I was talking to my best friend yesterday (we raised our kids together, first she moved to Belgium, then to New Jersey, now we talk on the phone 3-4 times a week, but I digress), and we wound up at the topic of purpose.
Research shows that people who feel a sense of purpose are better off.
So as I sat in my car outside the yoga studio (I leave early for class so I can call my friend from the car, and often wind up sitting in a parking space, still chatting, as I wait for class to start, but I digress again) I tried to parse the idea.
I could think of three sorts of purpose, at the most abstract level:
- You want to win, at something. You are moving always toward achievement, with metrics.
- You need to express your sense of meaning in the world, through one medium or another. You are impelled by what feels like your unique and must-be-voiced perspective, and your tools, both.
- You want to care for something. A child, children, animals, the planet, an archive or artifact with import, a disenfranchised group.
I suppose there are other purposes in life, but these are the highest-level categories I can think of.
I spent much of my life trying to win. I’m tired of it. The blog was my first chance at expressing a sense of meaning. Thank you. And I cared for my children and still do but if I tried to use all my capacity on them despite their dear sweet natures they’d have to lock me up and throw away the key.
So now, as I said last week, I care for the children I teach. I also care for our country – I do not think of my political activism as trying to win, it feels like caretaking. And I care for my mother, my family of origin, and my husband.
What is your purpose? Does it fall into one of these categories or is it something else entirely? And does it provide most of your happiness?
Have an excellent weekend.