The Practice of Living Purposefully

I have a friend in his late sixities who is one of the most brilliant and sought-after business speakers in the country. A few years ago he reconnected with a woman he had known and loved many years earlier, with whom he had been out of touch for three decades. She, too, was now in her sixties. They fell passionately in love.

Telling me about it one evening at dinner, my friend had never looked happier. It was wonderful to be with him and to see the look of the rapture on his face. Thinking, perhaps, of the two divorces in his past, he said wistfully and urgently, “God, I hope I handle things right this time. I want this relationship to succeed so much. I wish, I mean I want — I hope — you know, that I don’t screw up.”

I was silent and he asked, “Got any advice.”

“Well, yes, I do,” I answered. “If you want it to work, you must make it your conscious purpose that it work.”

He leaned forward intently, and I went on. “I can just imagine what your reaction would be if you were at IBM and some executive said, _”Gee, I hope we handle the marketing of this new product properly. I really want us to succeed with this, and I wish—” You would be all over him in a minute saying, “What’s this hope stuff? What do you mean you wish?”

“My advice is, apply what you know about the importance of purpose — and action plans –to your personal life. And leave hoping and wishing for teenagers.”

To live without purpose is to live at the mercy of chance — the chance event, the chance phone call, the chance encounter — because we have no standard by which to judge what is or isn’t worth doing.

To live purposefully is to use our powers for the attainment of goals we have selected: the goal of studying, of raising a family, of earning a living, of starting a new business, of sustaining a romantic relationship. It is our goals that lead us forward, that call on the exercise of our faculties, that energize our existence.

It is easier for people to understand these ideas as applied to work than to personal relationships. That may be why more people make a success of their work life than of their marriages.

I wish you a happy Tuesday today!