Your Purpose in Life
Olivia Sprinkel on searching for a purpose outside of ourselves.
Alive 05: Purpose
The big one. The why. For a long time, I was looking for a purpose outside myself, a big problem that I could take on in the world. As Gandhi said, ‘It’s not that our problems are too big, it’s that they’re not big enough.’ But the realisation I’m coming to is that purpose is who you are. It’s as simple and complicated as that.
Simple – because the answer is inside us, we can stop searching outside ourselves. Complicated – because along our journey, we can get skilful in covering up who we really are. So, for me, purpose is now less about doing and more about being.
Being then, of course, leads to doing. But it is a different question to live by – who am I being in relation to the world? Rather than ‘what should I be doing?’. Or another way to frame it is, ‘what is my responsibility to the world?’. I heard an interview recently with the acoustic biologist Katy Payne, who is renowned for her work on the songs of whales and elephants. She said, ‘my responsibility is to listen’. In her work, she listens. She is also a Quaker, and she described the importance of being still and listening – to ourselves and to others.
Perhaps if we are struggling to understand what our purpose is, our first responsibility is to learn to listen. And all will unfold from there. It could be that who you are, your responsibility to the world, is to see and share beauty. It could be to heal. It could be to listen. It’s likely not to be one thing. The expression of it may change. But understanding what your responsibility is, who you are – well, it will give your life purpose.
Olivia Sprinkel is a sustainability and communications consultant, specialising in purpose and storytelling. She also writes non-fiction and poetry and takes photographs. She is a half-Finnish, half-American Londoner who lives in New York. Find Olivia here.
This post is part of the Alive blog series. Read more about it here.