I’ve spent most of my life in search of meaning and purpose. I’ve learned something about myself and the meaning of life that I’d love to share with you. I have a Christian worldview, so I’ll be quoting several Bible verses in this post. This doesn’t mean that this message is only for Christians.
I confess, I’m a control freak. I’ve learned over the years that this isn’t always an endearing trait. However, it is a big part of who I am. As I reflect on my life, it’s clear to me that I’m not in control. Even today, as a business coach, I urge my clients to create business plans and execute those plans. I believe that planning takes the stress out of life. We think that we can somehow control the future if we write it down. I always thought, if I knew my purpose… what I was supposed to do on this earth, I could write it down and execute the plan. I would somehow win this game of life. As a Christian, this language turns into, “God, tell me what you want me to do or what you want me to be!”
In a recent Bible study at my church, we were studying the book of James. James 4:13-17 says,
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
There are several passages in the Bible that speak of this arrogance of planning as being evil. This passage clashes with my control freak brain.
I want to share something with you that’s rather personal. I prayed fervently to be shown my purpose. I sensed a voice saying, “Do what you will as long as your heart is mine.” When I put this together with all the Bible verses, I realized that our life’s mission is about our choices. It’s how we treat others. Do we live with honor? Do we have compassion on the poor? Do we love others whether they deserve it or not? OR… Do we look the other way marching toward some fabricated life mission?
We’re all born into a certain family, ethnicity, country, and situation. Some are born with disabilities and limitations. Still others have unique physical or mental gifts. None of these matter to your intrinsic value or purpose. Nor, does success or failure in the way that most of us have defined it. What does matter is your heart. By heart, I mean how you see others. Do you treat others with derision? Do you look down on those who may not be as gifted as you? Do you scoff at those who are more gifted than you? When you’re led to help others, do you ignore that urging? How do you relate to money? Is money your god? Is money a resource? Do you boast about your giftedness?
If I shouldn’t write down a life mission or plan my life, what’s the point? There is a framework that will not fail you regardless of your life situation: 1) Moral framework; and 2) Your Giftedness.
I resisted writing this part but feel I can’t leave it out. I’ve used the Bible as a guidebook. I know that many believe the Bible was written by humans who wanted to control other humans. If this is you, I won’t convince you otherwise. If you read the Bible in chronological order, you will get a sense of how God used several characters in the Bible for great things. Most importantly, you will understand a framework for your design. Here are a few highlights:
You and all around you are a unique creation.
God has set up rules for our benefit.
All of us will break these rules from time to time.
God paid our debt for rule breaking.
Grace, forgiveness, and love is God’s way.
This is GOOD NEWS… let everyone know.
These truths are a condensed version of a story God tells us in the Bible through the lives of the Israelites. In short, God is just; God is love. Your life is a gift, and you have a purpose. Most importantly, you’re not an accident of evolution or a big bang.
If you haven’t read the Bible or don’t plan to read the Bible anytime soon, remember this one verse. Romans 2:14-15.
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
By “the law”, Paul is referring to the Bible. This verse essentially means that reading or not reading the Bible doesn’t make God’s laws any more or less in force. In fact, Paul is saying that people know the difference between right and wrong without reading the Bible.
This obedience to moral law is the framework of life. With the understanding that all will not follow this framework perfectly; and we are not to fit to judge others.
There are countless resources that can help you better understand your giftedness (Strengths Finders, SHAPE, Enneagram, MBTI, DiSC, and many more). These resources will confirm something you already know and give you the confidence you need. However, you know your giftedness and your skills without these assessments. If you feel confused about this area of your life, ask someone who knows you. Sometimes our gifts are obvious to others and invisible to us.
I have recently learned that our gifts manifest themselves as positive or negative (Check out the Enneagram). Just because you are following your giftedness doesn’t mean that you are living a purpose-filled life. For instance, let’s say that you’re an introvert. You may think, “Since I’m an introvert, it’s okay to avoid people. Afterall, that’s not who I am.” If you’re an introvert, you will draw energy working alone and be good at focusing on tasks that do not involve other people. You will tend to be deenergized in groups of people. While this is true about your personality; it doesn’t mean that your life was meant to be lived out as a hermit. In fact, you may be suited to team up with extroverts who communicate your brilliant ideas to the world.
