Does your purpose have to be big?
Well, let me tell you a story that should answer that question:
I was about to get on stage before a hundred of my peers, presenting a workshop idea to them. Quite a few people had lined up to present their ideas, and only a few of those ideas would be chosen by popular vote.
As I was listening to the people on stage, I started feeling more and more nervous and regretted my decision to take part in this idea pitch.
One of the presenters before me wanted to build a better medical system in a place that desperately needed it. I don’t recall all the other ideas that were being presented as this was a few years ago. What I vividly recall is the increasing sense of dread I felt about sharing my suggestion with the crowd.
My workshop idea just felt so… small in comparison to some of the world-changing stuff I heard from other people. Did it really make sense to talk about passion and purpose when others talked about systemic changes that sounded like they would have a much larger impact?
Could I come up with something else, something more “worthy” on the fly? Or should I try to quietly escape through the back door?
Here's what happened when I walked up on stage
However, my name was called. It was too late to back out and too late to come up with another idea. So I pulled back my shoulders and forced myself to walk on stage, to get this over with so I could hide somewhere in a dark corner for the rest of the multi-day event.
While walking up front, I realized that I should practice what I preach and that they only thing I could do on the fly was to tap into a sense of purpose, a sense of “why.” And so I tried to speak from the heart about how much better the world would be if more people did work they really love.
To my surprise, the audience responded favorably and I got cheers and claps while I spoke. To my even bigger surprise, my workshop idea got approved. Oh, and I didn’t spend the rest of the event hiding in a corner.
Does your purpose have to be big?
A few years later, I was reminded of that situation during a workshop I gave where we talked about passion and purpose.
As we continued to explore these topics, many people had questions about their purpose. As I supported one participant getting clearer on their purpose, I realized that they actually knew what it was… helping people develop more emotionally.
When I mentioned that that sounded like a purpose to me, the participant wondered if purpose wasn’t supposed to be something bigger, something grander.
Having had exactly the same thoughts about my purpose in the past, I chuckled and said something along the lines of: “That’s not a small purpose at all! Just imagine how it would change the world if more people were emotionally developed… there would be less conflict, less violence, and fewer wars.”
Everyone on the call—including the stunned participant I had been talking to—nodded as they considered just how much emotional development could improve the world.
I then shared how I had felt doubts about the purpose I’m currently pursuing—helping people do what they love. I mentioned how I had wondered if it was too small, especially when compared with people who wanted to create something like world peace.
However, as I eventually realized, work is an area that creates a lot of suffering on the planet. So by changing that even for just a few people, I can help reduce the overall pain on earth.
If I help one person tap into their passion, that will make them happier which will be positive for the people around them. And who knows, that person might decide to do something that’s positive for others… such as helping them develop emotionally.
The truth about your purpose
What I realized through my own journey—that I believe is true for everyone—is this:
As long as your purpose is genuine to you, there's no such thing as a small purpose. Whatever it is, it will have ripple effects for many people. That’s why every purpose is big, no matter how small it might seem to you.
And perhaps my audience realized that—long before I did—back when I pitched my workshop idea to them.
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