Defining Your Purpose

Why do you get out of bed every morning? What motivates you to do what you do? Why do you push yourself so hard and drive toward excellence in your workplace or with your children? How do you teach purpose to your children if you don’t seemingly have purpose yourself?

These are the questions that have haunted me for many years. As a Christian, I have often wondered if my work in the secular arena was futile. How does that work align with the purpose that my Creator had in mind for me? To that end, should I even be working in the secular world? Meaning, should I work in some capacity within the Christian ministry? 

With every job or role I’ve had, I have questioned what is my purpose? How do I not only be successful in the job at hand, but how do I fulfill a greater need within myself and to the world around me? As I’ve continued to search for the right answer, I have gotten more clarity on my personal purpose. I’m using these words with intent as I don’t want to give the perception that I have mastered my personal purpose; there is still so much to discover and build upon. This will be a life-long evolution. 



One of the concepts that I have found to be consistent as I’ve searched for purpose is the idea of encouragement. Encouragement is interesting in that it is both selfless and self-fulfilling; meaning, when you give encouragement to someone else, you feel good. You know you’ve done something good. But the flip-side to that (assuming you did a good job of it), you have done a self-less deed that lifts up someone around you. This helps the recipient of the encouragement to feel good, to be elevated in some way for their actions.

To caution this, encouragement can be demoralizing if it is given in a non-authentic manner. Many times I’ve received encouragement and affirmation from leaders without any substance; this always had a negative effect on me because it seemed so shallow and without real merit. Or it could be that the leader didn’t care enough to learn of the details of what I was doing so they were not able to fully provide encouragement. Either way, it actually had a negative impact on me. My caution here is that encouragement must be heartfelt and not merely words. 

How do you make it heartfelt? Well, you first must have a heart! For years, business has tried to remove emotion from the equation, stating “it’s not personal, it’s business.” I don’t adhere to that philosophy; I believe for business to be successful, it must be personal. Leverage the emotion you have to fuel a heartfelt conversion with those around you. Don’t interpret this as me saying you should go around crying at work (although that is okay); there is a balance in how much emotion you have. My point, though – don’t push it away, leverage it to drive conversations with meaning. That’s when encouragement has the most weight and meaning. 



The other concept that I have found to be consistent in my search for personal purpose is inspiration. Inspiration is slightly different from encouragement as it takes a heavier level of involvement and action. Inspiration is the long-game of encouragement. Similar to encouragement, inspiration has to be heartfelt, but it extends that to a relationship versus a one-time encounter. It still possesses the same emotional intelligence as encouragement, just over a longer period of time. 

Think about the dialog that you might have with a grocery store clerk; you could pass encouragement to them by praising them for the way they handled your packing and organization of your groceries (which is very important, by-the-way). This exchange qualifies as encouragement as you’re providing support and enabling confidence in a specific activity. In contrast, think of inspiration as a long-term relationship. Children are the best example here. I have two young boys, and my goal is to come alongside them and provide inspiration for them. This would feel similar to encouragement but would be on-going for the duration of our relationship. My goal with inspiration would be to elevate their thinking and pushing them to the next level. 

The caution I would give here is that you cannot just walk into someone’s life and start to inspire them; you must come alongside them and create a relationship that fuels this type of respect and bold dialog. There are those moments that I read a book or hear a speaker that inspires me. Likely, I do not have an existing relationship with this person. Clearly, inspiration can happen outside of a lasting relationship but where I have seen it work is with deep relationships. 



The net of all of this lead me to create a focused personal purpose statement:

To create inspiration and encouragement, in both personal and professional aspects, in the lives of those I encounter each day. 


CREATE: Creation is about “causing something to happen.” I chose this word with intent because this will not happen without being intentional. I must plan time and put effort behind fulfilling my personal purpose. 

INSPIRATION: I define this as “filling someone with the urge or ability to do something; to give rise to.” The idea of “filling” is to pour into someone; I must give of myself to someone else. Notice that this is heavy with action as well. 

ENCOURAGEMENT: I define this as “the action of giving someone support or confidence; to stimulate the development of an activity.” This is a little lighter than inspiration, but it is giving of yourself. The idea here is to give rise to confidence of those individuals around me. 

For my personal purpose to work, I must be intentional with the idea of bringing inspiration and encouragement to life to those around me. I must be thoughtful and plan this type of engagement. But this personal purpose isn’t just in the workplace; my purpose exists in the workplace but also at home with my family, my friends and extended family, and in my local church. My personal purpose has no limits on where and how it can be utilized. 


That’s my point of view on personal purpose. What’s yours (and don’t just steal mine)? How do you create purpose in your life? Explore your personal purpose; test it out and get feedback from those around you. Don’t over-think it; just try something and build upon it. Good luck!