Redefining Your Purpose

How do you want to be remembered?

Posted Nov 23, 2013

Irene was sure it would be like this all day long—overcast and gray, with a persistent drizzle that neither let up nor let loose. Undeterred, she grabbed a hooded coat from the closet before heading out the front door.

It’s unrealistic, Irene thought, to expect sunny weather for every morning walk. I’m going to enjoy it anyway.

A year ago, the weather would have sent Irene into a downward spiral, as if she’d needed any help back then. Her life had seemed as gray, as heavy-laden, as the clouds. Movement, motion, motivation had been as hard to come by as a bright, sunny day in November.

But that was last year.

Irene's Story

Over the past twelve months, Irene had been intentionally moving toward recovery from her depression. Her morning walks quickly became an integral part of that recovery.

She’d started walking to get some—any—exercise. It was also a way to get out of the house, which had recently become an empty nest with her last adult-age child moving out-of-state for a job. At first, it was all she could do to just get out the door a couple of mornings per week. She’d walked like she did everything else back then, by rote, remotely.

It wasn’t long, however, until she was able to get out more often and she began to go farther. One of her kids got her a portable CD player and Irene found she actually enjoyed listening to music as she walked. Sometimes she would get lost in the music and the lyrics, and sometimes the music became a background for her own thoughts. She’d started to see a counselor and her morning walks were the times she gave herself permission to really think about some difficult personal issues. On the weekends, her husband often joined her and they spent the time going over the past week and planning for the week ahead.

This morning, Irene stopped briefly to admire the way the raindrops were gathering at the base of a scalloped petal on a neighbor’s plant. It was simply beautiful and she smiled at the thought that such a mundane thing could produce joy. Not that she disdained the joy, but rather was astonished at its power and acknowledged how much she needed joy.

Irene was coming back to life after a long, dark, absence.

On her way home, she went over her plans for the day, recommitting herself to each as she recited them in her mind. Even the items that could be considered tedious, like grocery shopping, she decided beforehand were important and necessary. Lately, she’d started looking at grocery shopping as a grand hunt. After subsisting on mostly processed foods and far too much coffee, Irene realized she needed to change how she fed herself, and her husband for that matter.

When meal planning and cooking had become too overwhelming for her in the midst of her depression, her husband had taken over, with less than stellar results. Now, she was glad she’d taken it back again. Shopping became a game, almost, as she looked for good, wholesome foods. She’d even discovered new areas of her local grocery store and actually knew the name of the produce manager, who made it a point to stop and chat every time she came in. Often her husband would come into the kitchen at dinner time, wondering what new thing she’d discovered, and they’d work together preparing the meal.

After the kids left, Irene felt like her life unraveled. Now, thread by thread, it was weaving itself back together. With a sense of relief, she realized that hope, joy, and peace hadn’t left her—they were still possible, they could still find her, even in unexpected places, even on rainy, dreary days.

As she walked up the driveway, Irene remembered a piece of paper in her purse. It had the phone number of a woman she’d met at church last Sunday. The woman wore the same look Irene had seen in the mirror too many times.

I’m going to call her today, she decided. Irene finally felt enough joy to share.

Claiming a Purpose-Full Life

Like Irene, you may need to redefine your purpose. If you have no idea what your purpose is, you are not alone. The famous psychologist, William Marsten, once asked 3,000 people the question, “What do you have to live for?” Ninety-four percent of those who responded said they had no definite purpose. A lack of purpose causes a lack of passion. Passion is what energizes your spirit and purpose gives you personal meaning.

Purpose is what gives you the motivation to continue recovery, even when you don’t feel like it. Purpose gives you the drive to keep going, no matter the challenge. Your own unique calling is your purpose. You may be uncertain what your purpose is, or you may simply need to recommit to it.

To help discover what your purpose is, or what you would like to make it, answer this: “How do I want to be remembered?”

2013 Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, Turning Your Down Into Up: A Realistic Plan for Healing From Depression, WaterBrook Press.