Are You Living A Life Of Purpose?

Ok, so perhaps this is deep and delving a bit too much into people’s salads, but the other night I was at a dinner party and when asking about their interests and passions, the person said to me that they weren’t really doing the things they felt were a fulfilment of their life and found they were in a rut. When I asked them what they did for others, it was the end of the conversation.

It seems everywhere I go, people are describing the same thing – that they are just going from work to home to the bar / pub / coffee shop, and that’s it.

And I’ll go out a limb here – it seems these people are squandering their life and living at a bass level with little fulfillment or working out of the talents and giftings that they have for our common good as people.

The reason why this gets me down? Because I believe no one should live a life that isn’t giving to others. And I believe that no one should live a life where they aren’t actually fulfilling their potential. When I see people like person I met the other night, I just can’t help but feel they are living like a chicken when they were meant to soar like an eagle.

I want to make clear that I’m not saying this is about wealth. Some of the poorest people I know are the most giving, but then also so are some of the richest I know. This isn’t about how financially rich you are, but how purposefully rich you are.

Nor am I saying that this is exclusive to our western mindset. People leaving in areas of extreme depravity still practice this idea of purpose and the common good – in fact, it seems our over-materialistic western world is the place that struggles with it.

The question I’m asking myself at the moment everyday at the moment, to test myself? What have I done that matters?

Your Leading Thoughts

  • Do you live for others? I think we should, so if you don’t, tell me why.
  • Why is there an epidemic of chicken living?
  • What are you doing that matters?

Archived Comments

  • http://jimsmarketingblog.com Jim Connolly

    In my experience, Scott, most people plan their 2 week’s in the sun, more than they plan the other 50 weeks. Then, they wonder how they manage to have such a fulfilling vacation and such unfulfilled lives.

    You can either live your life by design, or simply react to whatever the day throws at you. You can either work to your plan, or someone else’s plan.

    It’s all about choice.

    My mentor told me: “If you don’t like what life is giving you right now, change it. Don’t just complain, but stay the same.”

    I changed, and found he was right. When I changed, everything changed.

    Thanks for the post my friend ;)

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    I believe in people, and that most are doing their very best with the resources they have. Are they doing what matters? At a guess – in the context of their lives – yes!

    What matters to me? That we reach out and help each other in practical and tangible ways. That we don’t generalize and pigeon-hole precious individuals into stereotypical ‘mass’ behaviours and generic attitudes. That we respect that every person has a story coloured with triumph and tragedy. That we lead with compassion not passion.

    Am I doing what matters? That could only be judged by the positive impact my life has on the people around me – a judgment call that only they could make.

    Thank you, Scott. :)

  • http://twitter.com/98rosjon Jonny Rose

    A great post!

    People “living like a chicken when they were meant to soar like an eagle” is the standout phrase for me and something I agree with wholeheartedly.

    You ask why this is so?

    A multitude of reasons. Here are some:

    – Community: You never see chickens with eagles. Like are attracted to like. This creates a community in which new ideas are not introduced and chickens remain chickens not knowing the have the potential to become eagles.

    – Perceived danger or fear of change: Chickens fear eagles. A typical real-life example of this is the the working class parents who don’t want their child to go to university for fear that they will become “snobby” and because the parents themselves didn’t go and feel they turned out well enough.

    – Habit: If you have been living as a chicken for a long time, it is harder to break from this cycle.

    – Comfort: Be aware of the fact that although you are an eagle, others may LIKE being a chicken. People rarely engage in behaviour unless their is a pay-off of some sort. We are all joy-seekers in some way or another > chicken-living makes some people happy.

    A few thoughts for you to mull over :)

  • malcolm12boxes

    A sense of purpose can be a two-edged sword.

    I think one of the saddest things is when you feel that you are ‘doing things for others’ but it’s not registering with them – indeed, they might just see what you are doing as ‘your own thing’, or even as being selfish.

    It’s scary talking about that kind of stuff with people who mean a lot to you, but it’s better than getting ‘You’ve never really understood me’ in twenty years time. :)

  • http://twitter.com/Suellen_Hughes Suellen Hughes

    Very nice post Scott. I like your phrase “delving into people’s salad” :-)

    Living for others? In many ways. I certainly live for my family and I am sociable and extroverted so like to have others around. I’m collaborative and am inspired by the great things people do for each other and also despair at the other extreme. That said, I see too many people, that are not selfish enough. They put their own needs well down the list and as a result end up feeling “used and abused”. In my experience, if people are getting their own needs met – maybe ‘living a life of purpose’, then they are more willing and able to give generously to others.

