Defining purpose in our lives is interesting to me, but I didn’t know for sure whether others share that interest. Now I know; it’s not just me who sees purpose as a topic worth thinking about.
How do I know? From feedback that I received. This leads me to three conclusions:
First, purpose is important. Even when folks haven’t defined a clear purpose for themselves, the idea of purpose still matters.
Next, feedback is important. Otherwise, how do we know what other people think and believe? How do we know whether our actions are effective?
Finally, influence is important. It’s worthwhile to examine what we allow to influence us and to consider our own influence on others.
Let’s look a little deeper at each of those conclusions. First, purpose is as individual as we are. For some, purpose is closely associated with family/children. “Family first” expresses that, of course, but can extend to friends and other relationships. Perhaps for you, purpose comes from relationships; those human connections.
However, different people are different, and purpose is not one-size-fits-all. Work can provide purpose, whether it’s high-paid, high-recognition work, or work that’s less prestigious but still satisfying.
Unpaid work can also satisfy our need for purpose; maybe even more-so than paid work. When work is voluntary, we get to choose whatever contribution we believe to be useful.
Thus, contribution—family, work, volunteering—can provide purpose. However, we don’t all agree on what contributions are helpful! That brings me to the next point: feedback.
We can learn so much by paying attention to the feedback we receive. For example, people in business—particularly small business where there’s a direct relationship with the customer—are familiar with feedback. You might not always recognize it as feedback because it may be disguised as sales numbers! If sales are poor, then you are getting powerful feedback, indeed. Likewise, if you make a change and sales improve, you’re getting different feedback.
Honest feedback can be both useful and humbling. If your purpose involves working with people, ask for feedback. Pay attention to what you hear. Listen, respond and adapt. Your clientele—whether it’s customers, co-workers, or even family and friends—will be happier and you’ll become more effective and therefore more satisfied.
Finally, if you struggle to find a fulfilling purpose in your life, look at your influences. Other people may see your contributions more clearly than you can see them yourself.
As an example, when a friend asked me a technical question years ago, he added, “I could look this up myself, but I know how you love to ‘splain things.” It’s true. I love to ‘splain—to make complicated concepts understandable for people who struggle with them. I hadn’t recognized that as purposeful, even though it’s a driving force for me. My friend articulated it in a way that I had not seen for myself.
You may never know the influence you have on others. But people see what you do and how you do it. If you don’t realize that (there’s that need for feedback again) you might have a misunderstanding that no one notices what you do.
What do you think of purpose, feedback, and influence?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom