We often hear of individuals who are living their lives on purpose; making a profound difference in the world by following their passion and doing what they were created to do. For example, at the recent Social Enterprise Conference held at Harvard University, a number of young social entrepreneurs were interviewed. One young entrepreneur, Kavita Shukla, had founded a company which produces FreshPaper, a product which helps keep produce fresh longer. Revenue coming from the sales in Kavita's company helps fund research to invent products which prevent the worldwide problem of food spoilage. What an inspiration to hear about the creativity and tenacity of individuals like Kavita who are committed to living their life's purpose and vision.
But I can't do that!
As you read about Kavita, many of you were probably thinking, "But I can't do that!" I was talking with a friend recently about his calling in life. Our conversation turned to an individual who was truly living her calling when my friend said, "But I can't do that! I am already overworked in my 'day job' just trying to make ends meet. I don't have the time to think about my life purpose right now." After our conversation, I wondered how many of us say the same thing to ourselves. "I can't live my purpose right now. I'm too busy working 9 to 5 to put food on the table." Or, "If I were independently wealthy…" or, "If I didn't have young children at home…" or, "If I weren't so busy, I would have the time to commit to my passion in life but my life is just too hectic right now."
The truth is this: the majority of individuals who have made a profound impact on their world were, at one time, in your shoes. They were trying to live their lives. Trying to make ends meet. Trying to raise their families and get by. But those who truly live their purpose find a way to live it even amidst the busy-ness of daily life.
An example of this is Truett Cathy. Truett was a young man who had a vision for improving the lives of young people. At first, it would appear that the odds of every truly realizing this vision were stacked against Truett. His early years were spent living in a federally funded project in the midst of the depression when many people struggled to simply avoid starvation. Despite his environment, Truett worked hard and managed to open a small diner in Atlanta called The Dwarf Grill. Due to his hard work and determination, his business succeeded and, a few years later, he opened another small restaurant in an Atlanta shopping center. That small restaurant was the beginning of what is now Chick-Fil-A, one of the nation's largest and most successful quick-serve restaurant chains. Truett worked hard to make a living and be successful. However, even before his business became what it is today, Truett was offering scholarships to help his young employees go to school and development themselves. Truett could have thought, "I don't have time to pursue that dream of developing youth. I'm too busy running my business!" Instead, Truett followed his dream and founded the WinShape Foundation which, to this day, continues to provide scholarships and has started a number of foster care homes around the world as well as camps which host young people from across the country; developing their faith, character, leadership, and relationships for a more successful life.
Had Truett Cathy waited until life was "just right", he might have never realized his vision and made the impact he has made.
Are you waiting? What are you waiting for?
What can I do now?
People who truly live their life purpose do it regardless of their circumstances. They're doing it right now. How do you start living your purpose even in the midst of your current life situation? Here are some tips for getting started:
1. Know your purpose - It's difficult to truly live your purpose if you're not sure what your purpose is. To begin to discern your purpose, start by taking stock of yourself. Make a list of your values (what, in your life, is most important - or valuable - to you), your interests (what fascinates and intrigues you), your preferred way of thinking, making decisions, interacting with people, and the spiritual gifts you've been given. If you write these things down then think and pray about them, you will begin to see an emerging picture of what your purpose in life might be.
2. Know the purpose and needs of your current life situation - What is your current life situation? Are you working a 9 to 5 job? Are you in school? Are you a stay-at-home mom or dad? Wherever you are in life or whatever you are doing in your part of the world, there is a purpose and need.
If you work in a company or organization, what is that organization's vision and purpose? What is needed by the organization to achieve its vision?
If you are in school, what is the purpose of your particular school? Or, for what purpose are you attending school? What needs exist among the people with whom you interact at school?
If you are a stay-at-home parent, what is your purpose or vision for raising your children? What are the needs of your children? What are the needs of other stay-at-home parents with whom you come into contact?
You see…no matter where you are or what you are doing, there is a purpose and there are needs to be met.
3. Find the intersection of your purpose and the purpose/needs you have identified in your current situation and environment - How can you contribute in your current environment in a way that makes use of your own personal life purpose? For example, if you are a stay-at-home parent and you notice that other stay-at-home parents struggle with balancing the role of parenting with taking care of him/herself, find out how your personal life purpose can solve for that need.
4. Always look ahead. Think about how your actions today might prepare you for an even greater realization of your purpose in the world. Even if you believe that living your life purpose in your current situation or environment underutilizes your potential, how can this opportunity build capabilities for you to be even more impactful 6 months, 1 year, or 5 years from now?
My friend, you have within you a divinely created purpose for being here, in this moment and in this place. Let me encourage you to create a new awareness in your life of your purpose and needs that exist for which you may be the solution. Finding ways to live your purpose regardless of your circumstances elevates the meaning in your life and moves you closer to achieving your calling in life.