Like most people, I sought my life purpose in my achievements.
In all of the stuff I could add to a résumé or boast about on social media or measure society’s standards up against.
You know, an impressive job. Or a successful marriage. Or a nice home. Or Instagram photos of my fabulous vacations.
And I played that game—for longer than I care to admit. Even when I “gave it all up” and left my PR company to start this business and tell the world about my relationship with Garrett, I wasn’t really done, was I?
Conditioning is released in layers, no matter how much we buy into the myth of the one-fell-swoop life change.
I still validated my worth in those external things, like a book deal or some speaking engagements or even my happy relationship. When I felt insecure, at least I could cling onto those. I could anchor onto something.
See? Look at me! I’m still worthy! I still matter! I have achievements!
And, as I’ve learned too many times to count, the danger with living a life based on society’s conditioning is that it will always be conditional.
What happens if I stop making much money (happened)? Or lose good friendships (happened)? Or stop being featured in publications and podcasts (happened)? Or if people say all kinds of nasty things about me (happened)?
What happens if I lose or gain weight? If I lose my home? If my public image is tarnished? If I lose my career? If I even end my marriage?
Who am I then? Do I still matter? Do I still have worth?
The real danger in trying to achieve our way to purpose is that we’re never actually in control. We’re always at the mercy of those achievements—some of which we can control and some we can’t.
We live a conditional life. One we better hope is lucky. Because one minor hiccup, and now we’re questioning everything. Especially our worth and purpose.
Purpose can’t be a job. Or a relationship. Or a reputation. Or a certain level of income.
How could that possibly make sense?
Purpose has to be something deeper. The true anchor that we can cling to in times of struggle or strife or crisis.
We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Shit is getting shaken up left and right.
We didn’t buy our super open-concept home with the intention that I’d be fighting over Garret’s voice when on calls. We definitely didn’t expect to be so distanced from loved ones and friends.
Or to postpone major events in our life. To lose money and deposits on things. To have terrifying health situations in our families that made us re-prioritize everything. To have leaks and unexpected housing issues and have to stress about money.
We didn’t expect any of that. Nor can we predict what the future will bring. And I’m going to guess we’ll be surprised just a few more times in our lives.
No matter how hard we try, we’ll never be able to control the external.
At the very best, focusing on building our worth and purpose through achievements is a mirage. At the worst, it’s a shame-inducing spiral that will inevitably leave us lost and confused.
When we lose that job. When we retire. When the kids move out of the home. When we get divorced. When we lose that money. When we grow older. When our bodies change. When…
The research is pretty clear on this one. Chasing happiness isn’t necessarily the best strategy in life. Because, so often, our definition of happiness is conditional. But focusing on meaning and purpose help us unconditionally.
Especially during times of crisis.
Because purpose is about resilience. It’s about knowing who you are. And anchoring in to yourself. In to that deep part of you—way below the layers of conditioning and achievements.
The part of you that won’t change. That can’t change. That is apparent in every single one of your lived experiences.
Your unique genius. Your sensitivities. The stuff you’ve had since you were born.
That’s the kind of purpose that’s led me through the darkest times in my life. The kind of purpose that helped me navigate my relationship with Garrett. And give up a whole bunch of temptations until I found what I was actually meant to do. And find happiness in even dark moments like months of severe sickness or emotional abuse or extreme anguish.
I won’t pretend I’ve navigated this pandemic gracefully at all times. I haven’t. But I will say that over these last few months, my friendships have gotten so much deeper and my sense of purpose in what I do has become firmly anchored.
Hard as I try, I’ll never be about to keep tight control on every success in my life. Shit will go wrong. It needs to go wrong. Because that’s how I grow.
But I need tools that tell me who I am. Even—and especially—when shit hits the fan. And when I have to let go of who I thought I was. Or what I’d been attaching my identity and worth to.
To discover who I really am underneath.
Purpose is about resilience. It’s about feeling purposeful, knowing who we are, regardless of the circumstances.
Maybe in business. Maybe in relationships. Maybe with our body image. Or financial situation. Or health issues. Or even a fucking global pandemic.
When our worth is anchored in that far down, there’s nothing that’s going to sway it. And we stop being a victim of others’ praise or criticism. Because feedback’s great—and important. But it never changes our inherent worth.
When we stop trying to achieve our purpose, we discover the one that’s already there.
The anchor that makes us resilient. No matter what life throws at us.