Finding Meaning & Creating Purpose- Episode 54

Purpose, meaning, passion... we often use these terms as if they are the same thing. But are they? Part of the framework of the four jobs of becoming a Next Level Human, purpose is in fact very different from meaning and passion. In this episode, I attempt to explain not just how it is in fact individually unique but, more specifically, why purpose is so important.  

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Jade:    [01:17] Ok, what’s up everybody? Welcome to today’s show. Today we’re going to be talking about purpose, and meaning, and passion, and one of the things we’re going to discuss right off the bat is that most people think these 3 things are the same. You’ll even hear sometimes in my language when I talk about these things, I will speak about them as if they are the same thing, using them interchangeably like they’re synonymous with each other; like passion equals meaning and that equals purpose. The truth of the matter is they are very different. From my perspective, we want to understand the differences of these 3 things, because it makes a huge difference in the way that we live our lives. So, let’s start this discussion, first of all, talking about why purpose is so important. From my perspective, I think we have a global pandemic with people having a lack of purpose, lack of a meaning or understanding why and what they are doing on the planet. Because they are confused about this, it seeps into suicides, and depression, and anxiety, and basically being asleep at the wheel of life and sort of base level behaviors, and just this general angst and uncertainty, and dissatisfaction with life. From my perspective, purpose is perhaps the most important thing that we can possibly uncover while we are here on this planet. Now, if you listen to this podcast, you know we talk an awful lot about metabolism and weight loss and sort of the health and fitness job, but there are really 4 jobs of every human.


            [03:11] Every time you listen to this podcast, you hear about those 4 jobs – health and fitness, then there’s personal relationships, then there’s sort of earning a living, you know, sort of finance, and then the 4th one is the one we’re talking about today, which is purpose and meaning. Now, purpose is the why, ok, and I want to delve into this in a hopefully very succinct way, and hopefully very powerful way. The first thing that I want to say is that purpose is different than meaning and different than passion. So, how are they different? Well, here’s the way to think about this – from my perspective, when you think about passions, passions are desires. They’re things that we enjoy, they’re things that we seek out for the fun of them so that we can have an emotional experience. These things might include being passionate about food, or passionate about music, or passionate about our lover, sexual passion, or passionate about certain things. Some people can get passionate about collecting stamps. We have these different interests. The thing about passions though is that they have this sort of fleeting, changeable nature. Think about it, right? The things that you were passionate about, and the people that you were passionate about, and the games that you were interested in playing when you were in high school, let’s say, are very different than the passions that you had in college, and the passions maybe that you had in early adulthood; and if you’re my age, middle age now, I’m 46, then those passions are different. So, these passions change. Now, some of those passions can come along with you, and when they come along with you, they then start to morph into, or evolve into meaning. For example, one of the early passions of mine was fitness. I can remember when I was a kid, actually, in probably the 3rd or 4th grade, and it’s crazy for me to even think about this now, but I can remember myself rounding up the kids in my elementary school who were on the playground and running them through calisthenics. Like, I was taking them through football drills and things. And who knows why they listened to me, but I loved doing that just because I loved fitness at the time. I had 2 older brothers, and I was loving fitness, and I just thought all the other kids might want to love fitness too. What happened was that passion easily could’ve changed. I was also passionate about G.I. Joe men and Star Wars figures and things like that, but that passion left me. The passion for fitness stayed, and I got involved with football, became passionate about that.


