The Age of Purpose

My original title for The Path to Purpose – nixed by the publisher – was to be The Age of Purpose. My intention was to signal a dual drama that is now playing out simultaneously in the lives of individuals and in the life of our society. No doubt my publisher decided to avoid my double entendre in order to ensure a clear title that could directly communicate the book’s contents. But at the start of my blog, I now have a chance to say what was on my mind when viagra sans ordonnance I first envisioned the book project.

Many individuals find themselves adrift in a vacuum of belief, searching for something that they can wholeheartedly devote their talents and energies to. The search for meaning is especially acute during the time of adolescence and emerging adulthood – in our society, the teens and twenties – and so this is the first, and perhaps formative, “age of purpose” during human development. Yet the need to find purpose continues throughout life, right up into the retirement years, when folks who have succeeded in everything (business, raising children, gaining social status) suddenly can find themselves coming up empty unless they find a new purpose for what some authors have recently called “prime-time” (Marc Friedman) or “half-time” (Bob Buford). So, for the individual, the age of purpose comes early but re-appears late, and self-renewal, as the great John Gardner once wrote, is the entry fee that we always must continue to pay for a meaningful life.

On a societal level, we are at a pivotal time in history. Traditional systems of cultural and social meaning – faith, patriotism, matrimony, vocation, paternity, maternity – have been challenged in their ancient forms. In some cases, these challenges have lead to progress towards liberation and greater equality; in other cases, the challenges have lead to nothing more elevated than confusion and doubt.

Our civic society in recent years has vacillated between despair and hope. Revered social institutions in finance, education, and the popular media, have fallen into disrepute; but at the same time creative new approaches to democratic communications and networking in our burgeoning social media have triggered optimism and energy, especially among the young. Global conflict and criminality seem to rise, hydra-like and unmanageable, from every corner of the earth; yet there have been courageous political and military responses to some of the most fearsome incidents. Whether, as a society, we will end up traveling down the road to despair or the road to hope is still unknown: the answer, once again, is blowing in the wind.

The road to hope, for both the individual and the society, can only be approached by the path to purpose. Purpose is required to fill the spiritual vacuum that leads to drift, apathy, cynicism, and nihilism. Purpose is needed to sustain the will to strive, achieve, contribute, and continue learning. Purpose provides resilience in hard times, elevation in good times, and confident aspiration all throughout life. It is the key to psychological survival for the individual, economic and civic survival for the society, and a state of thriving and well-being for both.

2 Responses to “The Age of Purpose”

  1. Alan Nelson says:

    The search for purpose ultimately made Rick Warren a household name. I applaud your work and I would like to talk to you more, specifically on my 2nd half purpose (Buford) of identifying and developing leaders very young (www.kidlead.com). Robert Joss recommended that I contact you. I live in Monterey, CA and would value some time to tap your knowledge of young leaders and how they might discover their purpose for leading, that usually is left untapped and even thwarted until earl 20s to late 30s. Thanks for your work.

  2. Garry L. May says:

    I have been keeping late company with your last book, “The Path to Purpose” and just finished it tonight. I can’t wait to read all of your preceding works. It has inspired me to get much more involved not only with my three childrens’ paths (ages 25 male w/ 3 tours of duty in Iraq, 23 female working in S.Florida w/Haitian families, and 16 male who is ranked 2nd nationally in Shotokan Karate), but re-involved with our family’s far flung young adults in the Philippines and abroad. As a retired Air Force officer/ Federal Special Agent and former Army Sgt, I realized, five years ago during my current period of severe spinal and traumatic brain injury related disabilities, that I needed to get more involved with the youth of my community, if for no other reason than to expedite my own personal recovery. I now realize, at age 59, my needs, as well of those of my family and community, run much deeper. I plan on drawing on a two year stint as an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) tutor, grades 9-12; followed by two recent years as a parochial school substitute teacher and basketball coach; and the current experiences of my very determined and specially talented Asian-American 16 year old son, who navigates, as an Asperger’s Syndrome child trying his best to fit in appropriately, through his 3,000 student public high school that he informs me is filled to the brim with disaffected, disconnected, and highly drug and/or alcohol-influenced youth from affluent families at one of the schools where I formerly served as an AVID tutor. In our own upper-middle class suburban neighborhood, mixed hybrid gangs and their related drug trafficking are spinning up rapidly. So, I plan on becoming your dedicated student in hopes of furthering my abilities to make significant differences in the aforementioned areas. If I can be of assistance to you or any of your associates, please don’t hesitate to contact me as I have the highest regards for your efforts, past and present. Sincerely, Garry May