“[True happiness] is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” — Helen Keller
When I was younger, I used to think a “worthy purpose” meant having to do something that makes a huge difference in the world, like ending world hunger, engaging in world peace efforts, environmental conservation, starting schools for the less-privileged… mostly humanitarian stuff.
I think many people may have a similar misconception, particularly if they’re religious, and perhaps this is what makes people contribute extensively to humanitarian projects and charities, without truly understanding what they are really doing it for, or simply because it’s a “good”, “right”, or “loving” thing to do.
Of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong with contributing your time, money and energy to such causes. These humanitarian efforts are worthwhile pursuits indeed, and they could be a worthy and meaningful purpose for some of their contributors, but that doesn’t mean it is a worthy and meaningful purpose for everyone else.
Your worthy purpose isn’t something decided by the world, or what you’ve been told you “should” do as a way to make a difference.
What’s worthwhile and meaningful for you is a unique and personal choice that only you can make for yourself.
What is it that truly matters to you? What are you truly passionate about? What kind of life do you want to live, such that you can look back at the end of your days and declare to yourself with certainty: “I did good, and I have no regrets”?
Your worthy purpose is unique to you, and it isn’t necessarily going to be world-changing, but it’s certainly a cause you can devote yourself to that will make all the difference in your world.
And this cause will appear to you in different forms that will change and evolve over time.
It’s a common misconception that when we feel called to pursue our passion, it will always be crystal clear and it won’t ever change. This leads to us trying to figure out what’s the “right” thing for us, and how do we know it’s the “right” purpose and the “right” dream to pursue, before we are certain and confident about taking action.
The truth is, we won’t ever know if something really is “right” for us until we just do it and find out. Discovering what’s worthwhile as your purpose is seldom obvious and in-your-face, because there’s a lot of noise within ourselves that drown out our deepest truths and what truly matters to us.
More often than not we have a few seemingly unrelated pieces of the puzzle, and it’s a lifelong process of trial and error to figure out how they fit together.
And it’s only when we go about taking steps to fulfil that purpose as best as we can, that we gather more data about ourselves and what matters to us. The more we take action and make something happen, the more we uncover opportunities for further growth and self-discovery.
And as we begin to discover which specifics in our worthy purpose resonate with us, and which ones don’t, we inevitably adjust our plans and allow the new discoveries to take us in a different direction which otherwise wasn’t clear before.
Thus, whatever you believe you’re passionate about now, whatever you believe is your dream right now, despite the uncertainty of whether it’s the “right” thing for you, the only way forward is to take some action, because it will most likely evolve and be further refined over the course of your journey.
And because your worthy purpose is unique to you, this is also a journey that is uniquely yours, hence it’s perfectly normal to feel alone and like nobody understands what you’re going through.
Chances are your friends and family, like most of the world, subscribe to societal norms and conventional beliefs, and when you’re the only person you know who’s seeking a worthy purpose in your life, it can sometimes feel like your loved ones aren’t even at your side.
This sometimes brings about a temptation to adjust our plans to make them more palatable to those around us, so we’re better able to attain their understanding and support, so we can feel less alone and less like the odd one out.
However, the truth is that every single person is on their own journey, and it doesn’t serve you to change your plans or alter your dreams just to fit in with the world around you.
But that also doesn’t meant you have to go it alone. At the very least you’ll need people in your life who are also taking action on their worthy purpose and dreams, because they’ll better be able to relate to you and give you the support and encouragement that you need.
In the long run, it will benefit you to get out of your usual social circles and seek out places (physical and online) to meet other like-minded individuals who either share a similar purpose, or a similar mindset of pursuing something worthwhile and meaningful as a purpose for their lives.