What Is Purpose? And Why Should You Strive To Have It In Your Life?

(Nefer Symbol of Purpose)

There are several ways that one could define the meaning of purpose. My favorite conceptualization is the Nia Principle in the Kwanzaa tradition that represents purpose. The African principle of purpose is called Nia (pronounced nee-yah). In *Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture, Maulana Karenga (the creator of Kwanzaa) describes purpose (nia) as:

“A commitment to the collective vocation of building, developing and defending our community, its culture and history in order to regain our historical initiative and greatness as a people and add to the good and beauty in the world."

Karenga also references the Odu of Ifa (a sacred African text of ethical teachings) which says that “surely humans were chosen to bring good into the world” and that bringing good into the world is the essence of our purpose as human beings. These definitions of purpose are cultural and community focused. While community and culture are important aspects of purpose, your purpose is ultimately determined by God. We were all made with specific talents and gifts that God wants us to use in order to help improve the world and bring glory to Him.The bible says:

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 4:10-11(NIV)

I truly believe the essence of purpose is spiritual, communal, and cultural. Purpose is the vision that God has for your life before you are even born. God gives us specific talents so that we can use them to fulfill our purpose and glorify Him. Your purpose will be something that you are passionate about and it will be used to help others as well as make a difference in the world (whether it impacts only 1 or millions of people). I also see purpose as cultural because while our God given purpose does not change, the way that you will go about fulfilling that purpose may be different depending on the culture that you belong to. Therefore, my personal definition of purpose would be: The mission that you are were designed to fulfill in order to glorify God, uplift your community, and improve the lives of others.

Why Should You Strive To Lead A Purposeful Life?

Honestly you should want to live a purposeful life is because you get so much more out of life when you are purposeful about it! When you understand the way that God wants you to serve others and manifest your gifts you will find that life is much more meaningful. You will also be more productive with your purpose in mind because you will be intentional about everything you do. Imagine if you were given all the tools to build a boat but you were never told what the end result should be. Even though you may have the skills and you have all the right tools and supplies you would not know where to even begin because you do not know what your goal is. That is what life is like without purpose. You may be skilled and you may even accomplish goals but there is no direction and no clear reason for why you are doing the things you do. When you live a purposeful life, led by God, everything else falls into place. Even when things don't work out or life gets in the way you will find ways to continue to fulfill your purpose because it is your passion, it motivates you, and it makes life meaningful. That is what living with purpose is all about!

Action Steps: Determine what Nia means in your life. Pray and ask God to reveal your purpose and reflect on the things you are already passionate about. Remember purpose is predestined, the seeds are already sewn in you, so you could start fulfilling your purpose today!

*Editor, My Daily Kwanzaa
Reference:  “Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture”, by Maulana Karenga, University of Sankore Press, Los Angeles, California. 1998. ISBN 0-943412-21-8.

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