    Chicken living? I like Johnny’s views on this. Believing the best in people, I think a lot of people are just so overwhelmed with all that’s going on in their own lives that they just don’t have (make) time for others.

    What am I doing that matters? I’m raising a son to (hopefully) grow up to be a happy, healthy, connected young man. My business Transforme is all about inspiring and equipping people to kick start their best life and that’s what matters to me.

    Thanks Scott

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Jim

    Thanks again for the RT and for this comment.

    That’s an exceptional point – people plan their 2 weeks which go well but don’t plan the other weeks. The rest of their lives are left to “just happen”

    I certainly have had to learn as you describe to be “proactive” rather than “reactive”.

    I’ve had a struggle to do this. I used to consider myself the victim to everything around me, rather than getting out of the victim chair and take control like you describe.

    These are the things I’m keen to talk about more. It seems the posts I do on Social Media get less and less interest these days – which works for me – I’m far more keen anyway to discuss these life issues!

    Thanks for the comments – they’ll come in handy for extending this topic next week :-)

    Scott

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Robin

    I’m not sure if you agree or disagree with me here!

    You’re describing an approach that says “I’m hands off, unless you ask me to be hands on”, which I agree with. I’ve tried to people’s own personal saviour – out of my needs, not to help theres – and of course I failed.

    At the same time, I’m not going to be silent. Sure, putting people into mass behaviours may not be accurate, but in my experience, the majority of people I meet are living as I describe above.

    I think many are surviving life, rather than thriving in life – why else, for example, do I need your help in order to assist my business from not just surviving but thriving?

    What say you?

    Scott : )

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Jonny

    Right out of the box and you’re bang on – you can’t be an eagle if you hang around with chickens. I’m trying to explain to my brother at the moment that where we wants to go does not match up with who is spending time with now.

    All your points here are VERY good – they are things we’ve been taught in years, but I’m understanding aren’t talked about much elsewhere.

    I’m getting ready to discuss a lot more!

    Scott

  • / Scott Gould

    Hmmm

    I hear what you are saying – you don’t waste your live just “helping others” – that becomes a crux for mental laziness and the inability to say NO.

    When I talk about a sense of purpose, I really am grasping at a deep understanding that doesn’t have much waste

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Suellen

    Well – thanks for the break down!

    Let me be rather searching and mess in the salad some more – do you ever feel you’re not living a life of purpose? And are there times when you think you are compared to others?

    Scott

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    The problem with polemic generalizing is that it becomes a convenient default setting to brand a mass of people. The language of “Most people are this” “Most people are that” comes from volume-based thinking and means I don’t really have to get to know – really know – another person’s situation or how *they* perceive the world or what’s most important to them. This is because I don’t have the time and/or the desire to know.

    To really understand what life’s like for another human who’s “surviving life, rather than thriving in life” means walking a mile in *their* shoes. It never meant walking in the crowd’s collective shoes. I speak for the precious, unique individual first and foremost.

    Just my personal map. I totally honour and respect the rich tapestry of diverse views expressed so freely on your wonderful blog.

    I certainly wouldn’t describe my approach as passive i.e. “hands off, unless you ask me to be hands on” however I believe in earning permission from others before presuming they need or would even value my help.

    People are wonderful and strong. What I mean is, each of us has an inner strength – a part that thrives and can’t wait to grow and flourish. For some, it takes a while for that strength to surface – that’s where I like to be useful. My mindset is to ‘help the strong – that strong part in all of us – succeed – thrive and flourish’. When we met, our strengths connected. We’ve been helping each other thrive – go from good > great > best ever.

    See what happens when we leave so much time between skype discussions!!

    Best, Robin :)

  • http://www.scribbledfish.co.uk Andy

    “I certainly have had to learn as you describe to be “proactive” rather than “reactive”.

    I’ve had a struggle to do this. I used to consider myself the victim to everything around me, rather than getting out of the victim chair…”

    Powerful words.
    Personally over this year, as I’m finding myself learning more and getting more involved in volunteer work, I’m starting to become more purpose filled.

  • / Scott Gould

    How have you learned to get out of the victim’s chair Andy?

  • Alastair

    It’s funny Scott I often think this, how can so many people go about their daily lives seemingly so unhappy. Surely if you feel like this you get up and do something about it don’t you? Or is this only a characteristic of a certain type of person? It really is so odd that people are prepared to take what comes at them and not go out and make their own destiny…..bit deep maybe? lol

  • http://www.scribbledfish.co.uk Andy

    Big question there.

