There’s a lot being said in our culture about purpose – mainly that each person has a unique purpose and that we all should be pursuing that. But is that realistic for busy parents? Should they be chasing some high and lofty purpose that’s both grandiose and world-changing?
Think about it for a minute. There are over 7 billion people on this earth. Are every single one of those people supposed to be “world changers”? How can that be possible?
I mean, some of us have to do “everyday work” like raising kids, earning a living, and keeping a secure 9-5 job so our families can depend on us. Not everyone can be off changing the world, right?
This question is of utmost importance because there are a lot of parents asking themselves the very same question. We might not verbalize it, but most of us would love to be doing something every day (along with parenting) that’s enjoyable, that we find important, and that we’re gifted to do.
But as much as we would love that, most of us tend to push the idea of it being a reality to the back of our minds. Most of us would agree that there is some sort of purpose for every person, but most of us avoid it because it seems selfish, it seems too nebulous, and frankly, it seems too good to be true.
We think, “Sure, I would love to leave this job that has no future and terrible management, but where would I go? The real world doesn’t wait for dreams.“
We even see ourselves as being in a wiser category than the dreamers of the world, because, after all, we’re “realists”. Sometimes we might confuse this for hustling. The reason we avoid our dreams and our purpose is that we live in the real world and we do what has to be done to provide for our family and keep a roof over our head.
Those two phrases alone are so “American” and so inspiring that they’re difficult to even oppose. I mean, hey, we’re doing what we have to do to make a living and we’re enjoying as much of life as we can, right?
We might think that dreaming and pursuing “purpose” is something the more fortunate are able to do. Or we might think that our ship has sailed. Either way, we resign ourselves to a life of getting by and we divert our energy that should be going into meaningful work into our finances, our families, our friends, or worse – our self image.
I’m talking about the 50-year-old plant manager who hates his job but drives a brand new truck and takes his boat out on the weekends. He has a great life from the outside looking in, but he’s living with very little sense of purpose.
What’s sad is, he’s convinced himself that what matters most is how much money you leave behind for your kids and how much fun you have while you’re here. And he’s not totally wrong. Your character, the memories you make, and the legacy you leave are all very important. But you’re going to spend a third of your life at work. Please don’t convince yourself that a third of your life is meant to fuel the other two-thirds.
Don’t convince yourself that the eight hours you spend at work each day are done so you can have more stuff and enjoy the weekends more.
One study from Gallup found that over 70% of Americans are not engaged at work. Study after study has found that most of the population of America has resigned to working jobs they’re not fulfilled in – and we’re a dreaming culture.
So if we’re not fulfilled in our jobs but we think pursuing purpose in our work is too lofty a goal that isn’t for right now and isn’t for those of us in the “real world”, then I think it’s time you and I redefine what purpose is.
You are naturally better at certain tasks than other people. You naturally enjoy certain things more than other people. You naturally find certain things more important than other people find them. And, more than anything else, your personality is unique to everyone on Earth. That includes everyone who has lived and everyone whoever will live.
If you’re unique in at least those areas, don’t you think it’s worthwhile to spend a third of your life working doing something that you’re best equipped to do in those regards?
In that context, purpose and passion are not pie-in-the-sky dreams – even for busy parents. You’re just identifying the things you’re particularly made to thrive at and then moving in that direction. And your kids will be better off seeing you come alive in what you’re doing and striving for more than just a paycheck.
So if you’re stuck wondering where to go from here, know that your work does not define who you are, but it is a big chunk of your life, and you do have to decide where the allotted energy you’re given during your life will be invested.
You can invest your energy in things you don’t care about or aren’t particularly good at because it pays the bills. Or you can hone in on the intersection of what you’re good at, what you enjoy, what you find important, and what the world needs.
Ease into it. Keep your family first, by all means. Keep your day job while you figure it out. But don’t get discouraged when you feel like you’re chasing something childish. Don’t give in to the temptation to feel like you need to “grow up”. That’s what the disheartened majority of Americans will tell you because misery loves company.
You’re not childish for chasing something bigger and better for yourself, your family, and those around you that you’ll impact with your work. Enjoy the moment, but pursue potential. Whether you think it’s too good to be true or not, that’s something worth pursuing.