We often live in an anxious busyness that gives us nothing. Instead, this state stifles our souls and wastes our lives. We will call this “without purpose”. The person in this state knows something is wrong but is not sure what. Pouring themselves into their work, they have no way to explain their struggle. Divorced from a reason, work is suffocating drudgery. So they seek motivation or for programs or systems to keep them going.
These people resort to routine or discipline. Progress made by force of will is better than nothing and all. This existence is as common as it is painful; like a man who suffers without knowing why. We can suffer almost anything as long as it has a purpose woven into it that colors it with meaning. When meaning is teased out, suffering becomes unbearable and our life force shrivels and dies.
This is also true of working without purpose. Even if you love your work, setbacks and frustrations can diminish your delight. Oddly, the more closely you work in your true vocation, the more you have at stake. It is the very love of what you do that exposes you to greater vulnerability and frustration if your ideal is not reached. The more love, the more risk.
Say you took a job as a gardener because that is the only work you could get. If the owner of the house refuses to provide you with the mulch you need to keep down the weeds, with the bushes to create an enclosing hedge, with the tools you need to maintain the garden, if you are indifferent, you will say, “oh well, you get what you pay for”. A person with a true passion for the beauty and harmony a well-designed and tended Garden creates will suffer more if they cannot create it. The purposeful person will suffer more when their ideals are thwarted and they create something mediocre. They will risk much and fight hard for the time, money, energy and passion to turn a brown patch into a lush oasis of peace and beauty.
It is not goals that add to the meaning of your life but passionately held goals; a purpose reflecting who you are, who God made. Setting goals and expecting results is like the GK Chesterton joke about “going to church makes you a Christian in the same way that standing in a garage makes you a car”. Your goal must be heartfelt enough to move the real you.
The same passion that transforms you to desire your goals exposes you to more suffering. If you love something, you will be vulnerable to more frustration if you fail to reach it. Loving parents always risk more than uncaring ones. Like all great truths, this paradox can be intuited by reflecting on more tangible parallels. To keep this complex reality simple, ask yourself “why am I doing what I am doing?” When you have a compelling answer you are passionate about, write it out. Study it daily to remember why you are doing what you do. This is the purpose that animates your life. If you teach your team to do this, you will have given them the gift of exploring who they are and what is their purpose.