            [06:02] That passion went away, but the fitness aspect stayed. So, passions that stay around can point you a little bit deeper into this evolution into purpose, and the second level, I think, in this evolution is meaning. When you have a passion that sticks with you, that stays with you year after year, decade after decade, it becomes meaningful to you. When you have a person that you sort of commit to, and becomes your person, that passion turns into more meaning. It’s very different if you’re having, you know, someone that you… was a lover of yours for a month vs. someone you just had a one night stand with vs. someone that has been your lover and your partner for years now. So, you can see how maybe the one night stand or the person you were with for a month is more passion oriented. It’s about physical pursuits maybe, and desires, and just fleeting feelings. But when you choose to integrate that person more and make them a part of your life, it becomes meaning; and meaning is much, much deeper. In fact, Viktor Frankl wrote his famous book called Man’s Search for Meaning that talks an awful lot about meaning, and how you can derive meaning from people, and you can derive meaning from experiences. For example, you can derive meaning from your lover, or your husband or your wife or your partner. You can derive meaning from your family, or your brothers and sisters, or your children. That would be deriving meaning from people. These are people who stay around with you; they’re not people you desire for a short period of time or know for a short period of time and then they leave. They’re people who you enrich your life, and bring meaning to your life, and that you can focus on and find learning opportunities and growth in these people. Experiences are things like sunsets, or workouts, or climbing a mountain, or being in the woods, or doing yoga, or these kinds of things. So, experiences, eating great food, these kinds of things can become meaningful for you as well because they are these deep sort of passions that you may have experience, like you might’ve been interested in Mexican food at one time in your life, but it’s not something you seek out, the best Mexican cuisine, and you enjoy it on a whole different level. Once you start seeking out the best Mexican cuisines, and making your own, and making Mexican cuisines the thing that you do, that’s when that passion becomes meaning. So, you can get passions, or you can get meaning from experiences as well. So, people, and experiences, and you can get meaning from your job as well. Your job, your work, the effort you put in can certainly be in a position to make you feel meaningful and worthwhile and deliver you a sense of satisfaction with life.


            [09:04] But, just like passions, meaning is not something you can own. Passions are very fleeting, they’re very fickle, they’re changeable. Meaning is a little bit more solid, but it still is borrowed. The reason it’s borrowed is because meaning depends on the person being around. Your kids can graduate from college, your significant other can leave you, your parents can pass away. People are not something you can own and sink your teeth into. You can lose these things. Experiences are, same thing – I mean, the sun sets, the meal ends, the workout is over. These are things you have to revisit to charge you back up in meaning. After work ends, what’re going to do? If you retire, what are you going to do? You can lose your meaning. So, what happens is is that passions are fickle, and we all know these people who jump from passion to passion to passion and interest and interest and interest and never really settle on anything. We know that they tend to be all over the place and perhaps the least happiest of us, so there’s usually a lot of depression and anxiety and uncertainty with these individuals. Then, of course, you get into people who are very meaning driven, so they find outside sources like experiences, and people, and their work to fill them up, and then these people can feel very solid when their meaningful things are there with them; but if they lose these meaningful things, they can have deep depressions, and deep anxieties, and finding themselves lost. This is part of what happens – the loss of a romance, or the death of a loved one, or any kind of these events, where you can no longer maybe workout because of an injury. This can lead to deep-seeded depressions because meaning, while it’s wonderful and is certainly a part of life, it is not as deep maybe as the next thing we’re going to talk about, which is purpose. So, just to recap, passions are fleeting and they’re fickle, but they’re fun and they’re interesting and they’re a part of our lives. We love them. They can be really useful. It’s nice to have passions, but they’re not the same as purpose. Now, meaning is a little bit more meaningful, it’s a little bit more solid and substantial. It’s something that you can own and feel like you can immerse yourself in again and again and again. It’s something you take deep, long-standing interest in, so a passion that can turn into something meaningful. But meaning, just like passions – it’s not as fleeting as passions - but meaning is borrowed. Now, purpose is where we get into the things that can sustain you. Whereas passions and meaning flow from outside experiences to you, so they charge you up. Purpose is something that you develop and charge and create inside of you that then flows to the outside world.


            [12:05] For example, you may have got passionate about Mexican food when you were younger because you met a Mexican family, let’s say, or you had great Mexican cuisine and you got passionate about it, and for a while you were just interested in it and loved the taste of it, and just would revisit it. But then it became so interesting to you that you started to seek out the best Mexican foods, and how to make the best margaritas, and started to make your own homemade tortilla chips, and all of that kind of stuff. That’s when it became meaningful for you. However, to turn that into purpose you would have to then take that interest, that passion and that meaning that Mexican food gave to you, and find a way to create it inside of you, keep it inside of you, and then deliver it to the outside world, share it to the outside world. This would be when you decide I am going to write a book on Mexican food, or I’m going to become a chef in Mexican cuisine, or I’m going to make this my purpose in life to spread the information about Mexican food, or pastries, or whatever it is. Same thing goes with the passion of sex. It’s this thing where I can be passionate about sex, and be a young man, and experience all kinds of different women, and kind of be dating, and all that kind of stuff; then, I can get very meaningful and enter into a long-term relationship or a marriage with someone. That still is not purpose, but if I decide to start coaching, and training, and teaching people how to be better in love, and I start writing books about that, and I start making it and choose it as my life’s work, this becomes purpose. So, you can see how passions can point you to purpose, meaning can inform what your purpose might be, but they’re not actually purpose. This is why we tend to use them interchangeably, but it’s also why you want to make a very clear distinction between them, because purpose is clearly about what you share with the world. I often times talk about the 3 reasons that we’re here – learning, teaching, and loving; loving being synonymous with sharing. Purpose is about what you take and what you create and what you decide to bring to the world around you. Purpose stays with you, so if I was going to use analogy with water, I would say passion is a lot like vapor. It’s kind of untouchable, it’s fleeting, it’s not something you can really grab hold of, it doesn’t sustain you over years and years and years and years. Water is a bit like meaning. It is something that is more substantial. You can reach out and touch water, vapor you can’t. But, water also needs a vessel; it needs a pot, or a can, or a cup to go into to give it form.


