He could steadily feel the pressure building. Moment by moment his time drew closer, it wouldn’t be long before it was his turn. A sweat broke on his forehead and his hands became clammy. One by one they went before him, some were prepared and fared well, facing the challenge with confidence and coming away successful. Others crumbled under the spotlight, unable to handle the pressure. A few were quick on their feet, managing to think fast and get through unscathed. He still wasn’t sure which category he fell into; he only knew he wanted it to be over. Suddenly, it was down to the person before him who responded with consummate ease. The pressure mounted. Finally, he was in the spotlight, all eyes focussed on him, a collective breath held to see what he would do. The moment came: “So Jimmy, what are your New Year’s resolutions?”
I’ve don’t think I’ve ever really been a fan of New Year’s resolutions; they have always just seemed a bit contrived to me. There seems to be this pressure to commit to making significant life changes based on a date rather than any genuine need or desire to change. And so often, maybe because of this, these commitments are broken as quickly as they are made. There is an uneasy meeting in our culture between the need to better ourselves and the pressure for short term, immediate gains. Add to that the frequent shifting of goal posts in terms of what self-improvement actually looks like and you have an environment which makes sustained, meaningful change extremely difficult. When results aren’t seen quickly, the going gets tough, or popular culture shifts, it can be easier just to stop putting the effort in rather than pushing through. Another factor is that changes are often made for the sake of change, or because it’s popular, rather than for any specific reason. There is no purpose behind the change other than obligation or social pressure. I believe this is one of the biggest reasons for people not being able to follow through with commitments to change; they simply don’t know what the purpose of the change is. If there is no intrinsic need or benefit for the change, it won’t succeed.
So what is the alternative? I believe that if decisions to change are to be successful they need to be based on desire rather than a date. And in order for that desire to have depth and meaning, it needs to be based in a purpose. If a decision is based on short term emotion or pressure then it will likely not stand up to challenges because it doesn’t have real meaning for us. But if a decision is based on true desire to change linked to a sense of purpose for that change, then we are far more likely to hold true when things get tough. So what is purpose, and how can we apply this to our lives? Purpose is defined as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists” and “a person’s sense of resolve or determination”. This means our purpose is our reason for living and our resolve to get things done. Each of us are created differently, we all have different skill sets, passions and circumstances. No two people are exactly the same and we each have a role to play, a purpose for living. The question is, are we going to see that purpose through? If fulfilling that purpose is something that you want to do, I believe there are three steps to doing so:
- Choose Purpose: You cannot fulfil your purpose unless you choose to be purposed. A lot of people are content to just float through life and see where it takes them. This is not fulfilling your purpose. Purpose is not fate or destiny. Purpose is a choice to be proactive and do what you were created to do.
- Pursue Purpose: As I just said, purpose is something you need to actively seek. Our purpose is generally found in the overlap between our gifts, our passions and our opportunities. Pursuing your purpose may involve learning, gaining skills, seeking support and input from others. Doing whatever it takes to discover your purpose and grow so you can fulfil it.
- Live Purpose: Purpose is not a short-term or temporary thing. It is a lifestyle where you seek to integrate your purpose into how you live. It’s not a hobby or a passing phase, but rather an element of your life which grows and develops as you do. It may take different forms and operate at different intensities, but it is always an aspect of you.
I encourage you as you finish reading this to take a moment to reflect on the following questions:
- Do you know what your purpose is?
- If you do, how are you pursuing it and living it out?
- If you don’t what are you doing to find it?
- In pursuing your purpose, what would you like to achieve in the next 3 months? The next year? The next 5 years?
I believe that each of us is created for a purpose. Hebrews 12:1 says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” There are no spectators or extras in this life; we all have a reason for being. We all have a race to run. I would like to challenge you today to seek out your purpose and to pursue it. Don’t allow the temptation of floating through life to distract you, but rather seek that true purpose where you will find deeper meaning and joy in life.