We’ve all heard the talk about purpose.
Once you find your purpose, the world opens up for you.
Or so it seems, when you read the material promoting “purpose-finding.”
I’ve enjoyed a number of articles, books, and quizzes on purpose. I found them fun to read and think about, and some of them were helpful to me along the way.
But lately, I tend to doubt the wisdom of finding a single purpose.
Because these days, it’s no longer about doing this or that.
Today’s world is all about and.
How do I know?
Because I just bought a new phone.
Not a cell phone. A land-line phone.
(For younger readers, that’s a phone that actually hooks up to a jack in your house and uses wired telephone lines to make calls.)
This telephone has a purpose—to help me make old-style calls out of my home.
After much shopping and comparing, I chose one particular model made by Vtech.
Why this one?
Because it didn’t limit itself to a singular purpose.
You see, this phone allows you to make and take landline and mobile calls. It has two handsets and a headset.
In fact, this phone is all about and.
Choosing the Solution that does More than One Thing
I haven’t bought a land-line phone in years. I’ve had an old Uniden that’s been with me for at least 15, maybe longer. It’s a cordless that’s been reliable for a long time, but I was using it recently and it died on me within ten minutes.
The rechargeable battery is toast.
I’m going to be need a good landline for a few things in the future—interviews, podcasts, and the like. Landlines are typically more reliable and clearer than cell phone connections, and especially if you’re recording, a bit more comfortable to use, as you typically don’t have to worry about the call being dropped or other connection problems that can sometimes happen on a cell phone.
So, I went shopping. I found plenty like the one I already had. They take landline calls, and they take messages.
But then here was this little VTech that did more. It takes landline calls and cell phone calls. With a quick little adjustment, you can tap your cell phone into the base phone, and voila, when your cell phone rings, you can take it on the landline phone.
Why do that? Well, the new phone has a handy little headset on it. You can use the one that actually goes over your head or the one that goes over your ear—several size options.
I don’t have a wireless headset for my cell phone—only a wired couple of earbuds. I’m just not on the cell phone enough to carry an attachment around on my ear, especially when I’m out and about. But having that option at my home office, where I take most of my calls, is handy.
Plus I just like the idea of having one headset to rule them all, so to speak.
So I bought the VTech. It does more than one thing. It’s all about and.
Come to think of it, there are a number of products out there these days taking over the market because they do more than one thing.
Foundation that’s also skin care. Pants that can be converted into shorts. Tablets that are also laptops. The list is endless.
Which got me thinking:
Isn’t that the way it is with humans these days, too?
The World Seeks Multi-Talented Individuals
I’m not sure that having just one purpose is good for us in today’s world.
Think about the most successful writers, for instance. Many are writers and professors, or writers and public speakers. Still many more are writers and something else entirely different, like moms or pilots or lawyers or doctors.
And that versatility serves their creative work well. Plus, it allows them to use their various talents in a number of different ways in the world.
In fact, if I think about it, most people I know well have followed multiple paths in life, choosing different purposes at different times. My father retired from three careers—prescription drug salesman, real estate agent, and his so-called “retirement” job as high school custodian that he did until he was 86 years old. He was also a rancher and a father, and a marine overseas, and one of the best mechanics I’ve ever known.
One of my good friends worked as a missionary, then a writer for a corporation, and now homeschools her kids. One of my other friends is a photographer for a wood company, a music teacher, a mom, a great flute player, and she holds a degree in microbiology.
Actor Antonio Banderas, in addition to being a celebrated actor, composes music and writes poetry, engaged in philosophical discussions with other cast and crew while filming The 33, and studied in London to learn the art of menswear for a new fashion-related business venture.
There are many more examples. Some may argue that you could find one “purpose” to encompass all of these activities, which I suppose you could, but I think that’s stretching it a bit.
All of these people have multiple talents and purposes, and they followed them all.
Could it be the pressure to “find one’s purpose,” as if it’s one single shining beacon directing us forward, is a bit too much to expect?
The Way of the Future: More Than One Purpose?
“The notion of the narrowly focused life is highly romanticized in our culture” says career coach Emile Wapnick. “It’s this idea of destiny or the one true calling, the idea that we each have one great thing we are meant to do during our time on this earth, and you need to figure out what that thing is and devote your life to it.”
If that’s just not happening for you, are you somehow a failure? My thinking is that actually, you may have the advantage.
“What if there are a lot of different subjects that you’re curious about, and many different things you want to do?” Wapnick says. “[Y]ou might feel alone. You might feel like you don’t have a purpose. And you might feel like there’s something wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
If today is about and—and I’m theorizing that it is—than limiting yourself to just one purpose may be limiting your potential overall. Many of us have multiple talents and enjoy exploring and using them all. Feeling like we have to somehow put it all in one box can feel confusing, and may just be the wrong choice.
“…you do not have to make one choice for a career,” advise the career experts at Wolfgang Career Coaching. “You can write an article for a magazine as a freelancer and spend time on the weekends as a photographer even though your 9-5 job is one as a graphic designer. You can have more than one life at a time. It doesn’t have to be an ‘either-or’ situation.”
If you’ve struggled with finding your one “purpose,” I think you can relax. The practice of looking for it can be fun, but if you’ve found it a bit frustrating that you can’t fit your passions into one statement, you’re not alone.
“What you do in life will define you (or will be used to define you anyway),” says entrepreneur Kyle Eschenroeder. “It doesn’t matter how grand your philosophy of life is if you don’t use it to do anything. Try acting without reason. Follow your inclinations. Then, in a year, look back and give it a purpose if you must.”
In fact, you might even celebrate the fact that you’re not a one-trick pony. It could be your best discovery yet.
“Not having one true calling can be a wonderful thing,” says Wapnick. “Having many interests, blending those interests and working at the intersections of different fields doesn’t make you indecisive or non-committal. It makes you original and innovative.
Don’t listen to the coaches and gurus who tell you that you must choose one path to the exclusion of all else. What they’re asking you to do, is deny the other parts of yourself and be someone you’re not. How could that ever be right?”