I’m setting out to explore the connections and intersections between purpose and the twelve other concepts that I included in the diagram in this recent post. And I might even have some things I want to add to that diagram!

Today I’m thinking about purpose and gladness. My question is, how do deep gladness and sense of purpose work together? Are they entirely separate? Does one lead to the other? Can one of these exist without the other?

Instead of “deep gladness” I could use the term “happiness” which is perhaps more familiar. Having discovered Frederick Buechner’s comments on this topic, “deep gladness” evokes so much more for me, I’m using it instead. Here’s what he said:

…the vocation for you is the one in which your deep gladness and the world’s deep need meet.

Buechner’s thought suggests that your purpose emerges in the intersection of your deep gladness and the world’s deep need. It also suggests your deep gladness must be connected to something that is meaningful and beneficial to the world in order for its pursuit to lead to a sense of purpose.

Psychologist and researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes lasting happiness as something beyond the often short-lived mood lift that comes from getting what we want in life. Lasting happiness is “ ….the experience of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

Based on her own and others’ research, she describes twelve practices for building lasting happiness in The How of Happiness. If you’d like to look into what she has to say, you don’t have to worry about getting overwhelmed by adopting or increase your use of so many practices. Lyubomirsky suggests that you start with one or two that best fit you. She then suggests additional practices to try if these were beneficial.

I take Lyubomirsky to be saying that a sense of purpose is a part of lasting happiness. She notes that goal pursuit (one of her suggested activities) provides a sense of purpose.

I think about purpose and goals a bit differently, in line with members of my Keys to Change Facebook group. They recently shared thoughts about purpose providing the larger context or the “why” of life, and see goals as part of purpose and that express the “what” of life – what do and how we do it.

Our well-being and quality of life depend on finding greater wholeness in life… Having a purpose in life — a clear reason to get up in the morning— is essential to growing whole.

~ Richard Leider, The Power of Purpose.

One client told me it was life changing for her to be able to discover her sense of purpose. She noted that she could now see it was always there, but that she’d been unable to see or articulate. She was moved to the point of joyous tears as she shared this.

Other clients, just beginning the process of clarifying their purpose mention feeling lost and uncertain, lacking direction and meaning which was the motivation for them to seek coaching. They express great excitement at the prospect of discovering, or re-discovering their sense of purpose.

Such thoughts are echoed in comments in the Keys to Change group, describing feelings of joy, peace, empowerment and motivation when sense of purpose, sense of self and work are aligned.

All this suggests to me that purpose and deep gladness occur together, perhaps not in constant equilibrium, but with one spurring, strengthening and shaping the other, shifting and evolving together, enabling us to bring our gifts together with the world’s great needs.

Click here to join the conversation going on in the Keys to Change group!


Frederick Buechner extended interview. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2006/05/05/may-5-2006-frederick-buechner-extended-interview/15358/

Leider, R.J. (2015). The power of purpose. Find meaning, live longer, better. Third Ed. Oakland CA, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Lyobomirsky, S. (2007). The how of happiness. A new approach to getting the life you want. New York, NY, Penguin Group.

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