On purpose

In the last years of her life, my Grandmother lived in a log cabin on the family land in East Texas. The home is still in the family and we gather there for holidays and long weekends to celebrate life, each other, and her legacy.

On her wall in the bathroom hangs a hand-painted sign that reads:

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”

I’ve read it many times while visiting her home — and tonight, in my quiet living room, after the children had gone to sleep and the lights had turned dim — the phrase popped into my head.

A life of purpose, I mused. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. In fact, I’m starting to think that living a “life of purpose” is less about the big question, “What’s my purpose in life?” (i.e. some big over-arching assignment like to be a famous cello player, a heart surgeon, or a foreign ambassador) — and that it’s more about the little (and big) purposeful decisions that we make every day.

Because the truth is, if you’re like me, many of your decisions may not be all that purposeful. You’re hungry, so you grab what’s fast. You’re frustrated, so you say what you feel. You’re busy, so you live life as though it were a to-do list. But none of that has much thought involved.

But I want to live more purposefully. When I’m hungry, I want to grab what nourishes me. When I’m frustrated, I want to say what’s productive (often times, nothing). When I’m busy, I want to step back and re-evaluate my schedule, trimming the fat where needed, changing the path where important.

I started doing a little research on this subject, but got distracted by some purpose-filled quotes that I find quite inspiring:

On purposeful thinking:

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” — Mahatma Gandhi

On purposeful parenting:

“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world.” — Mother Teresa

On purposeful purchasing:

“You never can get enough of what you don’t really need!” — Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life

On purposeful giving:

“The only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve.”  ? Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here for?

On purposeful eating:

“Get people back into the kitchen and combat the trend toward processed food and fast food.” — Dr. Andrew Weil

On purposeful prayer:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” — Philippians 4:6

On purposeful decisions:

“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” — Pope John Paul II

What I find interesting is that in making purposeful decisions like this in all aspects of life (i.e. stepping back and making sure we’re not just on auto pilot), we sometimes stumble upon something bigger. And before we know it, we’ve found our life’s purpose — by doing things on purpose.

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