A couple of weeks ago, a circle diagram was all over my facebook wall:
To find your purpose, you have to overlap what you’re good at, what the world needs, what you love and what you can be paid for? While there are some folks, a lot of them ministers, poverty lawyers, politicians, artists, maybe professors, who can claim they have a reasonable shot at the blue star, my facebook friends had what I think is a typical reaction to that.
“The best I’ve ever done in my entire life is two and a half circles.” One friend said. Another friend said he was happy anytime he had two.
In my day-job, I am an insurance lawyer. I am pretty good at it, they do pay me for it and I guess the world needs it, though if your position is that what the world needs is wide-ranging insurance and/or healthcare reform, I won’t fight you. Love it? The work itself isn’t digging ditches, but it is an office job moving paperwork and dealing with angry people and bureaucrats. (I work for hospitals, not the insurance companies or the patients.)
So, what? Two and a half circles?
For insurance law, yes.
For me, no.
I think what we forget is that we are not our jobs. So let’s take the more cynical view of the world’s needs and say that insurance law is just something I’m good at that they pay me for, or, to use the chart’s term, my “profession.”
But my job isn’t the only thing I do. I like to cook for shelters and though pro bono work kinda terrifies me, I do it anyway. The world needs that, and one can be paid for cooking for shelters and representing poor folks in court. So I do have a vocation, it just isn’t my day job. I can complete the rest of the chart this way. I have multiple novels on my hard drive that I love creating, the world needs artistic voices: Mission. I’m an excellent problem solver and people come to me with their personal problems. Helping one’s friends can be a passion.
Are you a parent? That alone is going to cover several circles. Do any volunteer work? Create any art? Do you coach a sports team or run a book club or knit hats to donate to clothing drives? We are so quick to define ourselves by our jobs alone in this world, when our respective purposes aren’t at all limited by what we do 9 to 5.
It’s tempting to dismiss the chart. The world needs garbage collectors, after all, not many people would consider a garbage collection job a blue star. But what the world needs even more is garbage collectors who are great Moms who also lead scout troops and sing in choirs.
That is a life with purpose.