Sunday, December 2, 2007

Journey to . . . Life Purpose

Does each of us have a life purpose? Is there such a thing as right livelihood? ? What does it mean to live a purpose-driven life? Is it possible to love what you do and have others to pay you well to do it?

The first three questions may be too esoteric and your initial response to them may be “No.” The last question may seem more palatable. Yet, all four questions speak to the same desire. The desire is to live a life that is joyous and abundant in every area, especially in your career path. Is the age-old question posed to all children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

In Paulo Coelho’s extraordinary classic novel, The Alchemist, he refers to this desire as your Personal Legend. Coelho describes your Personal Legend,

“It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”

For me, the “mysterious force” was not very mysterious but man it was powerful. My grandmother was that force. When I came to her bright-eyed and full of hope announcing, “I am going to be a poet when I grow up!” Her response was “You better grow up and get a job.”

As I worked my way through school, that force grew in it’s intensity and power as well-meaning teachers echoed my grandmother’s sentiments. Soon, I shifted my focus from creative writing to journalism: a more acceptable and respectable aspiration in the eyes of the grown-ups in my life.

All through college, I tried to convince myself that I wanted to be a journalist. While all along inside of me, a battle was raging as I longed to be more creative with my gift of writing.

After college, I landed a couple of respectful corporate positions largely due to my writing but far outside the world of journalism. The insurance industry is where I settled. The battle raging within me finally convinced me that journalism was not for me. But instead of returning to what I loved, I allowed myself to be shuttled into a career the way a farmer shuttles cattle into the stable. I simply followed the pack instead of following my heart. My focus became making a living rather than making a life.

A series of significant events transpired that finally got me back on track to pursuing my dream a being a creative writer. Those events were the death of my father, birth of my daughter and the disintegration of my marriage. The last two events happening within the same year was the proverbial straw that reignited my desire to live a meaningful life. A single mother and new homeowner, I quit my corporate job and became a full time professional storyteller and poet.

It’s funny that as children we simply follow our hearts and gravitate towards the activities that make us happy. When children think about the future there is little fear or worry. We believe we can have what ever we dream about. Until . . . some well-meaning grown-up who knows better steers us in a different direction or stop us all together.


• You already know your life purpose/personal legend. If you are not sure what it is any more, spend time journaling about what you dreamt about as a child. You can spend time in quiet reflection answering the question, “What would I do if there was not chance I could fail?”

• The goal is to make a life not simply make a living. Ask yourself, “What do I enjoy doing even if I don’t get paid for it?”

• Don’t be dissuaded by the naysayer. When someone offers you advice on how you should live your life and that advice does not leave you feeling encouraged. Remember: Free advice is worth the price you pay.

To your success!


CoCoPuff332 said...

That is your dream and enjoying it. My question would be what if your life dreams do not allow you to meet your immediate financial need and your family suffers. I think about this when I have thoughts of "what I want to be when I grow up". It is wonderful to start over when you are free single and disengaged but I also feel we as adults have a responsibility to take care of our family especially those who can not care for themselves, those who did not choose to "do without" so their parent can chase their dreams. In no way am I saying you should not live your dreams because without dreams we are nothing but I do believe you have to think of ALL parties involved before making that decision.

Of course this is just my opinion and my feelings around chasing my dreams.... I still don't know what I want to be when I grow I just don't bother to do it! :-)

T. Dorsey said...

Cocopuff: One way to live your dream AND meet your financial obligations is to start off doing what you love part-time. You don't have to jump in with both feet! Once the venture is profitable enough to meet your financial obligations with ease then you can go at it full time.

There is no greater gift we can give our family, especially our children, than to live our dreams! It let's them know that their dream are possible too.

Hayden Tompkins said...

When I was a kid, there were many things I loved to do but I never had anything to say when some adult asked me what I wanted to do when I 'grew up'. I finally settled on 'attorney' because my father flipped out when I told him CIA agent.

T. Dorsey said...


Sounds like you settled on attorney for the same reason I settled on journalist: because I wanted to please the grown-ups in my life.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a poor village and the only drive that motivate me to work is money. It is not until I fell really sick with Lupus, 9 years of dialysis, kidney transplantation and back to living life again that I found my life purpose.

I came to understand why I have to live my life the hard way as I've found my life mssion and purpose, that is to share the gife of health and knowledge to mankind. Today, I teach the science of Nutritional Immunology, a preventive science that secures our good health to enjoy and fulfill our life porpose.

Thanks for this great post! It is important to keep reminding ourselves of our life purpose.

God Bless,
Jacklyn Ker
Inspiring & Empowering LIves

CoCoPuff332 said...

It would take much time to answer the question of "What s my legacy" What would I want people to say of me when I am gone. I really need to think about it but with NO thought and writing down my first thoughts I would have to say my legacy would be my genuine kindness. My first thought is to do good especially when it come to those I care about. IF I could do anything without failure I would build my own Tenn Haven. A place for children to go who are in trouble and need guidance. Anyway these were just "top of my head thoughts" Let me think about it ! :-)