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Redeem Your Purpose: Four Questions & Two Activities

May 5, 2010

Son Philip, age 3, playing my guitar.

Everyone is passionate about something: politics, sports, the environment, chocolate, rock and roll. Your passion and your purpose are intricately connected. But sometimes the thought of giving in to your passion just doesn’t seem worth the pain and risk involved. I put my guitar aside for a period of five years or so. I was in my mid-thirties, we had a toddler and a newborn, I was working on my MBA and building my career. It was safer to convince myself that responsible grown-ups don’t play guitar. I didn’t realize that I had pulled the plug on my passion. It was gasping for breath, and I had no training in CPR (Cardio-PASSIONARY Resuscitation).

Fortunately, that was just a phase I went through. You can read more about it here. I can now tell you from experience that it’s never too late (or too early) to apply your own CPR and try out opportunities to make a difference in the world. Here are four questions and two activities to get you started:

  1. Make a list of your favorite classes and favorite teachers in school. What did you learn? What made them your favorites?
  2. What periods of life do you recall most fondly, and what were you doing at the time? (summer vacations, favorite jobs, weekend hobbies, organized activities like Scouts, sports, visual and performing arts)
  3. What do people affirm in you? What activities garner the most positive compliments from others?
  4. Ask a few people who know you very well: “What do you think my passion is? What are my greatest skills? How do you see me changing the world?”

Activity 1: Clock Time vs. Real Time

The Greeks had a couple of words to describe time. Chronos describes chronological time, as recorded by a clock. Kairos describes time as it exists outside of chronology; some call it real time or God time. (Madeline L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, explores chronos and kairos in Walking On Water: reflections on faith and art. See the chapter entitled “Keeping The Clock Wound.”) A college professor of mine described the difference by comparing an hour in the dentist’s chair to an hour on a couch in “communication” (verbal or physical) with someone you love deeply. Chronologically, the passage of time is identical. But time with your lover seems to pass much more quickly than time with your dentist. (Unless maybe your dentist is your lover, but let’s not go there.) That sense of how time passes is kairos.

Think of an activity in which you can become completely absorbed. You enter “the zone” (kairos) and lose all track of time (chronos). This often happens to me when I play guitar or get caught up in a writing project. Make a list of activities that put you in the zone. Where were you? What were you doing? How did you feel during and after?

Activity #2: Narrow It Down

Now take some time to organize what you’ve recorded in a way that helps you identify common threads. Using a program like Microsoft Excel or a Google Docs spreadsheet, list significant time periods in your life in the first row (across the top of the spreadsheet). List your activities in the left-hand column. Rate your level of participation on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) for each activity during each time period, and enter that number in the appropriate cell. Add the numbers in each row and enter the sum in the “Total” column. Here is a template to help you get started, and here is a partial example of what mine looks like:

You can see that in my teens and early twenties I was engaged in a lot of activities. As I moved through my adult years, I dropped the activities of least interest (woodworking, auto repair) and lowest talent level (singing). The common threads are clear: guitar, faith, reading, and writing. Note that trends are important. Even though my Total score in singing is tied for second place, my activity level has declined over time. I love to sing, but I’m not very good at it. My score in faith is only 20, but it is clearly on the increase. And my House of Faith is where all of the pieces of the puzzle click into place, where my Creator has woven the common threads together into the tapestry of my purpose.

I would love to know if this process helps you hone in on your passion. What other questions and activities have helped you along the path toward redeeming your purpose? Please feel free to comment…

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2010 5:21 pm

    Cool idea, Richard. Thanks for sharing your spreadsheet — that is a format I can relate to. Scariest thing is wondering who I would ask question 4…

    • May 30, 2010 6:55 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Doug. Maybe I should add a 5th question?

      5. Which would be scarier: discovering your passion and living out your purpose, or missing out on your unique opportunity to change the world?

Trackbacks

  1. Your Sole Purpose Is Your Soul Purpose « Richard M Potter on Purpose
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