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Hi. I'm Laura.

Discover the meaningful work that's right for you. Finally.

You Don’t Have a Purpose (Yoinks! I said it.)

You Don't Have a Purpose

this may sound funny coming from the purpose-driven career lady, but I don’t believe that you have a Purpose. objects have a purpose.

a hammer is for putting nails in. that weird fishtail side is for taking nails out.

a couch is for sitting. it can also be for building a fort or holding a pile of of clothes, but it’s made for sitting.

these are objects. they were created to solve a problem. they have a purpose.

you are a person. you were created because biology. possibly because love. you don’t have a capital P purpose.

can we agree that you are more complex than a hammer? than a couch?

When you put the pressure on yourself to define your Purpose, you give yourself an impossible task.

you attempt to reduce you, beautiful, kind, hideous, fearful, generous you, to the likes of a hammer.

so don’t worry about trying to find your Purpose.

you can claim a sense of purpose. you can want to make a difference. you can have themes that run throughout your life and motivate you.

but you don’t have a Purpose like you keep looking for. no, you can’t be summed up in a tidy tagline or one sentence zinger. objects can. brands can. but you can’t.

if you stopped spending your energy on finding your Purpose, what would you spend it on instead?

who would you be if you didn’t think of yourself as lost because you haven’t found your Purpose?

and would you believe that you don’t have to have a Purpose to have a career or life you love?

  1. lilyscloset@earthlink.net

    August 7th, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Laura; Thank you for this. It takes the pressure off. Now I don’t have to fit in a box, I can be who I am and do what I love with joy and passion. Maybe instead of focusing on Purpose we should seek the deepest longing in our souls which I believe is our calling. To paraphrase Frederick Beuchner about vocation/calling: where our deep gladness meets the world’s deepest need. I think it’s okay to follow that instead of whittling down to a catchy phrase or title as to what we are. Can’t we be a multitude of activities, hobbies, passions, skills and gifts? I don’t think God made us for just one thing, but to be many things to be used in different seasons of our lives. Embracing all that I love, want to do and be just brings a sense of freedom to me. Maybe that is the way we should go?!
    Monica

  2. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Monica, I haven’t heard that quote about callings, but I love it. If that’s a concept that resonates with you, Tara Sophia Mohr also has some fascinating writing on that topic; you might want to check her out.

  3. lisa@lisafirke.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Whew! Finally, someone said it. I can breathe now.
    xo to you, Laura.

  4. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks, Lisa. And if you didn’t already know, Hit Those Keys was one of my early “gateway” blogs I found when I was first discovering the world of online business. So neat to now have you visit my blog 🙂

  5. derekafloyd@yahoo.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Hi Laura,
    I’m relatively new to (and love) your work. But I will confess, I was a bit cautious deciding whether or not I should read this article… OK, probably more a combination of fear and dread with a splash of “how dare she…” than cautious. But I read. And I liked.

    I have spent my entire career working in the nonprofit sector – where organizations live and die by their purpose (mission) – and how they communicate their contributions to solve community challenges.

    I have a BM from The Juilliard School, and thought my Purpose was to be a classical musician. I had a (short 7 year) career in NYC in the 1990’s as a freelance oboist, performing with several orchestras and Broadway musicals. But I felt a calling, or sense of purpose, to help those that are less fortunate, and performing in a Broadway show where ticket prices can exceed $100/seat, somehow I felt I was a little off track.

    In January, I earned an MA in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of San Diego, and with 20 years of work experience at nonprofits with varying purposes (i.e., arts, criminal justice, foster youth, higher education, elderly and chronically ill, etc.), and serving various roles (i.e., business manager, individual giving, general manager, artistic administrator, grant manager, development manager, volunteer manager, etc.), do I really know now what is my Purpose?

    Honestly, no. I think it changes and evolves as I change and evolve. I am clear that I am here on this planet to help those most in need and less fortunate; to empower and give voice to those that feel their voice is not important, or doesn’t matter. I am also clear that I am a good writer, and so today I manifest my “sense of purpose” through http://www.writingforgood.org, helping nonprofits advance their missions through grants and more.

    I mention all of this because it was incredibly (incredibly) difficult for me to let go of what I clung to initially as my Purpose – a Juilliard trained classical musician that should be playing oboe in one of America’s top 5 orchestras (jeesh, what high demands we place on ourselves!) – to get to where I am today, helping nonprofits with fundraising and grant writing so that they can raise more money to serve…yep, those less fortunate and most in need.

    Will I still be living the same purpose in 10 years? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m sure it will somehow involve helping those less fortunate, but it may not be through grant writing for nonprofits. The great take-away from your article, for me – is that when we can let go of what can often be a very rigid definition of Purpose, we open ourselves up to a world, no a universe, of possibilities.

    Cheers,
    Derek

  6. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Derek, thank you for taking the time to share your experience with this. I think you maybe said it better than I did: “When we can let go of what can often be a very rigid definition of Purpose, we open ourselves up to a world, no a universe, of possibilities.”
    As an MFA trained actor, I have experienced the incredibly (incredibly) difficult transition of letting go of an artistic career and moving into something more service-oriented. For me, it felt like a shift from a passion-driven work to purpose-driven work. It sounds like that may have been the case for you, too.

