5 truths about living with purpose

Dec 09, 2015 by Ronnie Apteker

Purpose is about having meaning. A sense that what you are doing comes from a place deep in your heart. It is about doing something you believe in – something you want to do, with all your being. But purpose is both a privilege and a curse. A true purpose most often becomes an obsession and it keeps your mind racing until the small hours each and every night. There is no switching off from a calling.

Most people do not think about this word. And that is not good or bad. In my experience, the majority of people are trying to make a living, and balance the budget, and one has to respect that. Paying the rent is important. Feeding your family is fundamental. But sometimes, people get excited about something. A vision that keeps them bouncing off the walls. An excitement that they can’t let go of. And sometimes this vision, coupled with intense work, leads to glory, and sometimes it does not. I don’t believe that people with a sense of purpose ever really considered that it could lead them to wealth. There was an itch and it needed to be scratched. The motivation was all about climbing that mountain. Making a difference, adding something to the world, doing what you believe in. And when one does it well, and when luck shines on you, then yes, the result could be financially rewarding.

I don’t think one wakes up and goes “How do I find a purpose?”. I think it just happens. But, there are ways to discover this sense. Finding one’s purpose is a journey of self-discovery, and it is not for everyone. And again, that is not good or bad. It takes a lot of strength to follow a dream.

Labours of love

I am always inspired by people who do what they love and love what they do. I live by this, but, it doesn’t mean that what we do always loves us back. Love is a verb, and it requires work. There are days when I go to bed stressed and exhausted. Sometimes it feels like the road is just too hard, and that I not going to make it. But somehow I always find the strength to continue. Being driven, especially by a sense of purpose, means that you take the good days and the bad days, and you don’t give up. And there are often many many bad days – it is not easy trying to follow what is in your heart. Sure, you may love what you are trying to do, but actually doing it can be a real struggle so much of the time.

They say that an overnight success takes 20 years. In the same way, a marriage is not a constant bed of roses. My married friends always tell me that it is hard work. Sacrifice, comprise, effort.

The great companies out there, the ones we admire, the ones that inspire us, are more than often a result of a labour of love. Purpose underpins this love, and we often only see the successful results of a long and difficult journey. Following a path of purpose and passion is intense and it requires dedication and sacrifice. Yes, it can also be fun at times, and, often it is exciting, but hard work is fundamental.

The path

An honest purpose is never-ending. It is something that should outlive you. If you build something good in the world, then, it should attract others, who will contribute to the mission, and long after you are gone, the mission will continue. This is the history of all successful endeavours with purpose.

Following a dream, living with passion, being driven by a purpose, is going to be filled with ups and downs. That expression about the light at the end of the tunnel is commonplace when on a long journey. And that is the thing, this path, a journey of purpose, is never-ending – the tunnel should go on forever. We do need light though – light is fundamental. But it is not a pot of gold at the end of the tunnel. We need light to shine often, to show us the way. We need to always reach milestones, and take time to reflect, and to celebrate. But the journey never ends.

Is purpose fun?

Purpose can be important, inspired, beautiful, but I would not use the word “fun” to describe this journey. Of course, there may be many moments of fun, but as the mission grows, and as more and more people come on board, so will your responsibility increase. Looking after people, and nurturing human potential, is a big part of living with purpose. Following a dream more than often means being responsible to other people who join you on this journey. And looking after people, while often fulfilling and rewarding, is not something I would call fun.

Listening to what is in your heart, and trying to pursue a dream is often a financial struggle and uncertainty is never fun. Sleeping late is fun. Not having stress is fun. Having no reasonability is fun. And when it comes to leading people, that is not a popularity contest. But still, I would not change anything I have done in my life. Because there has been much joy and fulfilment, and the fun is when you can see the smiles on people’s faces from a job well done - there is no better feeling.


Are we born with purpose? Is it something we discover? Is purpose the same as destiny?

I believe that our character is our destiny. We are the choices we make.

Purpose is about a God given talent. It is about having a gift that you want to share with the world. It is about a vision for something that is worthwhile and important. It is about doing something that makes a difference. It is about passion and inspiration. How you realize this purpose is about character, which in turn is about your destiny.

Be honest

Purpose requires a brutal honesty – with yourself. It is about doing what you believe in, and not about what will make you rich and famous. And if following your calling does lead you to financial success, then you are blessed.

A good exercise to try, should one want to soul search to try and articulate what they want to do in this world, is to write down all the things that you do not like. Make a list of all the things you are not good at. Things which don’t sit comfortably for you – that will get you a step closer to understanding what it is you love to do. The process of elimination is a very focusing exercise.

Another thing to try is to ask the most fundamental question: If you woke up tomorrow, and money was no object, and you could do anything you wanted to do in this world, then what would that be? Your answer may have a lot to do with purpose, or, it could have something to do with vanity. Saying you want to be a movie star, for example, when acting is not something you are good at, is more about the destination than the journey. Being honest with yourself goes back to the famous ancient Greek proverb: know thyself.

When you are hustling then it is about making money, but when you feel it, believe it, love it (even if it doesn’t always love you back) then it is about something else. Perhaps purpose. It requires strength and faith, and yes, honesty.

Summing up

Ignorance is bliss. Not everyone is driven by purpose, and that is ok. Some people think about the meaning of what we do, and some don’t. There is no right and wrong here. All that matters is that we are honest with ourselves. If all you want to do is make money, then that is fine too. Much of the world works like that. But, if you want to explore something deeper, then this word “purpose” represents the ultimate journey: the opportunity to learn about who you are and what makes you tick.

Walt Disney captured the never-ending nature of purpose when he said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” And, George Merck II, the son of the founder of the Merck Pharmaceutical company, said the following in 1950, “We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.” These insightful words are all about purpose.

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