    I suppose there were a few things I had to do, and keep working at:

    1. I’ve started to learn skills that I wanted to learn, not what I thought I should be learning.

    I tried going over the cisco network course… to be honest it was the best way to go to sleep. So I quit that, and did a course in something I actually want to do (Adobe Dreamweaver / Flash).

    2. I’ve been getting more involved.

    I got more involved with the youth club at church, when the guy who was leading it admitted to struggling with the commitment needed. I find that as well as focusing my time, it gives me an identity away from the world of 9 – 5 .

    3. Looking for other opportunities to see if there is anything different I could do in work.

    4. I’m making a point of looking for positive input.

    I’m spending less time watching the news, and some less positive TV shows. Spending more time reading, listening to positive music, and trying to get out to doing something different to the norm – more often.

  • / Scott Gould

    Al it seems that few people do, from what I see. I would say a very large portion of people are “Tomorrow Teds” – people who don’t think far beyond tomorrow.

    At least, these are the people I’m meeting more and more of at the moment.

    I don’t want to sound condescending, but I see so much potential in them, but it seems no one is challenging them in their life to do something with it?

  • / Scott Gould

    Andy

    This is really good – may I use this to form a blog post next week?

    Your point 4 I think is the key one here, in my opinion.

    Scott

  • JodiAceVA

    Interesting post Scott.

    I don’t ever ‘compare’ myself to others or what ‘others’ are doing. I think the world is too judgmental and in ‘my’ life I try to focus on me.

    I agree with Suellen, that people are not selfish enough. Selfishness has a negative connotation which is not necessarily always deserved.

    To be able to give (and I am not talking financially here) to others and the world, we need to first give to ourselves and feed our own needs and desires without fear of judgment from the world. This is the hardest thing that an individual can do and there is only a minority that do.

    The others life their life trying to meet ‘the worlds’ expectations and benchmarks and will never be truly fulfilled, and will never find or achieve their purpose.

    My purpose in life is listen to my inner strength and guidance, take risks, chances and feel the true sense of self. Having this purpose I am able to ‘give’ to my family, friends and the world. To share and to experience together.

    This is, as will always be, a work in progress.

    As for the chicken and the eagle….I am a chicken lover so very biased here, but perhaps not everyone is designed or feels fulfilled flying high like an eagle, perhaps the chicken’s life is where some find their fulfillment, and others in between.

    Thanks Scott. Keep up the great blog.

  • Catherine White

    I don’t know where you live Scott, but most people I know are struggling to make ends meet, and get through the GFC.

    ‘Most people’ in New York is a growing sector, who go to work in smart clothes, carrying smart phones and net books, but live in homeless shelters, or out of their car. You can live like that in New York, and no one is the wiser.

    If I looked at most people sitting at a bar, I can be sure so many are carrying heavy burdens and barely surviving.

    My question is are you asking the right questions?

  • Annalisa Holmes

    Great post for discussion Scott and I must say, I can identify with what Jodi has voiced.

    I think you are right in saying that a lot of people do find themselves in a rut. I myself sometimes stop and think how “ground-hog” my days can be and I have a lot of things going on in my life however I do feel that a lot of people perhaps try to perfect their own lives first before they feel they can delve into some more altruistic meaning. If you ask me, that’s an almost impossible feat, so they get stuck.

    I grew up with some disadvantages and vowed I would always “give back” as so many people did for me when I was younger and as much as I go out of my way to be kind to others, give my time and energy, it can be disrespected in return and that can be a deterrent to continue helping. So I turned to my Community (local PCYC) and offer my time there when I can. It may not be appreciated by the youth that frequent the place, but I’m there, volunteering my time and it makes me feel good about myself.

    And thankfully, that “giving” can be on many different mediums. Robin, for example, I find gives endlessly to all of us so I’m never surprised that he’s continually flying high!

  • Leanne Berry

    Hi Scott

    You called for #centurions thoughts so here goes mine!

    I think that living a life of purpose is inherently a learned and nutured behaviour and comes from the rich tapestry of values, beliefs and actions that come from family. Being loved and loving, being included and inclusive – the environment of the family and how you are raised is one of the most important learning ground for how you live your life.

    A few weeks ago I wrote a story about my mum – http://sleepyoz.wordpress.com/ (scroll down past the centurions photos) – I think this highlights where many of my rich values of supporting others, getting involved and being a person who cares deeply about her family, her friends and her community comes from

    I was involved from a very early age, extra activites at school drama, sport etc, sport all weekend, helping my wonderful grandmother at St Vincent De Paul (although she died 5 yrs ago at 101 she is still the longest serving volunteer of that organisation in Australia more than 70yrs – they had to ask her to leave when she turned 98 because insurance wouldnt cover her)
    I worked in community development, President of local chamber of commerce and today still proudly help business in our region!

