One of the driving forces that have encouraged recent research into personal development and social behavior is life purpose. As more people begin to become gradually aware of who they are, they feel the need to discover more about their existence and their life’s purpose. The best approach to adopt when delving into and discussing the concept of purpose is to know what purpose is and how it is different from goals.
Purpose refers to a cognitive process that defines your goals in life and provides you with personal meaning. It is, in essence, a central self-organizing aim that stimulates goals, manages behavior, and give you the reality of existence.
Purpose directs your decisions and goals by guiding the use of your finite personal resources. Instead of governing your behavior, purpose offers you direction, not dissimilar to a compass that guides a navigator. Following your purpose is purely optional, but there are significant benefits for doing so.
Living in accordance with your purpose makes you a selfsustaining force and an aggressive agent in goal pursuit and goal attainment. Therefore, purpose is critical for helping us to organize our lives and develop persistence that resonates across time and context.
The Difference Between Purpose and Goals
Even though they are mentioned continuously together in conversational context and research, purpose and goals are not synonymous. Goals are more precise in their impact on proximal behaviors. They focus on a more specific endpoint and serve to guide our behavior either toward or away from the endpoint.
Purpose, on the other hand, is a broader component that influences behavior and stimulates the goals. Purpose doesn’t point you toward a designated outcome, but instead, it motivates you to be goal oriented. Unlike goals, which have terminal results, purpose and values merely provide you with the general direction of life.
Another way to look at purpose is to view it as the goal manager. Those who have a purpose in their lives are better able to move seamlessly from goal to goal and even have the capacity to manage multiple goals at once.
On the other hand, those who don’t have a purpose in life may be successful in achieving a single goal, but immediately afterward they find it extremely challenging to identify their next target.
Therefore, goals act as the center point and are produced and inspired by your purpose in life.
The Dimensions of Purpose
Purpose is found on a three-dimensional continuum consisting of strength, scope, and awareness. Scope refers to the extent to which your purpose affects your life. For example, a goal that influences all your actions, thoughts, and emotions is said to have a broad scope.
A purpose with a narrow scope is more organized but doesn’t impact a greater range of behaviors in comparison with a purpose with a full reach.
Strength, in regards to purpose, is the tendency for the purpose to influence your actions, thoughts, and emotions on the domains relevant to its scope. A definite purpose powerfully influences appropriate behaviors to your purpose. Combined with scope, strength dictates the extent to which your purpose will affect your health, longevity, and well-being.
For instance, a purpose that is characterized by great power and a broader scope will have a more pronounced effect on your life. Additionally, a strong and broad purpose brings resilience to obstacles and barriers that you may face during your journey.
Awareness reflects the extent that a person is knowledgeable and can articulate their purpose. Both scope and strength strongly influence it. Consider the analogy of gravity for a moment. On earth, the force of gravity is broader in scope but weak in its impact.
As we live our lives, we don’t pay attention to the gravitational forces that are keeping our feet firmly planted. However, if we were to be taken to Jupiter, which has twice as much gravitational force, our awareness of the force of gravity would increase substantially.
Behaviors consistent with purpose can be activated to provide motivation for action. When you are aware of a purpose, it will require you less effort to pursue it than if you were completely unaware.
The Pursuit of Multiple Life Purposes
It isn’t that unusual for someone to have multiple life purposes. However, having many purposes can only be beneficial to a certain point, after which such purposes only serve to reduce the resource allocation.
For instance, if you pursue a single purpose, you might become discouraged if the challenges and obstacles you face become too substantial to surmount. On the other hand, if you have multiple purposes, which are independent of each other, then the moment you encounter an obstacle or face a challenge in one purpose, you automatically shift your attention and focus to the other purpose.
This shifting between life purposes can enhance your pursuit of purposeful living and might even increase your chances of obtaining positive results.
Multiple purposes, however, may result in your constantly switching from one purpose to another, which can greatly hinder your progress. For a sensible and sustainable approach, you need a manageable number of life purposes to which you can allocate the adequate resources to and focus on so that you can reap the tangible benefits.
Critical Elements of Life Purpose
For you to live a purposeful life, some elements are essential. You must display consistent behavior. This serves as the motivating force that will help you overcome obstacles, maintain your focus, and seek alternative means irrespective of the changing environmental conditions. People that live a purposeful life are more consistent in their behaviors in both their public and private lives.
You also must be psychologically flexible. This means that in light of changing demands, obstacles, and opportunities, your purpose enables you to be more flexible. Avoiding hardships by flexibly managing your environment, both psychological and physical, you will be able to experience fewer problems compared to those who live without purpose.
Finally, determining your life purpose allows you to efficiently allocate the resources available to you, including the time and energy needed to pursue your purpose. Any other wasteful actions and behavior are kept at bay, and the resources they would have consumed are rerouted back to the purpose oriented activities.
These elements can also be considered necessary ingredients to live a purposeful life. Without them, it becomes near impossible to discover and reach your purpose in life.