Confession: I’m a recovering Purpose hater

Purpose & PassionHaters gonna hate, right?

Hate’s a strong word but we use it causally all the time. “I HATE this commercial.” “Don’t you just hate it when she (speaking about some TV character) does that?” Of course you have, or you do.

Starlets and annoying commercials are fair game. It’s an innocuous hating.

But purpose? Who hates purpose? Specifically, I came to hate the overuse of the word, and what it has come to stand for. Purpose with a capital P is the source of much sorrow, agonizing, and squishy business descriptions.

“Purpose-preneur”. Huh?

“Entrepreneur on purpose.” As opposed to by accident?

The simplest definition of this word as a noun is: “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.”

Switch the word something for someone and the existential crisis party begins.

“Why do I exist?” “How am I to be used in this life?” “What’s my purpose?!”

This line of thinking matters, but not if it’s crippling.

The purpose, passion, calling, and mission cult has turned otherwise productive, happy people into insatiable seekers of something to define themselves by; to make them feel valuable.

For some entrepreneurs, it keeps them giving their gifts or making any real money. Feeling that they don’t have the BIG answer — or the right answer — puts them into procrastination overdrive. If they have an idea and it doesn’t sound as sure as that of their favorite mentor or self-improvement celebrity, they are bereft of the confidence to run with what they do know.

For those on the cusp of what’s next — and I’ve had 6 or 7 conversations with women in this place in the past week — it prevents some of them from getting started.

“How can I start a business — which is what I really want to do cause I’m not going to stay here in corporate — when I don’t know my purpose?” they ask.

Purpose is not a prerequisite for starting a business. A realistic assessment of the market you want to enter and your skills, a reality check about what it will take —balls and hard work; something you believe in more than money — and some way to pay the bills while you get things going: those are what’s needed to start and successfully run a business.

And what of the purpose twin, passion?

“Without knowing my purpose, how can I have passion?” you wonder. (The other P word I’m hating on.)

I am passionate about gardening but my purpose in life is not to garden, it is to feel fully expressed and help others do the same. Gardening is one way I do that.

There’s a hidden clue in there about purpose. Your purpose is for you first — not others. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I understood that I had a purpose worth noting and using as a true north for how I live. All the decades before that, I simply got on with life. Some days I’m more passionately living than others, but I have a passion for living and sometimes that includes not knowing the next step.

Living, noticing what lights you up, what you can give the world, and practicing those things as much as you can will lead you to understand — if it’s important to you — who you are when you are on purpose.

In other words, you decide. You uncover this elusive thing by living.

“But without knowing my purpose I have no anchor,” you worry. Absolute certainty that you were living your purpose, doing your dharma, answering the call, would be nice — but not if it locks you in to certain options and out of others, or limits your experiences outside of that one thing.

To those of you who are certain, Mazel Tov! Hip-hip hoorah. Live it and live it big.

Ok, about my hating.

The hating is born out of the limiting, punishing, endless marketing around the idea that without knowing your purpose you can’t be, do, or have success in business or life.

Can your life have value without a grand purpose?

Can you give value to others without knowing yours?

The other reason I was a hater springs from overusing the word.

Did I mention that? I did. I know. I’m using repetition here to make a point.

Purpose and passion are two words I hear repeatedly at certain types of networking events. It feels like every third person who stands to give their pitch works with “purpose driven women entrepeneurs.” Or “Women entrepreneurs looking for passion and purpose.” Nice.

But what does it mean?

I don’t mean to pick on anyone. I’m picking on a problem. Those two words can be powerful in some contexts but when describing your business they are not doing what you need words to do.

About the recovery I mentioned in the title of this post. What the world needs most is people who feel good about themselves so they can give their gifts or get on with what they are here to do. For many, knowing their purpose, their “game worth playing” as my friend Max Miller would say, feels necessary.

If it’s true that my purpose—and mostly it’s a well educated guess—is to help people live fully expressed and they can’t get there without some purpose work then let the purpose fest rage on, with one caveat.

Do not feel you must pay to play with your purpose. Pay if it feels right, I’m a firm believer in investing in myself to get me where I want to go but only if I’m clear that what I’m investing in is the right thing right now. And extra clear that it will not fix anything in myself.

Now that I’m with you purposeful purpose seekers here is my stand on the matter.

Your purpose is whatever you say it is. Ask your heart, look at your life’s work, feel your way into what you most want to be right now and run with that.

Ignore the haters and those who would make you feel inadequate.

You were born to do you and your greatest gifts came in with you.

Isn’t there something in that idea to get passionate about?

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