            [15:03] This would be like attaching your meaning to a partner, or your kids, or your job, or an experience that you can revisit. But again, these experiences can end, these people can leave, and then you’re left with lack of meaning. Purpose would be, now, ice, solid, formed, something that you can actually sit on, something that you can really sort of own and you can build things out of. So, ice is analogous to purpose, water is analogous to meaning, and vapor is analogous to passions. The idea here is if you want to develop purpose, you certainly can get there by chasing passions, by exploring meaning and getting deeper into that, but eventually you’re going to have to choose. This is another distinction between these – you can find passions, you can find meaning, you don’t find purpose, you create it. You create purpose, you choose a purpose. Often times your passions and your meaningful experiences can inform that choice of what you will do, and they often times do, they evolve. Passions evolve to meaning, evolve to purpose, but purpose in the ends needs to be chosen. Then, you say, well Jade, how do I choose purpose then if it’s not something I find and I want it? It sounds like the best thing in the world to have, especially when you look at things like stress management and longevity. Purpose, and people who have purpose in life, are some of the longest lived, happiest people in the world. It is, perhaps, the Holy Grail. If there was a happiness quotient or trophy, or Holy Grail, purpose would be it. It’s the thing that does all the things that we want in life, it’s what delivers that, it’s with us whether we’re alone or not. Even if we’re the last person on the planet, if we had our purpose in place we could be sustained, and we could live a fulfilled life or feel like we’ve lived a fulfilled life. So, how do you do that? This is the part of the discussion where you have to understand purpose is very much like, in my way of thinking about it, a spiritual fingerprint. It’s made up, to me, of 5 different elements that come from your life. This is why often times children don’t necessarily know their purpose, teenagers don’t really know their purpose, most people never create their purpose – one, because they think they find their purpose and they don’t, or two, because they get passions and meanings confused with their purpose and that’s not the case, but third, they don’t understand where purpose comes from and how to create it, and you create it out of your 5 Ps, I call them. This is your spiritual fingerprint, the things that make up the experiences of your life, and these 5Ps are the following: the People in your life, from the time you were little to now.


[18:09] The good people, the bad people, the ones that helped you, the one that hurt you, the ones you love, the ones you hated. People are practice, people are lessons. The people in your life have informed you in some respect, they have impacted your unique spiritual fingerprint. These people and the experiences that you’ve had with them, good and bad, for better or for worse, matter in terms of who you are. So, people, that’s one. One is your Passions, we talked about that. The things that you’ve been interested in, the games you played, the emotional experiences you’ve had, the things you like and love, the things that you’ve delved into. Your passions, your interests, they matter, they make up a part of your spiritual fingerprint. Next would be your Powers. Another way to say it is your superpowers or your talents. The things that you have become good at, those interests that have actually become expertise’s of yours. These would be your powers, the things you’re good at. Some of us are great at communication naturally, and then some of us have studied engineering and we get good at certain things. We become adept at certain things. These powers, these talents, these superpowers certainly are a part of sort of who we are. Then, there’s our Perspective/Perception. There’s the way that we see the world, our beliefs, our value systems, and these things certainly merge with some of these other things. People have impacted that, our passions have impacted that, our talents have impacted that, our upbringing has impacted that, our cultural influence has impacted the way we see the world; but obviously, we have a unique lens, a filter in which we see the world, and this impacts our spiritual fingerprint as well. And perhaps the most important aspect of your spiritual fingerprint or purpose is your Pain. Your pain is a path to purpose. It’s, perhaps, the most important element. Suffering is a source to your purpose. Pain is a path to your purpose. So, when you take these things, your People, your Passions, your Powers, your Perspective and your Pain, these 5 things make up your spiritual fingerprint. They make you unique, they inform who you are in the world, they basically tune your voice to a unique frequency that some people are uniquely tuned in to hear. For me, for example, I’ve had older brothers who were into fitness. My mom is a very empathetic, very much into – and always has been – very much into alternative medicine and alternative modalities. My father was an athlete and a very hard worker, and a very rational thinker.