    Thats my life of purpose – so interweaved still with the values and beliefs I was raised with and the example still being set by my family, my siblings are the same and our children have that in them too! – a family who has loved and nurtured a sense of community and a sense of family

    Cheers

    Leanne

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Jodi

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I agree – comparison is a dangerous road and I’m not advocating that at all. Nor am I saying people are selfish.

    What I’m getting at is as Jim describes in the first comment, that “most people plan their 2 week’s in the sun, more than they plan the other 50 weeks. Then, they wonder how they manage to have such a fulfilling vacation and such unfulfilled lives.”

    How do you handle seeing potential in people but knowing that they are not unlocking it?

    Scott

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Annalisa.

    I love this, “I myself sometimes stop and think how “ground-hog” my days can be” I feel the same and often have to stop myself and question what I’m doing.

    Your testimony should inspire us – do you really think that the youth don’t appreciate it?

    Finally, giving can indeed be many mediums as I said in starting. Specifically, I say that you can can give time, talent, treasure and tongue. I explain it in this post: /the-fight-our-youth-face/

    Scott

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Catherine.

    If we get away from the extreme of New York and consider the average town that I live in – 150,000 people, middle class.

    There are areas of deprivation, but most people don’t live in severe lack. Most people have debt, but they have steady income. What I’ve observed is that they don’t seem to live beyond tomorrow.

    And this is coming from me – a pastor who spends everyday with people and knows his community very well!

    What questions would you ask instead?

  • JodiAceVA

    Sorry Scott I definitely wasn’t implying that You were comparing or calling anyone selfish, just purely my thoughts on how society views, judges and compares as a whole.

    Do these people really have fulfilling vacations? I fail to see that if they are not fulfilled in life in general and happy within themselves already how they can suddenly ‘feel fulfilled by a vacation’. I think perhaps they are not fulfilled entirely, and a vacation is just an ‘excuse’ not to address their lack of fulfillment.

    Fulfillment can only come from within, not from anything external. So how do I handle seeing potential in people but knowing that they are not unlocking it? It stands as a reminder to myself to not let this happen in my own life. To remind me always to grow from within, trust my instincts and always act without fear of judgment or criticism.

    The only way to approach these people is with a positive attitude. Show them that it is what is within them that matters, and that external judgments or expectations are not important. To help them believe in themselves and be okay with what they find inside, whether it is a chicken or an eagle, whatever they choose to be.

  • Annalisa

    The majority probably don’t appreciate what I do there but there is a small percentage that do. I know this only because when I’m not there, some of them ask after me. Then again, I am pretty loud ;)

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Robin

    I get what you’re saying, but I still think the fact remains that many people are living lives without much thought beyond tomorrow – and I know this because as a pastor, I’m the one trying to encourage them to grow, mentoring them, etc.

    And whilst, yes, each person’s shoes are different, after spending time with literally thousands of people, there are clear trends and people often fall into similar circumstances.

    Scott

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Leanne

    I would certainly agree that your upbringing has a huge effect on being purpose driven. Some people, like my wife, have a very good upbringing and are exposed to a lot of things as a child, continually encouraged, etc.

    Others might come from broken backgrounds which in turn creates a drive to prove themselves.

    I love the story of your mother – such a wonderful portrail of a life giving to others. No wonder that you are in turn a giving individual. It’s something that I think is a rare virtue these days.

    So what would be your lessons on giving and living for others?

    Scott

  • / Scott Gould

    Skype call definitely needed before I go away for sure. Been too long – do miss talking properly :-)

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Jodi

    I guess my thing is that being a chicken or an eagle isn’t about your social status / income / class / etc. It’s about using the wings that you have to fly.

    There are people who live simple lives all around the world but thrive where they are, and then people with complex lives who are unfilled and in the rat race.

    Does that make more sense?

    Scott

  • http://www.starfishconsulting.com.au Kate Grom

    Hi Annalisa,
    Good for you volunteering and getting the rewards in your life … and taking up your “it may not be appreciated” observation – Please don’t assume this! I know from my own experience that the help, encouragement, advice, mentoring etc of others is sometimes not immediately understood or even appreciated, but later we may ‘get it’. It’s happened to me with mentors and some of the people who have contributed to my life, example: I’ll catch myself looking at a problem in a particular way and recognise my mentor Tom’s guidance at play.
    Paraphrasing Susan Scott (Fierce Conversations), we can’t know that any particular conversation will change a life, but any conversation can. Take it from me; they do!

    Kate

  • http://www.scribbledfish.co.uk Andy

    Go for it

Leave a Reply