Having a *Single* Purpose in Life

More and more I’m convinced – that at any given period in our life, no matter how many responsibilities we may have, or how many goals we may reach for, there can only be one great purpose in our life – one life goal or passion pursued…

There are many out there, of course, who would argue that they have no trouble juggling many different things – different responsibilities, projects, and goals – that the existence of one duty does not preclude the ability to shoulder another; that so long as there are hours in the day, and a need to be satisfied, there is a way for yet another job to get done.

More and more it seems, people like this have become the standard in society.

The student who plays five sports, and joins a handful of after-school clubs, yet still finds time to maintain perfect grades and a part-time job.

The mother who breaks the glass ceiling at work through extra hours and extra days, yet still finds time before and after to shuttle the kids to and from school, appointments, and practices.

The father that makes partner, yet still has the time and energy to stay out till dusk playing catch with his little boy.

These are the models nowadays.  The ideal people.  The person who has time for everything and everyone; who can shoulder countless duties yet still meet his or her responsibilities.

“I can do it all”

“I can raise a family, manage a career, and stay fit and healthy,” they’ll say.

“I can play another sport, join another club, and still look to my future; still work towards the school I want, or the degree I seek, or the life I dream.”

And maybe they can.

Maybe everything’s nothing to them.

Maybe they’re superhuman or something.

Maybe they do manage all those various and disparate things well enough.  Maybe doctor’s appointments aren’t missed, practices aren’t skipped, deadlines are always met, and bills are always paid.  Maybe papers are always written, exams always studied for, and activities never neglected.

Except it’s not quite what I’m talking about.

It’s not quite what I mean.

I’m talking about a purpose in life.

Something above all else you aspire to, or work towards.

The over-arching goal of your life – at this or any point in your life.

It’s these of which you can have only one.

It’s these things that are best achieved without the needless distraction of all the other crap we can accumulate in our daily lives – the responsibilities, the duties, the inevitable stretching-thin of our time and efforts.

Think of…

Thomas Edison.

Or Steve Jobs.

Or anyone who’s ever achieved something great.  Something amazing.  Something so seemingly impossible that it would take any other many lifetimes to likewise achieve.

Think of anyone who’s ever written a classic of literature.  Or mastered an instrument.  Or developed some world-changing theory in science, or mathematics.

Think of anyone who’s ever lost several hundred pounds.  Or went from debt to savings.  Or simply learned to be happy, when once they were depressed and miserable and alone.

Thomas Edison was one of the greatest inventors of all time.  I sit now, in fact, writing under a light which is the descendant of his work.

Think of the hours that work took, though.

Think of the mental energy.  The physical energy.  Think of the failures, and plannings, and more failures that invention required.

Some 6,000 he once claimed.

Imagine if he had, for instance, fallen in love at the same time.

Imagine if his thoughts and emotions drifted to her night and day, like new love often inspires.  The nights spent out with her.  The nights spent laying beside her.  The days spent together, holding hands or whatever else.

Would he still have invented anything then?

Would his life’s work have still become what it became, if it was simply a thing he did when not with her, just a day-job to pay the bills and feed his family?


I don’t think it would have.

I don’t think it could have.

That light bulb wasn’t just something he did, or was asked to do.  It wasn’t just another thing to fill his days.  Another job.  Another responsibility.  Another duty.

It was his life.

It was his single purpose on this earth, at that time.

It was everything to him.  And he gave to it everything of him.

Falling in love – or anything else – would have ruined it.  It would have clouded his purpose, and sidetracked his goal.  It would have demanded of him more than he could give, if he was to still achieve what he achieved.

In reality, though, Edison was married at the time.  And it’s been said that his wife never saw him; that he lived in his laboratory.

Steve Jobs was notoriously not the role model of a husband or a father.  Not the most social or gregarious.  Not the type to go any place or do anything like someone else of his wealth and fame might.

These men made their passion their life, and all other things became secondary in some way.  Not necessarily in the completion of their duties, but in the relevance to their thoughts.  Not because they couldn’t handle more or didn’t do other things during, but because their great work would have been made less than they were capable of making it, had they devoted any less of themselves.

They needed to devote all of their selves.  They needed to make that goal their only goal, for that time.

The problem, though, in so many…

…is that they let their life become a tangled web of duties and responsibilities, of goals and focuses – a laundry list of crap to do, and places to be.

The average life.  Both of adults and teens.

And in that laundry list of things we must spend our time on, and our energies in, we lose whatever purpose in life (if any at all) drove us to that point.

Likely, though, we’ve never had one at all.

And probably, we wouldn’t even know what one was – by Edison’s standard, or Jobs’.

We’ve just lived.

And in that living, the crap to do, and places to be, and shit we have to deal with just piles on.

Another job to keep the lights on.  Another TV show to keep us on our asses.  The same routines.  The same results.

No direction.  No purpose.

Like our lives lead us.  Like we’re adrift without a marker on the horizon, or a paddle to drive us.  With no vision to see, or reason to live.

People like this…they have no one passion, no larger goal, no task or skill at which they have committed their energy to improving, themselves to mastering, their life to achieving.

They do everything, but do nothing well.

They do many things well enough, but do nothing exceptionally.

They have interest in many things, but passion for nothing.

They excel at some, but master none.

They have no driving force at which their life is directed; a purpose above all others; something – anything – that their life is meant for at this place and time.

They need a purpose in life.  One true purpose.  A single purpose.


…at any given point in our life, for any period of our life, we can only have one true goal, one great passion, one real purpose; one object at which we devote our fullest attention, and one aspiration at which we pledge our most complete devotion.

Because achieving a goal can be difficult, but to master anything, it has to become the singular focus of your life, the thing you think of every waking moment – as Edison did, as Jobs did.

Not because your time is finite or your energy is limited, but because to achieve whatever lofty goal you may aspire to, it requires the complete immersion of your mind and Self.

It requires everything you have – a certain obsession, where your every thought and feeling is somehow related to that project, goal, or endeavor.

Cause you can juggle many things, as many do, but your achievement in all will be less than they could have been otherwise.

Your life and mind’s attention cannot be divided so numerously, like one’s eyes cannot focus both on the foreground and the background.  When your focus is split, your sight is blurred, and your vision impaired.  Such is the focus of many now, as they balance work and family, school and friends, hobbies and jobs.

To have any or all is fine, and – in many ways – inevitable.

But to excel in one, priority has to be given.

It just has to.

Because if your mind is given a goal, and the passion and time to see it through, it will find the solution.  It will steer you towards the end you seek.  When your mind becomes obsessed, immersed, it becomes creative.  It finds ways, solutions, answers.

When it isn’t burdened with so much else that would stress it, or distract it, it’s free to imagine and improve.

Your mind, then, needs your commitment, like your goal needs your passion.

Rather than a life of endless rising and falling of countless responsibilities, from which you learn nothing, and go nowhere – lost amongst the endless tides and expanse of life – life should be a line of singular purposes, one after the other.

Where each is mastered before the next challenge is accepted.

Where one thing becomes your everything.

At least…until the next thing can become your everything.

Whatever it may be, and however small it might seem, take it one at a time.

You only need a single purpose in life right now.


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