Purpose and Meaning

By Shae Hadden | Bio

The official arrival of fall always surprises me. It’s never the change in weather so much as the passage of time that draws me up short—what happened to the last few months of my life? This year I feel as if I’ve been lost in a time warp while the rest of the world runs ahead at its crazy pace…and as if I’m only just beginning to rejoin the rest of the human race. And no, I didn’t go on an extended vacation or take a leave of absence. All I did was connect to my purpose…and then my body seemed to fall apart. Strange, but I’ve come to realize a distinction between purpose and meaning through being ‘sidelined’ with health issues.

Many people use the words ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ interchangeably. To me, they are quite separate and distinct. My ‘purpose’ is more like my ‘calling’: it is what pulls me to learn, develop and contribute to others. It is the reason I get up each morning, the ground that makes it possible for me to face whatever life brings my way—be it pleasure or pain, happiness or sorrow, health or illness. Purpose never blocks or hinders. It is the foundation upon which I build my life, and the guiding source of my intentions.

‘Meaning’, on the other hand, can seriously impede me. It is the interpretation I create for anyone or anything. If, for instance, I interpret a marriage proposal as serious when it is not, I can cause myself unnecessary anxiety in trying to respond to the offer. Or if I interpret a particular pain or symptom as signifying a potentially serious condition, I can lower my immune system and actually ‘buy into’ and even re-create that condition being present (even if it isn’t). We are constantly attaching meaning to everything—from the weather to the latest move on the stock market, the words we shared with our friend on the phone a few minutes ago to the last speech from a political leader. We may say that our lives have ‘no meaning’…and they do not EXCEPT for the meaning we give to them. There are always myriad ways to interpret anything (even our life): it is up to us to choose what interpretation empowers us and those with whom we are in relationship. Hence the value of creating our own unique purpose in life.

So today I remain committed to my purpose, I choose my intentions carefully, and I greet whatever shows up as all part of the great Mystery. And I choose to interpret the arrival of fall as another wonderful new beginning….

© 2008 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.