When I write about this idea of purpose from this day forward, I believe it is important to make a very clear distinction. I am talking about “authentic” purpose and NOT what I call “phony” purpose.

My “complex” definition of authentic purpose derives from the dictionary (very scholarly, I know), meaning, as a noun, “the reason for which something exists.”  A university recently asked me for a “purpose” statement” for a graduate school application. I laughed a bit to myself because basically, in my mind, they are asking for a “statement of the reason for my existence” – which I am sure will be a bit more than they bargained for.

So, for the purposes (get it?) moving forward, authentic purpose = your true reason for existence. Why are you on this earth as a person?

When you look at it that way, that’s where the adventure begins… striving to uncover and live that purpose (which for most of us, will take our whole human lives). Sometimes, I wish this thought didn’t consume me, but the alternative of not even realizing my situation of existence scares me more.

Basically, it all stems from the one question even our most intelligent scientists never can or attempt to answer, yet small children everywhere ask their parents: “Why?”

I will delve into some proposed strategies for uncovering and exploring  authentic purpose using “why?” in an individual and organizational context in later writings, but I first think it is important to identify and address “phony” purpose in our lives, so we know where to start, and maybe more importantly, where not to.

I have proposed the below “checklist” to use when you make decisions or reflect on your day, as to whether you are living with “phony” purpose, that distracts you from your authentic purpose.

DISCLAIMER 1:I believe that “phony” purpose is a necessary component in our lives. It provides the necessary friction against our authentic purpose which ignites the fire of our true purpose. Many times, “phony” purpose leads to authentic purpose development and reflection.

DISCLAIMER 2: I live with phony purpose, probably every day. I admit it, I AM A HYPOCRITE! However, by becoming aware of my phony purpose, I always try to be in touch with, identify, and never forget that driving force within, my authentic purpose, or reason for existence.

DISCLAIMER 3: This is not meant to make you feel bad about your life,  actually, quite the opposite, it is meant for you to explore, dream about, and investigate your own existence. How fun!

Now, onward.

12 Indicators of Possible Areas of “Phony” Purpose in Your Life

1. Your favorite days of the week begin with the letter “S.”

2. You are currently devoting much of your waking time and energy to something you’ve called a “resume builder.”

3. You have a step-by-step formula and plan to reach a goal that will make you “happy” that motivates your daily actions.

4. When you think about your future goals, the word “if” comes up more than once.

5. You recycle, but you have no idea WHY. (But still like telling people that you do).

6. You made a major life decision because it looked “cool” or “good” to society, your family, or others, even though you weren’t completely sold.

7. You spend most of your days doing something that at some point someone ELSE told you you should do.

8. You have decided not to do something because someone else told you at some point in your life that you were not “good” at it.

9. You stopped doing something you felt strongly about because it wasn’t “practical”, or because you didn’t “have enough time”.

10. You have used these words today before starting a sentence: “I am just too…” or “I am only…” or “I wouldn’t be able to…” or “I can’t…”

11. You devote a large amount of time (i.e. 40 hours per week) to something in which money is the only goal, and your personal fulfillment is not.

12. You are getting frustrated by reading these “indicators”, and coming up with reasons it is not “practical” to live this way. See DISCLAIMERS above.

– Zach