The reason I like the Enneagram as an assessment tool is that it doesn’t just put you in a category that has you nodding your head in agreement. Instead, you learn that there are three different aspects of your category or number: 1) Healthy; 2) Average; and 3) Unhealthy.
An honest assessment of your gifts will result in a conclusion. This conclusion may be that you like to solve complex problems, or you want to heal the sick, or you an artist with the written word, or you can create amazing beauty with music, or you have a heart for the elderly, or you love nurturing your children, or you love numbers. Whatever your gift… it speaks volumes about where your life can make the biggest impact in this world.
When you align your giftedness with God’s framework for life you will accomplish your life’s mission. Your life’s mission may be to pilot a trip to Mars; or it may be to help elderly people in your neighborhood. When you do it within God’s framework, utilizing the gifts you’ve been given, you can’t go wrong.
Many think they cannot accomplish their mission because they don’t have enough money; or they had a bad childhood; or whatever other excuse seems handy. The beauty of business is that a business will generate the financial resources it needs to accomplish its mission. Even non-profit organizations must raise money to accomplish great things. Raising money can be earning a profit in a company that delivers products and services. Most entrepreneurs are perfectly happy working to earn the money they need to accomplish their mission. If money is not forthcoming for your life’s mission, it's right to question whether you’re headed in the right direction.
Bringing Glory to God
I hear Christians saying, “I want my life to glorify God.” These folks have the best of intentions. However, I believe this is a false teaching. God is glorious. Nothing you do will add to or subtract from God’s glory. This mantra tends to force good Christians to hide their imperfections and pretend to be perfect people. They believe that their life’s example will somehow convince others to follow their religion. Some of the most heinous criminals of our day pretended to be good Christians, never showing their dark side for fear they’d fail to bring glory to God.
Your Profession is Divine
We tend to separate our personal life from our corporate life. We treat our work as if it is a means to an end. We work all year to afford a 2-week vacation where we can finally enjoy life. You could be a plumber, a carpenter, an engineer, an insurance salesperson, a realtor, or a home maker. What you do is important whether you get paid for it or not.
I hear people say, “If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” This implies that “work” is bad. In our modern society, we have been conditioned to think that comfort and ease is a reasonable goal. Work hard and retire early so that you can finally enjoy life. Frankly, most of my business owner clients are not looking forward to retiring. Is it because they love to wake up early, get little sleep, and stress about money? No. It’s because they believe their work is meaningful. Because their work makes a difference, they will gladly be uncomfortable and stressed to complete their work.
Yes, your work is important; but your life’s mission is not just your work.
Once upon a time, I started a business called Ennovate Corporation. Ennovate was engaged in making buildings more energy efficient, installing renewable energy systems, and helping its clients conserve energy. This mission felt altruistic. Afterall, Ennovate was helping to save the planet; and I was leading Ennovate on its mission. My giftedness as an engineer and leader seemed to be aligned with a life’s mission to save the planet. What became obvious at some point was that I was sacrificing many relationships in my life to accomplish this mission. Ironically, the things I was sacrificing were the things that God says are important.
Thinking that work was my problem, I resigned from work a year after selling my company to spend more time at home with my family. I was not happy with spending my days at home annoying my family. I needed balance. When I started coaching small business owners, I was fortunate to gain some tools from my life coaching school. One of these tools that I still use today with my clients is a Life Wheel. I encourage anyone to do the Life Wheel assessment to better understand where they may be able to gain better work/life balance.
I hope that you’ve gained insight into how to go about finding your life’s mission. I know that this is a deep topic, but it is foundational to anything else you do in life.
About me. I have been actively engaged in the energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy conservation industry all my professional career from 1987 until now. I was a licensed Professional Engineering in six states and a Certified Energy Manager (CEM). I worked as a sales executive, energy engineer, sales manager, and entrepreneur. I started, grew, and sold an Energy Service Company (ESCo) called Ennovate Corporation (1997 to 2013). I now coach business owners, engineers, and business development executives in the energy efficiency industry.