    I honestly have no problem with people thinking they have a Purpose–if it’s helpful for them. Overwhelming in my work, I’m talking with people for whom the pursuit of a capital P Purpose has made them miserable or confused. In that case: ditch it.

    Thanks again for commenting. I’m glad you found your way here and hope to hear from you again in the future.

    Best,
    Laura

  7. tara@taraleaver.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 10:18 am

    I love this kind of thinking. From what I’ve observed, what happens is an idea starts to become popular, and then the meaning of that idea becomes so mainstream that people don’t define it for themselves any more. Saying you have ‘a’ Purpose is like saying there’s only one possibility for each of us.
    What I’ve learned {and I suppose I’ve been working my way towards my ‘purpose’ although I didn’t call it that, I have just been following my heart towards what I love to do and investigating ways I might do it, whether it’s a full time job or not}, is that purpose is not so much what you do as who you are. And it’s not just one thing, although it might be many things that join together to create an overall picture.

    Your ‘purpose’, if you’re going to use that word, is revealed by how you live your life, where you focus your energies, what you love to do, how you do it, how it evolves and expands. And over time that becomes something clearer and more tangible, and perhaps therefore something you can earn a living from. In my experience it’s not something you dig around for or try to work out, it’s something that comes through as you keep moving forward in the direction your heart and interests take you. Maybe that sounds wishy washy and oversimplified, but it’s been true for me.

  8. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Tara, yes! I think this is one of those ideas that has gone rogue and is causing people a lot of grief. It’s so limiting to think you have only one, mystical, needle in a haystack Purpose, and I totally agree that what we stand for and what fulfills us evolves over time. Loved hearing your take on this!

  9. alison@thepetitcadeau.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Laura,
    This was a great read. I’m learning to follow my heart and my “career”/passion projects, trust the timing, and most importantly (and very recently) moving away from the big END GOAL (whatever that is) and just focusing on the journey and where it takes me. Life can be very surprising and I want to be open to possibility.

  10. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 12:58 am

    The big END GOAL–what a distraction! I’ve given up on the end and just try to ride the wave now. Terrifying at first, but way more fun (and practical) now that I’ve had some practice at it.

  11. wmunderhill@gmail.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Thank You !!! xx

  12. benyaweller@gmail.com

    August 7th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Thanks for your unconventional thought! What a relief to read! Purposes can also change throughout life, therefore they are open and changeble. Or you can have multiple purposes. It gave me lots of pressure to find out my purpose and to do only this. In the end I get inspired by posts like these which help me to be more confident in “just” doing what is true joy!

  13. Anonymous

    August 8th, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    […] “You don’t have a purpose” – Find out why you’re a human, not a hammer… […]

  14. alisayuiblog@gmail.com

    August 9th, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Interesting read, Laura.I’ve been working with a life coach as a trade off, and one of the things she stressed was purpose. I don’t buy into everything she says (i.e.: everything happens for a reason, etc.), but I do agree that you don’t have a capital P purpose. That being said, I don’t think people seek to find their purpose because they want to be shoved into a box and defined. I think that people (myself included) want to know why things happen to them, especially in times of pain. While this may sound like a victim mentality, having a purpose can also help people out of a tough place. I’m not trying to eradicate your points, because I agree with them, to a certain extent. But as some of your readers have said in the comments above, purpose can be malleable.

  15. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    August 10th, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I think there’s a difference between having a Purpose, which implies singularity and some kind of destiny, and making sense of hard times and difficult situations. I’m a pragmatist about this stuff; if identifying with a Purpose it helpful for people, then I think they should use that. For many people I see, the pursuit of a Purpose puts them in a tough plaee rather than getting them out of one.

  16. lizsmith77@westnet.com.au

    August 9th, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    This is a beautiful re-frame of purpose Laura.Purpose can mean something different to each of us and to me it has always simply been following the way of the heart, being as connected to whatever it is and being open to it changing.
    When my “doing” is aligned with my purpose, there is less striving. My “doing” has taken many different forms over the years and I’m sure it’s bound to change many more times.
    I’m glad you hit publish on this 😉

  17. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    August 10th, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks, Liz. Glad you’re “doing.” And yes to being open to changes.

  18. Anonymous

    August 10th, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    […] Wooosh. YES. You don’t have a purpose.  […]

  19. Anonymous

    August 11th, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    […] You Don’t Have a Purpose (Yoinks! I said it.) from Create as […]

  20. Anonymous

    August 15th, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    […] Have you devoted a lot of your energy to finding your purpose? Laura Simms is here to tell you that “You Don’t Have a Purpose (Yoinks! I said it.)&#822… […]

  21. Anonymous

    August 19th, 2014 at 10:16 am

    […] Simms of Create as Folk shared still another viewpoint in a recent blog post, that people don’t have a purpose! She explains, “Objects have a purpose. A hammer is for putting nails in. A couch is for […]

  22. Anonymous

    February 19th, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    […] you know I don’t think you have a Purpose, you better believe I don’t think you have a Passion. You can have many passions and care […]

  23. Anonymous

    June 18th, 2015 at 12:01 am

    […] I want to say about purpose, at least as I understand it, is that I don’t believe that we have one destined purpose that we’re born with that stays the same with us throughout our entire […]

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