Purpose vs. Function

It is not uncommon for a person to try many different activities, or functions, in hopes of finding their purpose. Yet that is misguided because, as many have found out, one can function all their life and never find fulfillment or feel like they have been purposeful.

Perhaps you have figured this out for yourself already.

One of the first things we will want to do is to separate function from purpose. There is use in function, while there is meaning in purpose.

Have you ever felt used? Perhaps this has occurred in a relationship, or by a boss or company. You may have even felt used by a friend or family member. In looking back over those interactions, you will likely discover that you were serving a function in that exchange. And, if you are completely honest, they likely served a function for you as well. Yet, if that relationship was purposeful you would not feel used. It would have had meaning and brought you closer to your goals regardless of how it ended. Then, regardless of the difficulty or challenge, you would have been left with a sense of fulfillment.

In much of the career advice I read, people are encouraged to find what they love or what they do best. This activity is then deemed to be their purpose. But in actuality, they have simply found out how they function best and in what way they can most easily be used.

I may be a good skier, able to cook a tasty meal, or find cheap flights to Europe, but that is not my purpose in life. I may function well on the slopes and in the kitchen, or be useful to someone looking for a vacation. But that is not my purpose in life.

We can take that a step further. Just because someone is an accomplished drunk or has talent in deeply wounding someone with a sharp remark, that doesn’t mean that is their purpose. Being good at something doesn’t necessarily give us the clues we need in determining our purpose.

To recap, begin to separate your function from your purpose. List all the ways that you can function. These are what make you useful. They are not your purpose, but they may come in handy once you do know your purpose.

Then make a separate list of things you are passionate about, what goals you wish to achieve, and what will give you the greatest sense of fulfillment. Where will you take aim? Where do you want to make a stance? How will you “pose”-ition yourself?

As I said earlier, your purpose will have meaning. It will have import, make sense, and have significance.