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Living A Life of Purpose Matters
People can be divided into all sorts of various groupings. One of the most important divisions is between those who live life without a defined purpose, letting it take them where it will, and those who know and establish their purpose through intent and action.
A man on a mission
I recently read Churchill: Walking with Destiny, an excellent biography of the revered British Prime Minister during the second world war. His was a life lived with purpose. He determined at a young age to be Prime Minister and ordered every decision and action around that goal. But he did not sacrifice his beliefs and values to it, an important distinction given today's political state. My favorite quote from the book spotlights this point.
"In my country as in yours, public men are proud to be servants of the state and would be ashamed to be its masters." Winston Churchill in speech to U.S. Congress, 12 December 1941
"...proud to be servants of the state and would be ashamed to be its masters." My, how far we've wandered from that lofty perspective. But I digress.
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Parallel purposes, different personalities
Moses was another who lived a purposeful life, but in a humble manner. He was living in the wilderness when called to his purpose. He tried to demur, but when God insists then you are on the hook. There are many parallels between Churchill and Moses, ego is not one of them. They both enjoyed privilege during early life, made mistakes and entered a personal wilderness, and were later set in positions of immense authority and responsibility. In the season of their purpose, they fulfilled the very reason they were placed here. Everything before that time was preparation, even their wilderness experiences. I suppose it is possible, but I doubt that any other person could have done what either of them did. Both were agents on assignment.
Life is about purpose
Those who, like Churchill, know their purpose from an early age are at an advantage. They have the opportunity to prepare themselves through education and experience. Others, like Moses, will have their purpose thrust upon them without warning and seemingly without preparation. But Moses was in pharaoh’s court for forty years, in the wilderness for forty years, and later led the nation of Israel in the wilderness for forty years. Sometimes, life itself is preparation. What matters is what we do with it.
Those who do not know their purpose are at a disadvantage. Often, they wander here and there without vision or plan, taking as their lot what life gives them and settling for careers because they can, surrendering passions and dreams for the practical. For some, life brings temptations that lead to difficulties and missed opportunities. These have made conscious decisions to navigate in dark waters. Others find their way through comfortable lives but without the guiding focus of purpose. It works, but there are too many "coulda woulda shoulda" moments along the way. A few have the Churchillian experience of a life defined by pursuit of purpose.
Purpose requires preparation
Looking back to Churchill and Moses, we see that both lives were in fact prepared for their ultimate purpose. For Churchill, it was in education, military experiences, and the steady climb up the political ladder. For Moses, it was early life in the king's court, the desert wilderness, and his obedience to a call he would rather have avoided. Is one path better than the other? Experientially, the answer is of course, yes. Practically, however, they both fulfilled their purpose. Different paths, different preparations, same result. The common factor in lives of fulfillment is preparation and action regardless of station. Without these, purpose cannot be realized. With them, we have the capacities and capabilities needed to achieve.
Is a Prime Minister's life more important than a plumber's? The easy answer is to say yes, obviously, until one is a Prime Minister in need of a plumber as Churchill once was. The application of our faculties to our station in life is the point. Churchill was not prepared by knowledge, training, experience, or provision to solve his plumbing problem. The plumber was. To Churchill, the plumber was most important in the moment, and that is the point. A moment will come for each of us when life is condensed to what really matters, when preparation will either mature into action or be found missing.
The attainment of purpose, whatever it may be, hinges on preparation. Without it, we are left unarmed for the moment or opportunity we face. With it, we are capable and ready, able to act with confidence.
No matter where we may be today, we can always become a person of purpose, seeking and pursuing the highest that is within us. That is how we influence and change the world; by being our best.