Jeanne Graham was very nervous as she approached her interview with Alan Baxter. He was known to be a very kind and generous person, but he didn’t like being in the spotlight. This interview was going to be in the university’s alumni magazine, and Baxter took a lot of convincing to participate.
JG: I’ve been told that you think finding your life’s purpose is one of the essential traits of intelligence in this century. Why is that?
AB: Think about what finding your life’s purpose requires. First, you have to really understand yourself, and that requires a lot of deep reflection on essential skills for relating to others. When you have explored your life’s purpose, you are also expanding that part of your brain where essential traits of being a human reside. Eventually it shapes who you are.
JG: If that’s so, why aren’t we taught how to find our life’s purpose in a class?
AB: Because you can’t teach that. You have to live life, reflect on who you are and want to be. You can’t do that with a Power Point lecture or even a small group seminar.
JG: Can you share with me how you found your life’s purpose?
AB: It started when I was very young. I’m very shy and couldn’t connect with my classmates, so I started helping them. Over time, I continued doing that, but the repertoire of how I’ve been able to help has grown as I’ve acquired more experiences.
JG: So you used a personal weakness to help you discover your life’s purpose?
AB: I did. But helping others was based upon my personal values first. That’s one of the principles for finding your life’s purpose that I use when I guide others. Finding your life’s values begins with having personal values that guide you.
JG: You found your life’s purpose when you were very young. Is that common?
AB: Clues to your life’s purpose are probably there in your youth brain, but it takes time for you to identify it as such. There wasn’t a time when I was young that I realized I had found my life’s purpose, but it was there.
JG: Your life’s purpose expanded in scope, but didn’t change that much. Is that common?
AB: Your life’s purpose can change. Unfortunately for some, it shifts from an outward focus to an inward one. People can get trapped into thinking that materialistic possessions equate to your life’s purpose. Another principle I was I use to guide others is this. Your life’s purpose defines you as a human.
JG: What happens when your life’s purpose interferes with your career?
AB: Your life’s purpose is how you live your life. If that’s incompatible with your career, then you need to rethink your career. Otherwise you will be miserable. But that’s rarely necessary. That’s another principle. Find ways to integrate what you do for a living with what you do to live the life you want.
JG: I could go on for hours, but I know you have limited time. Now I understand why you can’t teach someone how to find their life’s purpose. Do you have one more principle you can share?
AB: I do. Finding your life’s purpose is what brings calm during the turbulence of life.
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“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out our passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” – T.D. Jakes Bishop