We spend our days toiling at this or that, sometimes alone, sometimes with others. We know the proximate reasons for those everyday actions: we go to work because, well, we have to pay the bills; we interact with our colleagues because we have a job to do and that’s how you get things done. We develop friendships and perhaps enmities; we like our job or we don’t. We engage in various pursuits for pleasure or out of a sense of obligation, and we go to bed every night feeling that we had a good day, or a bad one, or maybe we’re just too exhausted to care either way.
Some say that there is no meaning to any of it. Others believe that our lives carry intrinsic meaning, while others yet believe that we are the ones who create meaning for our everyday actions, and that our lives carry the very meaning that we will them to take on. The universe doesn’t care, reply the first ones. None of it makes any difference and meaning is nothing but self-delusion.
Perhaps, but what a grand delusion it is, and how powerful at channeling our lives! A trove of wisdom never published, beautiful music never written; a great discovery never made or shared, or a hand never extended are so many missed opportunities. Believing that it can make a difference is what brings purpose to life. Indeed, without such a belief, no purpose can exist.
I do not doubt that purpose can take the color of selfishness and spite, but in my experience, most people define their purpose in relation to others and to some good greater than themselves. I for one choose to believe that what I do every day makes a difference: going to work, teaching judo, writing an article and sharing it so that others may read it; being a father, a husband, a teacher, a friend and a colleague. Believing that these things matter gives me not only the will to act, but also the will to keep improving so that I can become a better person. Purpose is a powerful driver.
What drives our lives varies considerably from one person to another but whatever form it takes, some kind of purpose is essential in my view to a fulfilling life. For that reason, I believe in the importance of fanning that flame, of fostering in others that sense of purpose—their own purpose, with its own meaning. And beware of taking someone’s purpose away for by doing so, it is his or her very will to carry on that you are playing with.