Purpose: is it Nature or Nurture?

purpose-shell
“Purpose” is a word that is bandied about so much these days, as well as the questions about it, such as “Are you living your purpose?” “Do you need help identifying your purpose in life?” I have to admit that I use the word, myself, in the description of the course I am creating, Uncover Your Buried Dream, when I speak of the desire to make life changes to have a future with a new or renewed purpose.

What is a person’s purpose? How do we define that? Is it defined by our own perspective? Or by others?

Are we born with a purpose? Or do we learn what it is from our parents? Or does it become apparent when we experience some activity or new learning that is completely absorbing?

While researching for definition of the word, I found these:

“The reason for which something exists, or is done, made, used, an intended or desired result.”

“That which a person sets before himself as an object to be reached or accomplished; the end or aim to which the view is directed in any plan, measure, or exertion; view; aim; design; intention; plan.”

“Why you do something or why something exists”


I personally like the third phrase. It is simple and when one is considering a complex issue it is always best to keep the framework simple and allow the complexities to arise during contemplation and promote the wider discussion.

Is it nature or nurture? In the photo above there is a small perfect white shell that has washed up on the beach. Obviously it has fulfilled its purpose by creating a living entity inside, and then been abandoned as the entity grew, formed a new shell and left its first home. If however, you examine it closely you see that it is moving and a small crab is using it as a temporary home until it outgrows it. So where does purpose begin and end?

Of course the tiny crab does not question its own purpose or the purpose of its temporary home; it only lives and survives.

In my book I suggest that we can identify our original purpose in life by examining evidence we can find of our early life years. We can tap memories, our own, those of others that were told to us, and if possible look at old photos of ourselves in the years before school or other institutional systems overruled our original knowing.

Evidence of joy being experienced, the activities which commanded our attention and strongest curiosity surely give us clues.

Sadly as we grow older we are affected by the expectations of others and of society. So many of us find ourselves, later on, living lives that are not fulfilling although successful in other ways.

I have often thought that artists and musicians are the lucky ones if their talent is recognized and supported in their early years. Their purpose is the driving force throughout their lives. This is not to say that their lives are easy, quite the opposite often as they struggle with challenges to being able to live their purposeful life.

Do we have a choice? I believe we do. We may need help to identify our choice. We may need to learn strategies to give ourselves permission to make that choice.

If you would like to share your thoughts about choice and purpose, please comment.

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  • Yvonne Graham says:

    Not sure if I’m reading this correctly, but here goes:
    Purpose begins at birth.
    We are born with a purpose and that basic purpose is to survive.
    I believe everything else is choices we make.

    • Judith. says:

      Instinct prompts the birth cry in order to breathe, and to suckle, and Yes, to survive. Is everything after that our choice or the choice we learn from others, parents, teachers, peers, professional standards, societal norms?

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