There are lots of gurus (both spiritual and secular) in today's world who either believe that they have somehow unlocked a definition of purpose, or that each person has the power to unlock a singular definition of purpose. These types of gurus capture people’s attention with simplified teachings and phrases like “Follow your heart” or “God has a plan” or “Pursue your dreams” or “Uncover your passion.” But what if you have malice in your heart? What if you don’t believe in your dreams, or you don’t know how to discover what you are passionate about? What if you’re not clear about God’s plan for your life? Though these sayings might look good on a bumper sticker, they can be confusing to follow.
Oversimplified sayings are attractive a lot of times - not because of their truth but rather because of their simplicity. Many of us just want to have the assurance and security that we are on the right path. Clinging to these sayings are a way to avoid nuance, complexity, and the wrestling or questioning each of us must engage with in the messiness of life. Gurus take full advantage of our desires for this kind of clarity and promise us wholeness through following their way. And we eat it up. Why? Because it is easier to think we’re on the right path in, say, “following our heart”, than it is to introspectively evaluate the desires of our heart, where they might be coming from, and who they might help.
There might be some truths in the sayings above, but many of us become discouraged with these singular notions. We become frustrated whenever we don’t know what's in our heart…or cannot pin down our dream or the passion we want to uncover...or experience a trauma that cannot be tritely explained as God's plan. Just about anything that promises a solution and does not lead to an inner journey of some sort ultimately implodes in some way.
Some of the societal myths out there like the American Dream play themselves out similarly to these trite sayings. For example, it is easier to just keep buying bigger, more expensive things and live within a materialistic paradigm (which marketers take full advantage of) than it is to ask ourselves the deeper questions about why we’re living the way we are or the purpose our resources might have in bringing healing into the world.
Plenty of us rush to both secular and religious quick-fixes, but many of these ideologies serve as mere band-aids so that we do not have to confront our pain. Discovering purpose entails a long journey of questioning. It will sometimes be excruciating. The death of our pride and ego can be a painful process. As the Apostle Paul said, "To live is Christ, to die is gain." As Jesus himself said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Discovering the treasure within and uncovering a deeper purpose requires venturing into our soul. See, though purpose is universal, it is also multidimensional. We are connected by the thread of purpose, but each of us also lives this out uniquely according to our own gifts, skills, and talents. You must journey inward to understand your soul, personality, and even your ego’s tendencies in order to uncover your true purpose.
It’s all interconnected. Dr. Myles Munroe believed that our identity, source, purpose, potential, and destiny are all woven together in some way. Our universal desire for truth and meaning hinge upon how well we are able to answer these questions: Who am I? Where am I from? Why am I here? What can I do? Where am I going?
Dr. Steven Taylor, author of Spiritual Science, wrote that there are five primary avenues where humans experience purpose: survival, adopting a pre-existing framework or purpose and meaning, personal accumulative, altruistic/idealist, and personal and spiritual development. No one can articulate this about themself coming out of the womb. It is multidimensional. It requires work. It requires life and all the joys and pains life brings with it.
Ask the deeper questions about your identity, source, purpose, potential, and destiny. Face your struggles the next time you look in the mirror. Gravitate toward the space you fear the most. That's most likely where most of your inner work needs to be done. Explore the spaces in your life where purpose might be calling out to you. This is your journey, and only you can travel its path. Purpose requires discovery. And that discovery begins with your own curiosity. Let your curiosity guide you to unleash the vast diversity of your unique purpose.