Life Purpose vs. Career

Life Purpose vs. Career

Life purpose is not synonymous with career. For some people, their work is a job, a source of income, perhaps even a source of stimulation and reward, but it is unrelated to their broader life purpose. This can be by choice or circumstance.

For other people, their job or career is closely interwoven with their life purpose—it is a vocation. Some of these people speak of finding their vocation based on a calling. For some, vocation is deeply rooted in the notion of service.

For those who want to integrate career with life purpose, it is not enough to simply long for more meaningful work. As Nicholas Weiler argues in Your Soul at Work, people need to clearly define what they are looking for and then persistently seek it. Weiler says, “Fulfilling careers seldom happen by chance. People who find personally meaningful vocations do so because they assume responsibility for their journeys.”

Evolving Purpose

Our life can be seen as a nautilus that adds new chambers to its shell as it grows and needs more space. Likewise, as people grow into a different phase of life, their old chambers can feel cramped. It is natural to outgrow people, places, and purposes.

Moving into new chambers opens up the way for new possibilities to emerge, allowing our life purpose to evolve.

Comparing the emergence of purpose with the growth of a nautilus shell, Leider notes:

  • Life is a continuous spiral of lessons to be learned.
  • We grow through chambers of progressive awakenings that involve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual transitions.
  • Each chamber is important as a basis for further growth.
  • Transition to a new chamber is accompanied by a crisis of uncertainty, a chaotic period in which we begin to organize around a new core question.
  • The secret to a fully alive life is to reframe our life questions over and over

Stages in the Purpose Spiral

As we discern our purpose, we face different questions at different stages of life.

Core Questions: Childhood: What do I want to be when I grow up? Adolescence: Where do I fit? Young Adulthood: What is my calling? Middlessence: Who have I become as a person? Young Older Adulthood: How do I measure my success as a person? Elderhood: What value-legacy have I added to people’s lives?

Copyright © 1997 Richard Leider

See bibliography for references