By James Fielding —
Growing up in a strong evangelical household, I was always told that God had a plan for my life. My all-consuming goal was to find out what God had in mind for me and do my best to fulfill it.
Needless to say, once I reached the conclusion that I didn’t have the evidence to support the belief in any god, let alone a capital G god, I quickly came to the realization that there wasn’t likely a plan for me.
For many people, this creates an existential crisis of epic proportion. I will admit that at first, I was a little concerned. What was I supposed to use as my “north star” now? After the initial shock wore off, I was more pissed off than anything else. How much time and energy had I wasted on chasing this elusive purpose that doesn’t even exist? How many decisions had I made based on faulty logic? Where would I be had things been different?
While these were all valid questions, it became clear that there was nothing to be gained by dwelling on the past and what might have been. The important thing was to dust myself off and move forward.
So, what is my purpose?
The short answer is: “do I need one?”
Can’t I just live my life? I personally think purpose is overrated. If I am being honest, I don’t feel the need to have a purpose. Don’t get me wrong. I am a very goal-oriented person. I am driven to succeed at almost an insane pace. However, that does not mean that I see my short-term goal achievement as fulfilling some overall purpose for my life. In the end, I am answerable only to myself. If I am lucky enough to make it to a deathbed and have time to reflect on my life, I am the only one there to judge how I used my time.
Assuming that I make it to a ripe, old age from which I can look back and second guess my life choices, I would like to be able to say that I have no regrets. Life is a series of events. Each one moves you toward the next. I don’t like regrets. There are things that I wish would have gone differently but I try to always see how each decision moved me toward something new. I want to be able to say that I couldn’t have made a different decision given the same information that was available. To me, that’s the meaning of living without regret. Is that a purpose? Probably not for most people.
If living without regrets is not good enough to count as a purpose, then my new litmus test will be the mark that I left on the world. Will people remember me? Did I make a difference in someone’s life? My face may not be carved in stone on a mountain but if someone remembers me fondly, that’s good enough for me.
I don’t need a god to tell me to be a good person. I don’t need a book to tell me how to live a moral life. I don’t need a preacher to shame me into doing the right thing. My purpose is to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.
When I look back on my life, I want to be able to say that I did the best I could and MEAN IT! You get one turn on this ride called life. The purpose is to be the best you can be and leave a mark on those you leave behind. If that’s not a good enough purpose, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s good enough for me.