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The Question of Purpose

Why am I here?

What do I want?

What will make me happy?

This question of our individual purpose is a Big Question, a question we first hear within our own dreams and fantasies as children. Then the adults ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question that we hold within us throughout our lives, sometimes resulting in solid answers, often resulting in even more questions that can leave us frustrated or inspired, and always standing in the land of the unknown.

How do I fit more family time (or exercise, spirituality, classes, do-nothing time, find a new job, etc.) into this hamster wheel of a life? How did I end up here? What should I do next? Always the Big Question hovers.

For a short or lengthy period of time within a life, one’s purpose can consist of getting untangled from the wishes and shoulds of others—usually pertaining to work, earning money and/or fitting in with the flock—a net woven of other’s desires and needs that are in direct opposition to any innate spark or flame residing within us. Flinging off those constraints leaves us face to face with what will indeed fulfill us, make us happy, that certain something worth waking up to every day.

Oh, the pressure!

Know that within this volatile word purpose live the centuries-old meanings of intention, aim, and to put forth. Spirited meanings that contain the characteristics of inquiry, adaptability and creativity. To value, to stretch, with intensity and will. To move onward and further. And to do so continually.

‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Mark Twain’s words are a challenging celebration of the true direction of your individual life. A direction that requires as much being as doing—a direction that touches so many others along the way. Like the joy I sensed in the young girl running toward a parade. She ran by, and turning quickly I took the photograph, hoping to capture her compelling run toward life, that stretching toward her own why.

Purpose is a loaded word, often pointing toward a radically different way of living—that like the best jazz musicians—riffs off our own decades of experience and ongoing expertise, our own dreams and the palpable, sometimes mysterious support around us.

I’ve found the why of my own life is elastic, expanding in its depth and breadth and forcing me to do the same. My why is always moving onward, and so my aim and adaptability require constant practice. Over the years a curiously brave curiosity that is stronger than fear and the fog bank of the unknown has attached itself like an invisible friend. Each step is a stretch toward answers—and yes—more questions that invigorate my days.


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