Finding a Purpose: Can You Help One of Our Readers?

Dear Legacy Project Blog Readers:

Cathy commented on this post (see below) asking for advice. In the past, you all have had some great advice for people like Cathy. Do you have any suggestions for her? If so, please comment!

I’ve been talking to friends of ours whose children are applying to college (thankfully, ours are done with that!). It got me to thinking about one powerful message of the elders to young people: Take time to find your life’s purpose.

Many of the Legacy Project elders told me something along the lines of: “Find what you love and do it!” What’s interesting is that people said this from all walks of life and all professions: Look for your purpose and your passion, or you miss out on a lot of what life has to offer.

Gary, 74, trained in engineering and spent his career as an executive in the railroad industry. Gary’s calm demeanor and self-effacing, folksy comments  reminded me a bit of Jimmy Stewart. He’s someone whose goal was to “do his best,” and he looks back on his life with dry humor.

His main advice (indeed, it was his primary life lesson) is to take the time to identify your life’s purpose.

One problem is you go through life and you don’t tend to think very much about these kinds of things. You go along, the dishes need to be done, the groceries need to be bought, you have to get off to work. So insight number one is that there’s more to life than getting the chores done every day. You should draw back from the hurly-burly of daily living and spend a little time thinking about: What’s my philosophy of  life?; Why am I here? What am I doing? Does it make any sense to be doing this? Those kinds of questions.

We need to take the time, perhaps even a little time every day, to reflect on our lives. I don’t know if we do as much as we should, so I think that might be rule number one. Even when you’re in high school. High school a good place to start, that’s where you begin discovering who you are. You should  start laying the groundwork  to develop a philosophy early in life. And throughout life, take a little time to determine what the purpose is to what you are doing. You can view your life as a kind of continuum, one you can direct more if you know the purpose behind it.

This can begin in school. When you’re in school you have a once in a lifetime chance  to learn something. And go for it. You can go for for it to shape your philosophy. If I were to go back and tell those kids in the class I would tell them to  get into whatever you’re doing now as intensely as you can. I think you need to spend some time reading history to this so you can  understand what life was like 2000 years ago versus today.

The end result of this reflection, Gary says, is to discover your underlying passion.

My first thought would be; ‘Is there something in life you have a passion for?’  And if it’s possible, can you start your career in whatever that field is? It could be butterfly collecting, anything. There are people that live very good lives in butterflies and collecting. It doesn’t matter what it is. so I think if you have a chance and you have a passion, follow it. A lot of people don’t have a passion, but if you do, see if you can somehow incorporate that into your career. And it could lead you interesting things and if that’s the case then take advantage of it.

It’s a balance. You need to be careful of what you do, to plan ahead, and so forth. But if you do too much of that you’re going to become stunted.You need some kind of middle ground. And it depends on the individual. If your passion in life is climbing mountains then go climb mountains because that is a talent that you have, a desire, and if you don’t do it, if you consciously give it up because something bad might happen, you’re going have a lot of regrets of missing your dream. But of course, check your gear before you go!

4 thoughts on “Finding a Purpose: Can You Help One of Our Readers?

  1. I am 53 and rethinking my passions for a new career. But everything I love — cooking, art therapy, working with seniors — requires a Masters degree, which I do not have the money or credentials to get (unless I go back and get another BA, redo the GREs, etc etc.) How can you do what you love when everything requires graduate credentials?

  2. Cathy, I think you should volunteer at a senior center for awhile. Find a Lunch with Friends program or a senior daycare or a nursing home and volunteer. Don’t let a degree keep you from doing what you love. Also, when did cooking require a master’s degree? If you love cooking, why not start a catering business? If you can make great soups and salads, you can deliver them to schools or businesses where folks find it challenging to get out for lunch and back in a short time. Start small and see what happens.

  3. I so agree with Pat Fuller. Folks with graduate credentials are not getting jobs. You have one right in front of you, and not only that, but one you love! You’ve taken the first step already – you reached out in this comment section. What now will be your second step?

  4. Cathy, congratulations on having the courage to start a new career and on having identified what your passionate about. That’s a huge leap forward already.
    It sounds like there’s a part of you putting up roadblocks – a great sign that you’re well on your way in this journey and to dealing with them.
    Pat and Myra offer some great suggestions and I’ll toss out a few more: connect with people who are pursuing these career and find out about their journey, clarify what each of these careers looks like for you i.e. how do you want to work with seniors or what does a career in cooking actually mean to you, then research what is necessary to do that. Mostly keep on moving forward + take it one (baby) step at a time. Best of luck on your journey. The world will be an even better place with you pursuing and fulfilling this dream.

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