A Purpose Driven Life – Linda Potgieter

Artwork: Bull (Felt Pen) by Alex Chan

If we walked out of here…and it all ended today. And someone said to you, “Have you lived the life you were called to live?” What will your answer be?

This is a talk given by a former corporate climber who achieved the social gold standards of success – but felt a piece missing in her. She dialogues her early years of working hard, and playing hard, and of living a thrilling life of adventure, glamour, and corporate success. Here’s the kicker: She felt seemingly simultaneous stimulation and emptiness. That is despite her “success” once she achieved something she found it wasn’t enough, and her hunger drove her further.

I see a lot of myself in the description of her former self. I despise appearing weak, and it’s easy for me to imagine in my near future being emotionally buoyed by an ambitious, blazing trail up a corporate ladder. In my current mental state, I’m easily motivated by social acclaim manifested in money, appearance, cars, and other signs of wealth, power, and sexual potency. Clearly, it’s an immature mindset and I’m working to mature it.

Linda reminds me to strive to live for purpose, a self-validated life, accomplished through working to serve others. She reminds me to resist jockeying for social position, an externally-validated life that is driven by self-centered ambition.

As always, easier said than done. A practical first step: Question what you are doing in your life at this very moment. Are your activities motivated by external forces and others’ perception of you? Or are your actions a reflection of a genuine internal interest to create something?

Easier said than done, here’s my mental stream of consciousness:

At a very practical level, Linda shows that this genuine interest, or passion, can be more easily found when we examine how our actions can be used in service to others, especially those in critical need. That can mean anything from explicitly working to resolve a technical problem to provide low-cost renewable energy to rural communities, to more implicit work such as doing medical research that may provide elements to a medical insight that helps others. No matter what kind of work you do, it is possible to find that explicitly or implicitly, we are usually creating some sort of social plus. In terms of what it means to be living a purpose driven life, it’s just a matter of individual emotional fulfillment. I suppose you would ask the question, “Can I as an individual find satisfaction in knowing that my work helps so and so situation?” And if you can convince yourself that, indeed, my actions really do help provide alternatives to deforestation, then that’s great. But if you can’t really see how your punching numbers or mashing out code really helps anyone except for your boss, well then we may have an issue.

Management/motivation theory tangents can be drawn from here…but I’ll call it a night. Disclaimer: I’m just 21 and pondering life — guess we’ll see if any of this is true.

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