26 | Finding Meaning and Purpose: Eight Ways to Check if You Have It

How do you KNOW you are living with meaning and purpose? We are wrapping up this season on meaning and purpose: shoot us an email if you want our list of eight items to ponder if you are living with meaning and purpose. 

How do you know? If you are ABSOLUTELY MISSING it, you likely know it. And if you are ABSOLUTING SMASHING IT, you likely know that. The interesting bit is the in-between. 

I’m really struck by how purpose is such a powerful organizing principle for our lives. It really shows us where our treasure is. It’s a compass. Before we had really dug into this season, I (Curtis) had understood, of course, that it’s central to well-being. Everybody who’s anybody in psychology or positive psychology tells us that meaning and purpose are critical for human well-being. 

But what’s really standing out to me is how powerfully orienting it is in our spiritual life and our lives and our mental, spiritual, and emotional domains.

A lot of Catholics teaching spirituality place a great emphasis on holiness. Being holy. Sure, that’s something for us to be. However, it doesn’t really tell us what to do while we are being “holy.” 

Purpose answers this question: what shall we do now? What’s next? What are my priorities? Where will I spend my time, money, and talent? What will I pay attention to? “Pay” attention. I only have so much of it, right? 

If you feel the PAIN of no purpose, you will start looking for answers. You might stay stuck. But you will look. You might lapse into despair and stop looking, but you will still be hoping it shows up for you. 

It’s the lukewarm middle that’s intriguing. 

I think we are too quick to “settle for” much less than is possible for us. That we settle for much less than God will provide for us. While that means more comfort and less challenge, it also ultimately means less joy and more regrets. Eww. 

If we are “OK” but not “Full” of meaning and purpose, likely you are not going to change. It’s human nature. Hey, if I don’t feel the pain, I’m not gonna change. Why should I?

Karen says: “ I don’t know if it’s been this way for you listeners, but this question, how do you know that you’re living with purpose? The question of how you know you’re living purposefully has continued to come back for me.”  

What are the signs or symptoms or ways to assess that you’re living a purposeful life? 

Here are some signs. We took these from Richard Leider’s book, Repacking Your Bags

  • You have a purpose larger than your own needs, wants, and desires–a sense of how your life and work fit into the larger scheme of things  You know you are part of something bigger. 
  • You have an internal compass that keeps you “true” to your purpose in life
  • You have clear boundaries around the two most precious currencies:  time and money.
  • You  have a sense of your potential talents, the limits of which have not been fully tested   
  • You have marked adaptability when faced with obstacles; you simply handle them as a natural feature of living flexibility. 
  • Your abundant energy is infectious:  it gives you and the people around you even more energy
  • You have a strong spiritual core; a sense of some higher power in your life
  • You have a feeling of lightness: a sense of being unburdened by the burdens you are carrying.

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karen and curtis herbert as a midlife coaches

We are Karen and Curtis Herbert, founders of The Catholic Midlife. Our mission is to spark a catholic midlife renewal and help YOU to step into your next season with purpose, hope, and a clear vision for the rest of your life.

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