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A Taste of Eight Paths of Purpose

Eight Paths of Purpose


The Paradox of Purpose

There is much healthy discussion today about the role that purpose should and does play in our lives. Millions of people of all ages are taking jobs based not just on salary, but also on the feeling that they are fulfilling a meaningful purpose through their work. Connecting to a meaningful purpose in life is a well-accepted goal to strive for.

Large and small corporations are making no secret of how social action is a high priority in their corporate identity next to profits, employee satisfaction, and security. An October 2016 article in Harvard Business Review states that “We hear more and more that organizations must have a ‘purpose.’ Purpose is on the agenda of the World Economic Forum in Davos and discussed by celebrity CEOs… Oxford University and Ernst and Young found that public dialogue on purpose has increased five-fold between 1995 and 2016.”


This trend is gaining momentum. The business world is focusing on purpose-driven companies for increased employee retention and profits. But outside of the business world, I have seen very few studies that strive to truly understand the nature of purpose, and the impact it has on our lives and on society at large. Not enough is written that explores how the phenomenon of purpose actually works and especially not about how it thinks!

Why is it important to know how purpose “thinks?” What does that even mean? Simply put, if there is a method of understanding purpose, it is important to familiarize ourselves with it. If we want to fulfill a purpose, we should have some idea of how to be in sync with how purpose functions. 

I am not referring to the specifics of whatever we may decide to do to fulfill a purpose, whether it be saving the whales or donating to a local charity or self-actualization or raising an autistic child. What I mean is that it is important to know how best to align ourselves properly to our very own unique purpose. That is what “getting to know how purpose thinks” is all about.

Did you ever stop to think about how we can connect to our purpose in a very real way? Is there a difference between a goal and a purpose, or between a meaningful life and a purposeful life, or between fulfilling “a” purpose and fulfilling “my” purpose? How do I know where to look for a purpose? Who can I trust, and how do I stay on target? Why is it sometimes so hard to fulfill a purpose? 

“Purpose” needs more of an expanded discussion. It needs some brave thinking that delves into the topic with a refreshing perspective. It needs a book with fresh ideas.

Eight Paths of Purpose is an introduction to this exciting topic. It discusses the “operating system” that drives a sense of purpose and encourages the reader to decide how to apply it. 

Whatever your nationality, belief system or political leanings may be, whether you believe in a Higher Power or not, the tools provided in this book will help you fulfill your purpose to a greater degree. It does not try to define your individual purpose as other books about purpose may; it simply provides the general overview of how purpose thinks, so you can better sync with your core purpose and then explore its many applications.

It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. –Winston Churchill  

The topic of purpose is potentially controversial and difficult to describe. There are so many varied ways by which people all over the world connect to and practice their purpose. 

Some may say that once you have financial security and after your children are either out of the house or independent, there is no other valid purpose other than having fun and enjoying yourself. 

Nevertheless, billions of people now and throughout history have aspired to fulfill many purposes in life. Health professionals, teachers, police officers, clergy, military, and social workers, believe they are fulfilling a meaningful purpose serving others or serving a greater cause. Many people find great purpose in religion, politics, family, jobs, hobbies, giving to charity, volunteering, or other endeavors. 

Are they all deceiving themselves about fulfilling a purpose as a result of some human weakness, or are they really connecting to something very deep within themselves? 

Where do we take this conversation to answer this question and explore what “purpose” means? 

Let’s begin by reviewing our lessons from high school science. Didn’t we all learn that every atom, molecule, and cell in the universe fulfills its purpose naturally? The bee and the flower, of course, don’t understand why they do what they do, but they fulfill their purpose nevertheless. Every drop of water in the ocean, the chemicals in the ground, a fox in the forest, bacteria in the air, organs in our body, and stars in the sky are fulfilling their purpose naturally and in harmony.

The complexities of nature—biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, and meteorology—are all programmed to do their jobs in producing this phenomenon we call our universe. If any of the major laws of physics were changed by even one-tenth of one percent, the universe would not exist as we know it. Even the destructive forces of nature are part of this perfect balance.

Yes, this is all true. Everything does behave in a predictable way to fulfill its individual purpose—except us.

What a paradox; humans, with our superior intellect, are the only ones in this vast universe who do not naturally fulfill a purpose. 

In fact, the crown of creation seems to be destined to play a guessing game whether we have any purpose at all. 

Something in this scenario does not make sense!

It seems as if there is some built-in mechanism that deliberately stands in our path and blocks our ability to fulfill our purpose. This is the paradox of purpose. 

Many of us feel that we are wandering through life like a ship without a rudder or a ball in a pinball machine that is bounced around from one event to another, trying to make sense of life on a day-to-day basis. Life seems to place obstacles in our path deliberately, making it hard to remain positive as we grow, and it can get more complex with time. A deep belief in God doesn’t protect us from this roller coaster, as Chaya and I found out with the birth of our first-born son. 

The person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder. —Thomas Carlyle

Some people may avoid any pursuit of purpose because they see that history is filled with arrogant dictators or demagogues who used purpose as a rationale for committing horrific acts against humanity. We don’t want to be like them.

We may therefore train ourselves to inhibit any feeling of, or desire for, fulfilling a purpose in life. We may be afraid to trust our instincts out of fear of appearing foolish or becoming vulnerable. 

It’s no wonder that many people believe that life is no more than just a series of unrelated, accidental events. They have given up on finding a purpose in their lives and the events that fill them. They are easily overwhelmed by what they see, read, and hear. The maze seems just too complex to navigate. 

On the other hand, I also see that many people look with admiration upon others who are driven by a purpose, feeling that those people have a key to the secret of a happy life that they may be missing.

It’s always inspiring to me to meet people who feel that they can make a difference in the world. That’s their motive, that’s their passion... I think that’s what makes your life meaningful, that’s what fills your own heart, and that’s what gives you purpose. —Maria Shriver

In fact, a September 2013 Pew Research Center survey shows that “a large majority of all respondents ‘strongly disagreed’ (56%) or ‘disagreed’ (36%) that life does not serve a purpose, with only 3% saying they agreed or strongly agreed.” 

My concern is about the millions or billions of people who sense or believe there is a purpose but don’t know what to do about it. Perhaps they really do want to feel and/or strengthen their sense of purpose, but they inhibit a sense of purpose because they don’t know where to turn or who to speak to. Nothing they have heard, read or seen about the subject of purpose really speaks to them. They need some new tools to connect to their sense of purpose.


If you can tune into your purpose and really align with it, setting goals so that your vision is an expression of that purpose, then life flows much more easily. —Jack Canfield 

So we see that purpose seems to be enveloped in mystery. 

The truth is that we will never be able to fully understand the real purpose of our lives or the reason why things happen to us, but surely if we can put a man on the moon and figure out the DNA map of the human body, we can make significant headway to unravel this mystery as well. 

At the least, there must be some type of ‘DNA of purpose’ that applies to all of humanity—a “purpose operating system” that transcends nationality, race and religion, one that connects us to the core of the human experience and helps us better fulfill our inherent purpose.

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