have faith that your passion is the path that will lead you where you’re meant to go.
Focusing on position instead of purpose
If your purpose is to inspire others through song, that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be the next Beyoncé. Nothing wrong with having those aspirations but it’s important to understand the difference: one is position (superstar) the other is purpose (to inspire others through song). Your position can be a vehicle through which your purpose is expressed, and that vehicle can change again and again over time. You don’t have to wait until you’re rich, or everyone knows you or some other resource currently unavailable to you comes your way. If you know what your purpose is, you can find a way to express it now. If you don’t know your purpose, follow your passions and be open to the opportunities that come your way as a result.