Developing a Sense of Purpose
Do you ever feel like even when you've given your best effort, you still come up short? Why does it seem that even with all of your best efforts to achieve a goal, you still end up short?
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my frustrations with not attaining the level of success within my career, spiritual goals, relationships, and family life that I hoped and desired. There are many days when it feels that I am not accomplishing any of my goals.
For the past 10+ years, I have been on a quest of self-discovery, which began when I went to college. Going to college, I assumed that graduating with a degree would be the ticket I needed to enter into a career that would ultimately lead me to happiness, confidence, and growth. I believed that once I received that piece of paper and combined it with my leadership skills, several opportunities would just appear.
Needless to say, things didn’t work out that way. I was left feeling about where I am in my life in comparison to where I wanted to be. I've felt like a failure. "Why does it seem that I am not achieving anything?"
The simplest answer to this is that I might be confused about what God's plan is for my life.More specifically, I question God's timing.
I thought that by answering the call to ministry and meeting all of the requirements (education, follow the rules, network, show commitment, play the game, etc.), that I would be on the path to full-time ministry. Well, that has not been the case. To be honest, this has been frustrating and disappointing.
Sometimes I have blamed myself for not "following the rules." I made some risky decisions to challenge the status quo and to walk a nontraditional path to protect my sanity. When I made the decision to accept who I truly am by refusing to live into an identity that was not my truth, it changed the direction of my life. I lost some friends. Some of the ties and connections I once had disappeared. I found myself as the center of social media scandals and private inbox conversations.
Even though the changes that occurred in my life plan and the results of my circle decreasing happened, I learned what it meant to be whole. I knew early on that I could not live a life projected upon me and be my authentic self.
Part of living a life that I felt was authentic meant making (what I now understand to be) mistakes that caused unexpected delays in my life plan. I didn't graduate from both of my degree programs "on time" because I failed courses. I struggled with perfection so much that I was afraid of not meeting my personal expectations. I'm still trying to navigate how to set high personal standards while extending self-grace so that I can still be productive.
Like many young adults today, I have questioned the decisions that I made to pursue a vocation that I hoped would be able to fulfill me emotionally and provide for me monetarily. I never had the intention of being a full-time church volunteer with credentials. I never wanted to wrestle with pursuing my calling to serve God and His people, with the practical demands of paying bills. Nevertheless, I have found myself in just those situations.
But I’m not complaining. I simply want to point out (as much to myself, as anyone else) that , "Life is a marathon, not a sprint,” and even though you understand that principle, it is still hard to abide by it.
So where does that leave us? How do we, as a community, as young adults, deal with the feelings of inadequacy, loss of direction, and lack of purpose?
There is no shortage of books out there on how to find your purpose and calling; I have read several of them myself. I have found several of these books like The Purpose Driven Life, Instinct, The Art of Work to be helpful in recognizing the value of pursuing a life plan that aligns with who we were created to be, with who we would like to be. They were all useful to me during points in my life when I was struggling to find the answer to the question: "What on earth am I here for?"
The problem, though, isn’t really to that we have issues regarding feeling a lack of purpose. Instead, I feel that the young adult struggle centers around not feeling properly equipped to handle the process of reaching our created purpose.
I have discovered that the road, or journey towards wholeness is an uncomfortable ride. It's full of bumps, unexpected turns, dangerous potholes, and winding roads. Uncertainty triggers a lot of emotions and can often leave us with feelings that are not pleasant.
While I do not profess to be an expert on navigating the journey of life, I am holding on to the faith that lets me know that I will be alright. We have the free will to choose the mindset of a positive outcome despite our circumstances. As I continue to work with youth and young adults, I know that this is difficult. What we see in our present often overshadows our ability to see into our future. However, if we can just look back on any previous circumstance, we can learn a lot about ourselves and the power we have within us to sustain.
I am taking these steps to develop a sense of purpose while not losing it on the journey.
- Reflect: Write your story down somewhere so that you can read it and ask yourself the thoughtful questions about how you have overcome previous obstacles.
- Celebrate: I thought about including this in the first step, but I think this should have its space. We have to do better with finding the places in our lives to reward ourselves through self-appreciation. I am hoping to plan a celebration vacation in the next few months because I've earned it.
- Breathe: I know that you have developed the personal plan(s), rewritten your goals several times, and probably some more after that. However, when was the last time that you took the time to take some intentional breaths to allow your soul to rest? Try to disconnect from the digital world to listen to your body naturally take the necessary breaths to keep you alive.
While the above suggestions are not an entire list for how to navigate the messiness of pursuing your life's goals, they are a good start, that hopefully, provides some practical steps that will help you remember the simple truth, most recently made popular again by Kendrick Lamar, "We gon be alright!"