Two events happened recently that got me thinking about the concept of living with a larger purpose. Living not for what you think people want to see on your LinkedIn profile, but living for yourself.
Although that may seem selfish, when you live according to your values and your larger purpose—even if it is counter to what the prevailing trends are or what status seekers think—good things happen.
The first incident happened in a bustling coffee shop. A very wise and close colleague had related that they were thinking of going back to full-time work, giving up their entrepreneurial life in order to pay bills and benefit from the consistent income. They felt that doing so would admit defeat, and that this would be seen as failure. Since I’ve had this struggle myself, I related to them a discovery I had made a year earlier that was a breakthrough.
If you have a larger goal, a stated purpose in your life, it doesn’t matter how you get there. Work for someone else if it achieves your objectives. It doesn’t matter what other people think. They have their own mess to deal with. If you approach every task with integrity and you do your best, you win. Whether you’re a technician, carpenter, barista, janitor, or C-level person. If your primary goal is to have some financial security, take care of that. Work for someone else. If you have an opportunity to go into business yourself, do so. Know the game. But don’t live for the approval of others. Once I had a larger purpose these choices between 9-5 careers and entrepreneurial pursuits simply became the means for fulfilling the larger objective, whether that’s financial security for my family or becoming more skilled and masterful, or dedicating my life to improving the welfare of the planet. Whatever. It’s simply imperative for me to have a larger purpose.
Image Source: Mihaylo Career Services
The second event happened during lunch with a group of people. Someone had asked the group what motivates them to do their best at work. People took turns answering. Some said that they love what they do. Several others pointed out the fulfillment they got from helping others. I thankfully was saved from answering, since my mouth was full of chili at the time, and the direction of the conversation had shifted somewhere else.
What motivates me to do my best? Easy. I feel good when I live up to the internal code that I set for myself. This is the second epiphany, which works in conjunction with my first. The only moment that you can control is right now. That’s it.
Now what you do with that moment determines the direction of the next, and so on, which determines the course of your life. And even though most things are out of your control, in that one moment you can always choose to act with justice, courage, benevolence, politeness, honesty, honor, loyalty, character, and any other honorable value you can think of. As long as you have that code to live by, you can make the conscious choice to act according to your code. You control the moment.
For most of my life I didn’t really have a code. I never comprehended the control that I had over each moment. I’ve messed up too many times to count. I’ve made a ton of mistakes. But I don’t make the mistake of thinking that I have to be that same person today.
So it isn’t just the job or your business. It’s you. It’s how you approach and do the work, and how that relates to your larger purpose. Once I started seeing myself as an individual, instead of a job title, I became more productive, had many more opportunities, and lived with less stress and guilt. The pressure has been lifted.
Here’s an interesting exercise: try being conscious of your own purpose and code. Use an app like GoalTracker, HabitBull, or Coach.me to create your larger purpose and goals, and measure your commitment—as well as your progress—toward those goals and see if things change for you. Living more consciously has been a gift, and I hope it’s something that benefits you as well.
Image Credit: Study for The Builders [painting] / (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son), 1932, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Photograph Archives, Smithsonian American Art Museum