In a recent panel discussion, my 11-year-old daughter, Raasi, was asked a question. “What is the purpose of your life?” She responded, “The purpose of my life is to enjoy life.” I was utterly surprised at her candor and courage. Another panelist in his upper seventies answered, “The purpose of life is already determined by destiny.”
A former colleague recently opined to me that every being and object has a specific purpose in life. The purpose will remain the same no matter how many distractions or obstructions one faces. He quoted an example saying that an auto repair shop’s purpose is to repair cars and not to make pizza.
There is obviously no right or wrong answer within the very broad scope of such a thought-provoking question. But a most common definition of the noun ‘purpose’ is “the reason for which something exists or is created.”
I had not been aware of the purpose of my own life for a long time. Until a certain reflective moment. My actions, my behavior, my commitment to efforts and initiatives, and the work I have done and continue to do, all serve the fulfillment of my living purpose.
Many years ago, I thought myself trapped in a 9-to-5 job. Though I gave my best to the job, I felt unfulfilled, frustrated and unhappy. Every day I would drag myself to go to work.
I found the courage one day to talk to my boss about what I really wanted to do with my life. I told her I wanted to be in the middle of educating communities and increasing awareness to improve the quality of life. She said I should probably work in the warehouse where I’d meet more people.
To this day, I’ve been unable to figure out if she was sarcastic or if she just wanted to keep me somewhere still an employee. Regardless of her intent, it deeply jolted me. It highlighted a simple interaction into one of those pivotal junctions throughout our entire life journey that begs familiar questions. Why was I there? Should I leave? Like others, I had a family to support and bills to pay. Did my expectations and fulfillment matter at all? What to me is really important? What makes me happy? How do I get closer to my own authenticity? Was I ready to risk exploring for the answers? Was I ready to leap out of my comfort zone? What could I do occupationally that would feel part of what I must have been born to do?
Fast forward some time and I found myself working in my dream job in the government sector. The challenges and high-profile responsibilities were all quite fulfilling and in such a job I had a chance to leave a legacy. Leaving a legacy can be synonymous with posterity or an inheritance portfolio. However, when the time comes, a person will be most remembered not for the dream job they once performed but for how better they left what they found.
My reflective journey has taught me that it is not as much about money or things as it is about one’s enduring footprint and how that footprint impacts others – family and strangers alike. A continuous journey moving and working towards purpose.
I once asked an endocrinologist, what legacy he would like to leave behind. He remained quiet for almost a minute. I knew right then that this was a question no one had ever asked him. And then he responded that his legacy would be bringing into that hospital during his service term more than 20,000 diabetes patients. I asked him if he had ever thought how much better a legacy it would be if just half of that patient count had experienced a better monitored and managed wellbeing. That their treatment experience under his direction had resulted in such changed lifestyles that they wouldn’t need to visit the hospital ever again as diabetes patients. He was dumbstruck in the moment.
How will you know when research, patience and exploration bring you to that moment? When you’ve found that truth that shows why you exist and what you were created to do?
For me, it was when my whole outlook changed. I felt reborn. I felt relieved. My challenges seemed not so dominant anymore. Everything about me pointed in a certain direction. I started getting up with excitement every day to solve problems. Spending much less time watching TV or surfing the internet. I started avoiding the noise and exercising every day. I was able to meditate, responding more to the energies around me that melt away procrastination. All things before then good and bad were simply lessons.
What a peaceful place that now I can wish for you.
Nazeera Dawood has a Master's in Public Health from the University of North Carolina and a medical degree from Bangalore University, India. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.