Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Tangled Web of Purpose

The other day I had a conversation with a young counseling client about his life purpose.  It was interesting to discover that his (and my own) perception about purpose was entirely based upon about what we are to do in life, i.e., go to school, build a career, buy a home, have a family, etc.  But what if our purpose is a bit more complicated and tangled than that?

As I listened it dawned on me that perhaps part of this young man's purpose is also to be my client, helping me to learn and hone my counseling craft.  Likewise part of my purpose is to be his counselor, to help him learn to move through his life with more ease.  Thus his purpose and mine are intertwined. 

Imagine that life is an enormous jigsaw puzzle with each person representing a single piece of unique shape and size.  No matter how insignificant one feels their piece is, the space left by even the smallest missing chunk leaves a glaring hole in the picture.

It's terribly simple yet complicated at the same time.  One morning my purpose might be to smile at the depressed lady at the grocery store to remind her that all is not lost, while hers might be to awaken my compassion.  Later my kids' purpose might be to push the boundaries of my tolerance so that I lose my temper and illustrate for them that everyone has their limits.  A lovingly cooked dinner has no purpose without hungry mouths to eat it, and likewise a brilliant performance needs to see itself reflected back in appreciative eyes to feel purposeful. 

We do not exist in a vacuum - it is not possible for my purpose and yours to be mutually exclusive.  Carl Jung said, "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. " And it seems to me we can only achieve that with the help of another.

Living a life of purpose is our natural state.  Once we recognize this we can let go of the illusion that purpose = achievement.  If you have goal to achieve great things then good for you, but don't discount the importance of your more mundane interactions with others - healers need patients, teachers need students, and politicians need voters.

Today my purpose included writing this short blog.  If your purpose has been to read it, then I am honored and awed by our interconnection.  Have a wonderful, purposeful day.