Over the last week, I have found myself in multiple conversations about purpose. First, Chris Lozier and I interviewed Nico Lagan for an upcoming episode of our podcast, If You’ve Come This Far. Nico is “a men’s coach, an entrepreneur, a Muay Thai instructor, podcaster, and sales professional. He strives to help men achieve their personal legends by becoming strong men.” He has recently published, “Purpose: How Following Your Personal Legend Is The Answer To Your Midlife Crisis.” He is all about exploring purpose and believes we were all born with a unique one. Hmmm…we’ll get back to that. Then, yesterday, David French wrote an opinion piece in the NYT entitled, “Men Need Purpose More Than ‘Respect’.” French wrote, “And simply put, while many men demand respect, what they need is purpose, and the quest for respect can sometimes undermine the sense of purpose that will help make them whole. To put it more simply still: What men need is not for others to do things for them. They need to do things for others: for spouses, for children, for family and friends and colleagues.” He continues, “The true challenge to American masculinity is far upstream from politics and ideology. It’s not fundamentally about what ideological combatants say about men — that they have become “toxic” on the one hand, or “feminized” on the other. Rather the challenge is much more about a man finding his purpose, and there are few better purposes than helping the people you love walk through life.”
I don’t prescribe to the notion that we were each “put on” the earth with a purpose to carry out. In fact, I think much of the energy around finding our unique purpose can create more frustration, anxiety, and agony than it is certainly worth. If you are familiar with MenLiving, you may know we have 5 Suggestions for Living Fully. One of those suggestions is to live with intention. I wholeheartedly subscribe to this suggestion. I strive to live intentionally. Is living intentionally the same as living your purpose? My experience has been that the idea of having a purpose has an almost mystical aspect to it. Not finding one’s purpose has a taint of failure. That doesn’t seem right. Intention, on the other hand, is about creating a direction, a path, that could be acceptably modified at any time. Less pressure for sure. Does that difference resonate with you?
I posed this question to my wife and a friend last night. My wife, the rule follower, considers purpose and intention very much from the perspective of following our modern society’s “script.” Our friend, Jennifer, very task oriented, looked at purpose from the perspective of getting things done. She does not necessarily believe we are born with a purpose but does feel that we will be most fulfilled when we are using our natural talents and abilities fully. What do you think?
As I close, I wonder if we are overthinking this purpose idea. Bottomline, we are animals, right? Though, animals with consciousness and self-awareness. A natural state both beautiful and confounding. And if we are not intentional (got that in one more time!), our thinking mind can lead us away from the simple and joyful to the complex and distressing. So, I am going to go with a simple and suggest that if we are looking for a “purpose,” we follow French’s lead above, “there are few better purposes than helping the people you love walk through life.”