Here are a few generic purposes to which we might all subscribe:
- Health purpose: to be optimally fit and healthy
- Career purpose: to reach the top of my field measured by reputation and excellence
- Relationship purpose: to engage fully with my spouse/partner/ family members in a way which feeds and nurtures us fully from every relationship perspective
- Leisure purpose: to engage in meaningful leisurely activities and have fun as I do so
The challenge with all these purposes is that, as we busy ourselves with one, the others can easily become cross-purposes, knocking us off the original purpose. Fundamental in managing them together, and balancing and giving effect to all of them, is to align them as far as possible with each other and to accept that there will be limits to what is possible. Where we set or place the limits is the choice we have.
For as long as I am working full days and am required to travel once a week or every fortnight, I might be realising my career purpose, but it is not realistic for me to think I can do enough training on a bicycle to ride, for instance, the Cape Epic. I can do enough, however, to ride my mountain bike a couple of time a week in beautiful scenery. I can also exercise and eat healthily to realise my purpose of optimal health. What qualifies as optimal fitness is for me to judge, but it certainly won't equate to peak fitness. If 'peak fitness' had been part of my health purpose, it would simply be a cross-purpose which would hinder me in all my other purposes. Stuffing myself with large and unhealthy meals whilst I travel would simply serve some sort of cross-purpose of self-indulgence or self-sabotage.
There is a reality that most of us need to work in order to feed and clothe ourselves. I am no exception. In doing that, it will inevitably mean time away each day from the people I love. But do I have to be the best lawyer/coach/writer in the world? I do the work I do because I enjoy it and to help meet some basic needs. I could work longer hours if I chose to do so, but quite frankly I don't want to because I want to honour my other purposes. In my relationships, although I won't spend every waking moment with my family, I am not sure that that would be healthy for any of us anyway: we can make all the time we spend with each other matter, but common sense and necessity dictate that our engagement with each other is more about the quality than the amount of time spent with each other. But reduce the time spent to a silly amount and suddenly the quality of the engagement will slip anyway.
Managing multiple purposes is all about determining priorities, creating balance and aligning purposes with each other as best we can so that, even in giving effect to one we are honouring the others.
One of the best ways to manage them all is to find a larger life purpose for yourself, which holds together and informs the way we go about giving effect to the other purposes.
Do you know what your purposes are for each area of your life, and what your life purpose might be? If so, how are you doing with them?
Next time: RECOGNISING THE CROSS-PURPOSE