I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Why we do what we do. Why we struggle or why we thrive. What urges our pursuits, and navigates our ambition.
Everything (and I am beginning to believe everything) boils down to two driving (or lacking) factors in each of us: an individual’s sense of purpose and belonging. Isn’t it true we all want to know why we exist, and for whom we exist?
I often lose sight of one or the other. When I don’t have a confident sense of individual purpose, I easily fall into the trap of anxiety, people-pleasing, and a hopelessness in which I can believe nothing I do truly matters. Where there is no sense of belonging in my life, I become isolated, and even more desperate to realize my divine intent, but less motivated to pursue it.
When I recognize that every person is in pursuit of these two things at our cores (purpose and belonging), I can begin to empathize with others’ decisions and understand what it is that drives them and myself to do what they/I do.
Think of the neo-Nazi who has a sense of belonging but he has a misdirected and perverse sense of purpose. Or the occult leader who has influence and a strong sense of purpose, but is practically insane without true transparency in authentic, side-by-side community. These, of course, are extreme examples, but both go to show the importance of evaluating where you are at on the scale.
Do you have a sense of purpose without a sense of belonging or vice versa?
Or have you struck a healthy balance and learned how to thrive?
Ask yourself two questions.
Firstly, why do you exist? There are 7.6 billion people in the world and only one of you. This implies two things.
- No one (and I mean no one) else has your voice, your heart, your mind. You are unique–we need you–and as Dr. Seuss says, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
- You are free to explore your unique purpose–how you will use your voice, talent, heart, and mind to influence those around you. There is no pressure. There is no rush. All at once, the world is waiting for you but is not dependent on you. In that truth is freedom.
Secondly, for whom do you exist? People are meant to be in community. Humans are a pack animal. A sense of belonging comes from actively living alongside others who accept you for who you are, and who desire to see you change for the better.
Where are you at on the scale?
Purpose Without Belonging
This life, while passionate, is lonely, and lacks appropriate accountability. One might think you can have purpose without belonging but it is an empty, isolated, and eventually dangerous fate.
Purpose without belonging leads to an ambiguous and unaccountable purpose. If this is where you’re at, seek out others. Initiate a date with a friend or conjure up the bravery to attend a social event (like Man Pong!).
Belonging Without Purpose
Belonging without purpose leads to unhealthy people-pleasing, anxiety, and sacrificed morals. Think of the middle school kid who would do anything to fit in. Or in a toxic relationship, the less dominant person stays for a sense of belonging but has unhealthily shelved their individual sense of purpose. How often do we cheat our morals to please those around us? I feel like I do it all the time.
Belonging without purpose leads to a malleable purpose susceptible to peer pressure and abuse. If you’re in this spot on the scale, take time to evaluate your community. Ask yourself why you’re in the relationship and ensure that it encourages your reason for existing.
Purpose And Belonging
When we have a healthy sense of purpose and belonging, we are finally set up to thrive. You will know why you exist and have a sense of belonging when you’re in a community that encourages you and is encouraged by you. Some people strike this balance at work or church or with friends or family. However you find it, I encourage you to be in constant pursuit of that sweet spot between influencing and influenced.
Right now, where do you lack? Do you have an ambiguous or malleable sense of purpose? Do you have a strong and healthy sense of belonging in a community with friends, coworkers, or family?
Why do you exist, and for whom do you exist? You must confront this question, and to say, “For no reason and for no one,” simply is not an option.