What are you doing here?
“Every one on this earth should believe, amid whatever madness or moral failure, that his life and temperament have some object on the earth. Every one on the earth should believe that he has something to give to the world which cannot otherwise be given.”
— G.K. Chesterton
Determining why one is here – what one is meant to do – is the most important question of your entire career, if not of your entire life.
Most people do not know how to answer that question. It is one of the question we have as part of client intake process, and I get some pretty vague or absolutely ridiculous answers. Here are some of those.
1). Are you a walking wallet? Many executives answer that they’re here to provide a “secure financial future” for their families. I will mention just two of the many problems with this. First, in case you haven’t noticed from the debacle of 2008, there isn’t such a thing as a “secure financial future,” Virginia.
Second, of course, is the fact that we see many people in middle of nasty divorces, which is not only financial bankruptcy, but emotional as well. If your largest purpose in life is to be a walking wallet for your family, and that family falls apart, you’re in a heap of trouble.
2). Are you here to run a business? Again, these things are often out of your control. I have known many great businesspeople sent spiraling out of what were fantastic businesses by the evil trolls who run our country. It is a fine job. It can be a part (it is for me) of a life’s calling. But it isn’t the only reason you’re here.
3). Are you here to expand the fortunes and influence of your family name? Now we’re getting somewhere. We’ve moved solidly from the unworthy and ridiculous into the incredibly narcissistic.
Your family may have a very proud heritage. But unless you’re a king or the like, it is probable that few people except you and your relatives care much about the proud family name of Gugglehiemerschmidtz (or whatever). This is hardly a good reason to have been created and plopped on this earth.
And here are some answers that are worthy of human beings.
1). You may be here to be a teacher. The question is “a teacher of what?” And don’t say “algebra.” Perhaps you are teaching algebra, but you’re also teaching something else as well. Figure out what you are here to teach people, and you might be getting close to a life’s purpose.
2). You may be here to lead. And I don’t mean “leading companies.” While your job might be CEO, your leadership skills are meant to lead others to their highest and best in life. Be a good CEO, but realize that simply being a leader of business is not sufficient. You must also be a leader in your community.
3). You may be here to organize. Nothing gets done without organization. You might be here to help people put one foot in front of the other in an orderly fashion and make a difference in your neighborhood, your community, your nation or the world. If you have clear organizational gifts, try moving them beyond the business world to the wider world that, yes, exists out there.
4). You may be here to have a vision. Nothing happens without some visionary to see it happen. You may be here to give to yourself and others a shining vision of the way the world could be. Again, move this beyond your job into making a difference.
5). You might be here to implement a vision. Maybe you’re not a visionary, but you see how things need to get done. Do them.
6). You may be here to finance the difference. Nothing in this world happens without money. Unfortunately, too many of those who have the gift of making money just use it for their personal and family desires. This is not why you were given the gift of being financially productive. Spread your wealth and make a difference for others.
7). You may be here to heal divisions. Maybe you’re a crack negotiator. Use those skills to help people find a way together.
In other words, most of us are here to make a real difference, but waste our gifts on the pursuit of things and people that are, or can be, transitory. Build up for yourself a lasting legacy by making a difference and understanding your life’s work. Get help to understand it, if necessary. But only a purpose-driven life winds up with any meaning. Go find yours.