Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Deuteronomy 30:11-14

At one time, the beginning of the year was a time for me to set goals. I would write my goals for the year, for five years, for ten years. I spent a lot of time thinking about my goals because that was what people who were going places did. I was in marketing at AT&T, and I felt I was going places. “I will be vice-president in 10 years by exceeding my sales goals each year.” Great goal—it was specific, measurable, action-oriented, rewarding, and time-based. Of course, you recognize the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting strategy. I knew how to set goals.

bird-at-beachThe problem came when the goals I set somehow did not fit with what I enjoyed doing. I felt disconnected. But I didn’t stop trying. I kept setting goals and even achieving some of them. But somehow I was still missing something. I was missing the work that would keep me going regardless of the pay, the prestige, or the praise of the people who measured me by my accomplishments.

Then I was really surprised when I accepted my call to the ministry. Whoa! Who knew this was coming? But I continued with the corporate mindset: Set your goals, Hilda. Where do you want to be in five years, ten years? How are you going to reach your goals? Write it down. Then something changed—again. I started hearing more talk about “purpose” rather than “goals.” I would hear that purpose was different from goals. You don’t chase purpose. It emerges from who you are. Wow. You mean, no pressure. I can’t complete it in five or ten years? Okay—then where do I get this “purpose”? I found some experts.

Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life, has a TED Talk, “A Life of Purpose.”  (TED is a nonprofit that spreads ideas, usually by powerful talks). Warren was helpful in defining purpose as using your “identity, income, and influence” to serve others.

If you need more direction, here is a short talk I like, How to Know Your Life Purpose in Five Minutes by Adam Leipzig. If you want a strategy for finding your purpose, you will find some help here. His philosophy is similar to Warren’s in that he also focuses on what you do for others.

But what is missing from both descriptions of living with purpose is how it makes you feel. Both Warren and Leipzig say, “It’s not about you.” But I suggest it is. When you are living with purpose, you feel joy. This joy is not defined by whether it’s specific, or measurable, actionable, realistic, or Each New Year you don’t have to return to your planner and map your goals for the year. Ask yourself, “What brings you joy?” I realized I was living my purpose when I noticed regardless of where I was employed, I would write: I wrote in my journal, I wrote for a regional newspaper, I wrote a book (and have two more sitting on my computer!). Now I realize I write to bring people joy and well-being. This is how I serve others. This is my purpose. This is my joy. It’s always been right in front of me.


My Daily Joys

  • Watching snow falling from indoors with a fire burning in the fireplace and my family all safe
  • The smell of a freshly cut lemon
  • Whole wheat pancakes and maple syrup
  • The scraggly plant I bought has revived under my care
  • A surprise gift in my mailbox
  • Walking on the bayou
  • Getting cool new glasses