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  • Keith Shaw

Finding Life's Purpose


I have had several times in my life when I have been off purpose. The symptoms of this are common.


Have you ever found yourself debating the merits of the CR-V vs. the RAV-4 or whether 4K is actually better than 1080p? Are the recent activities of the popular social media stars top of your feed? Without something capturing our attention, we look for entertainment. Researching the finer points of the newest tech in televisions, shopping for the perfect pair of brogues or eating needlessly, are some symptoms of boredom. Now there is nothing wrong with a fun and hobby but for me, these distractions can take up more time than they should. Conversely, I can think back to the times that I have been on purpose and how clear the way forward was. One of those times was when I was in pharmacy school. Two things were important that I did not even recognize at the time.


First, the goal was so clear that reaching it seemed like a certainty. I had 100% belief in myself and the process I was involved in. The prospect of failure seemed so remote that the achievement of my pharmacy license seemed like a foregone conclusion. It was as if I did not achieve, that would be a colossal failure, and on the other side, there was only the status quo, non-failure. The goal was so clear it did not seem like a goal at all.

Second, the amount of work that was applied to the process was immense. Six years of university, endless hours of study, a complete living and breathing of pharmacy every hour. We worked at the pharmacy, we studied pharmacy, we went to class, we ate slept and repeated. Doing the work though was almost easy because it was so well connected to a real outcome. Study hard, pass the test. The more you studied, the less you had to worry, the less stress there was.


Fast forward to today, and to a project where the outcome is not so clear, and I have found it more difficult to apply myself in the same ways. There is no guarantee that if I work hard, I’ll get what I want anymore. This can temper my enthusiasm for the hard work that success requires and cause an unfortunate vicious cycle where lack of belief causes less effort and less effort leads to failure. The self-fulfilling prophecy. Being self-aware of this is the first step to setting yourself up for success in new endeavours.


So that’s it? A clear way forward? But what if you haven’t been struck in the face with what your life’s purpose is? What else is critical to understand about purpose as we enter the later years of our life?


Purpose is not found sitting on the couch. Like learning anything, action and practice get results. Unless an unfortunate event affects someone from outside, purpose is found first by living authentically, that is being your true unique self, by connecting with others, and finally, by living presently, that is, living into each moment and appreciating the present with joy while creating plans and goals for the future.


Purpose can change. My sole purpose for my life from the time I was 19 until I was 25 years old, was to achieve my pharmacy license and start my career. There was no wife, no children, no mortgage. I was singularly focused. Today, my life is one of striving for high performance. It means competing priorities need to be managed. It means that other people’s needs must be considered. It means working to benefit my community. Enjoying what I’ve built, maintaining my health, growing my relationships all factor into how I spend my time. Coaching can help uncover the things that matter to you most, and help you find that traction and effort that only comes when the goals are clear.


If you are off purpose, again look for the symptoms, shopping, TV, excess social media scrolling, etc., the first steps to finding the path are easy. Live with presence, be your unique self, (don’t hide your light!), and connect meaningfully with others.