Why are you here on this Earth? Why do you matter? These questions have been around forever.
Think back to when you were a child and heard your teachers, parents and other elders ask you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Sometimes, with a little more awareness, they asked, “What do you want to do…” or “What do you want to create when you grow up?” I remember those days.
But in those early days, my job was to survive, play, discover and learn about the world and myself. Because of my circumstances, a lot of energy went into just plain survival. The brain waves of a child up to about age 9 look very much like the brain waves of an adult under hypnosis. The urge to grow precedes adult-type consciousness. Living on purpose for a child is not a question of choice; it’s hardwired.
Sometimes you get a glimpse of a bigger purpose at an early age. I got such a glimpse at age 11. I “knew” what I wanted to be. I “knew” what my purpose was. However, that was just a glimpse, but one that has reemerged periodically over the decades.
As you emerge from adolescence into early adulthood your goals are highly influenced by circumstantial, cultural and the life-cycle issues. When I was 16 and my parents were gone, my primary goal was self-sufficient survival. It soon became apparent that my self-sufficiency would be better assured if I went to University, so my primary goal became getting through University.
Then, without any real consciousness of it, the life-cycle requirement of finding a mate and reproducing kicked in. As that purpose was fulfilled, the purpose of emotional survival reared its head.
I think that the goal of living in integrity had been there since I was a child, but in my late 20s I was becoming quite conscious that personal integrity was the foundation of living a meaningful and purposeful life.
As you move forward in pursuit of fulfilling a meaningful intention, out of left field will appear something bigger you have to pursue. Then seemingly out of nowhere something even bigger appears that you must pursue. Yes there are distractions and blind alleys, but with experience you get better at distinguishing between those and the real opportunities.
By the time I was in my early 50s I had given up telling others what I was “going to do when I grew up.” It had become a bit of a joke. Each time I had pursued a path that I was good at and enjoyed, it turned out that something more important was to come. Each time I would think “now I have found my purpose.”
I finally settled into just pursuing my work with passion and purpose, knowing full well that there may be an even bigger job for me in my future. Although I often couldn’t see it at the time, as I look back I can see how all of my pursuits fit into that bigger purpose that I had glimpsed at age 11.
What it comes down to is this: living on purpose may involve many different purposeful pursuits within a lifetime. It is perhaps only at the end of life that you can look back and answer the question, “Why was I here?” That is my hope, at least.
Look at it this way: “If you fulfill your purpose, the universe will give you a bigger purpose.”
Dr. Neill Neill is a registered psychologist in Qualicum Beach. He helps capable people who feel stuck… trauma, relationships, addictions.