Is Purpose Created or Discovered?

Is Purpose Created or Discovered? January 11, 2022

We work with a lot of different organizations. No matter where they are in terms of health and dysfunction, we always start with a conversation about vision, purpose. The meaning the organization hopes to achieve.

One of the things I often think about when I watch groups go through this process is about the nature of our purpose. Is it something we decide into, like picking a cereal out of myriad options from the shelf. Or is it something we discover, like a treasure planted within us.



The first thing we ask organizations to do is a values exercise. The questions we get often take the following forms: “Are these things we think we should value or things we currently value?” Interesting question itself. They also ask, “are these what we value currently or what we want to value in the future?”

These kinds of questions are just the beginning. They point to a key question about the nature of value and purpose.

Can we choose any value we want or are we beholden to some inherent value(s) within? And, if we are beholden, what determines those values and, by extension, my concept of what it means to experience a meaningful life?

To be clear, I am not sure I have an answer. It is a metaphysical question.

But I tend to think our idea of purpose is something we find within ourselves. It is something there. We do not create it, as it were. We discover it.

So, these processes are about finding the treasure buried within. It is not about determining what the treasure is or what it looks like. It is about finding it, naming it, and making the most of it.

At least, that is what I think so far.


Discovering Purpose

I do not know why I love to write while others love to sing. I do not know how or why some are driven by productivity and some by ideation.

I am sure there are lots of factors. The things our parents taught us about the world, as well as a host of other influences. Perhaps it is a treasure placed deep within us in the enigmatic process of existence.

Or perhaps I am wrong and everyone can choose whatever they want as values and purposes.

No matter how it gets in there, purpose is without a doubt the most powerful force in the human life. It is our key motivator. And it is a uniquely expressed recipe for each of us.

There are implications for whether it is something we create or something we discover. But they are, in terms of practical living, enigmatic. It is a mystery we cannot answer for sure.

What we can do is name that purpose. However it got there, whatever it is, to put words to it and live by it. That is the great invitation of existence. The opportunity of a lifetime.

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