Finding Purpose (even as we get older)

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

George Bernard Shaw

When we are young, finding a purpose is usually not that essential. We have plenty of time left, and we are very concerned about ourselves. We want more, and we try to get more. As we age, we often find ourselves asking, is this all there is? Then we ask, “ Why am I here? What is my purpose? How can I find meaning in my life?”  We may still be doing the things that provide us with money, education, travel, connection and nourishment, but meaning often eludes us.

Pastor Rick Warren, in his book the Purpose Driven Life says “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your piece of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams or ambitions. It’s not about you. When you begin with the self, asking, “What do I want to be?  What should I do with my life? What will make me happy? What do I need?” you get a different set of answers than if you start with “It’s not about me.”

More than ever, we seem to be living in a world of I: iWatch, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, I want, I need, I get. This doesn’t give us a true sense of satisfaction. Jewish values tell us that we are not living just for ourselves, but for those around us and those who come after us. Tikkun Olam, repairing the broken world. B’tzelem Elohim, we are all created in God’s image. Tzedek tzedek tirdof, justice justice you shall pursue. Basic Jewish principles help us find purpose and meaning.

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement… get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Abraham Joshua Heschel

So, why do you get up in the morning? While this question might sound trite, if you take the time to reflect on it and answer honestly, you may find it points directly at your life purpose. We all have a need to find purpose in life. Some people find a way to express their purpose in their jobs, others look for opportunities outside their daily work. Regardless of how we do it, we all seek to find how we can best contribute. No matter how old we are, we must continue to question our purpose. We must use the answers to the questions to find unique ways to contribute. My role? To remind you not to ignore your spirituality, and help you use spirituality as a source of purpose.

Purpose will be unique for everyone, and likely changes throughout your life. Your life purpose evolves. Questions about life purpose may arise at any time, but you may really notice them during times of transition or crisis—for example, a career or educational change, personal loss, or long-distance move, or merely looking in the mirror, and wondering, how did I get old so fast?

Perhaps you have experienced moments when you felt truly connected, like you were performing a task you were made for. A moment of harmony that you would like to experience again. So let’s ask the questions together. What do I do next. What do I love to do? Where are my skills? What do I have to offer? And when you believe things that limit what you can see, I will help you exceed those limits, reframe the questions, and widen your vision.

In his essay, To Grow in Wisdom, Abraham Joshua Heschel says that one of the beauties of the human spirit is we that we appreciate what we share, not what we receive. And everyone has “a treasure in his soul, moments of insight, memory of love, dreams of excellence…” I think he is saying that each of us has  accumulated wisdom. We can find purpose in sharing it. You might start with the writing of an ethical will. I will help you with that project.

Author Angela Duckworth, says living your life with purpose is one of the most essential ingredients of living a successful, happy, meaningful life. She defines purpose as the “intention to contribute to the well-being of others.” Anything you do, if it benefits others, adds a significant layer of meaning to your life. With purpose, one experiences deeper satisfaction.

Even when we are doing the mundane chores of everyday, the repetitive and tedious, we can create a purpose. We can say, I am doing this to support the my family, my friends, my community. It helps you get through these tasks  happier, more satisfied and believe it or not, quicker. Even more so when we are giving to others. It is tzedakah. More than just charity, from the word tzedek, the right and just thing to do. To help those in need, to contribute to the greater good, gives us personal satisfaction.

What are we here for? What will we leave?  What will we be able to say about what we leave behind? How will we be measured? The time for each of us to determine that is now. Let me help you.