[21:07] My passions early on were sports, and games, and communication, and love and romance, and psychology, I was always just fascinated by all of that kind of stuff. Of course, I developed superpowers in communication, and become a really good athlete, and really started to become really adept at understanding science and all of that kind of stuff. My unique perspective on the world has been informed by philosophy, and psychology, and some of the Next Level people I’ve had in my life, and my pain. My pain has been a big one, even the small, seemingly insignificant things that were impactful for me. Remember, everyone’s pain is relevant. One of my biggest pains in life – now I consider it a gift – was the teasing of my older brother Keoni when I was a young boy. For some people, that teasing would’ve just went right off their back like a duck, or they would’ve laughed along with their brother. For me, I took it as almost like abuse at that time, you know, is how I saw it, that was my unique pain. And over time, I turned that pain into a lesson; I became more empathetic, I was a bouncer in college, and I got in a bar fight and cut my hand wide open, and that was the last time I ever fought because I thought I killed this guy, and I became more empathic. My pain changed me. Heartbreak has changed me. My affair and divorce changed me. These deep pains changed me. Issues with health that I’ve encountered have changed me, and all of these things have informed my purpose. So, at one point in life I got there, and I was basically sitting in a position where my people, and my passions, and my powers, and my perspective, and my pain had me sitting in a place where I had a degree in natural medicine, and multiple certifications in health coaching, and strength and conditioning research, and I had a choice at the point in time – I could choose to be healer and stay in the clinic and do all that kind of stuff, or I could choose to be teacher. This was a decision point for my purpose. I chose teacher for the most part. Both of these are still a little bit of my purpose but I’m more teacher now, and I made that critical choice. Which is why I’m talking on this podcast, which is why I write books, which is why I spend time teaching on social media, which is why most of what I do, when I came and started to practice natural medicine, was in the realm of consulting rather than clinic work and healing. So, you see what happened, and this fills me up. You see why it’s purpose, because it’s something I have inside of me that I bring to the outside world. Purpose is very – purpose is not selfish. Meaning is a little bit more self-indulgent, purpose is more giving, selfless.


[24:05] It’s about sharing with the world. Now, here’s the interesting thing about this – I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones because my purpose just so happens to also be my career. In my case, of the 4 jobs, my purpose and meaning job and my career/sort of earning a living job overlap. This is another misconception about purpose. Most people think that that always has to be the case, that if you’re not doing your purpose as a job you don’t have purpose. That is not true. In fact, most people, their jobs will act to finance their purpose but won’t be the purpose themselves. Most people’s purpose is elsewhere. I’ll use my dad as an example with this. My father actually chose his purpose – and you’ll have to follow me here because at first it’s going to seem confusing – my father chose his purpose as father. Now, you might say, how is that, Jade? What do you mean my father chose, or – your father chose – his purpose as father?  Here’s the interesting thing. My father went through life, and his pain, and his people, and his perspective, and his passions, and his people, they made up his unique sort of way of looking at things. And by the time he ended up having 4 small children and a wife, he basically said what is it I’m good at? He was working at a job he didn’t love, he was working in the banking industry. That’s nothing that he – some people make a purpose out of that, or choose purpose out of that, and can find purpose in that – but he didn’t. He basically saw first what his meaning was, so he saw well, my meaning is in my wife and my kids, they are my meaning. He wasn’t at purpose yet though. But, he was a great father to us and he decided that his meaning was going to be father. I’m going to be the best father I can be. But then what started happening is he started to choose father in other areas. For example, he took in and raised, for part of the time, some of my cousins. He then took in and started to coach and kind of volunteer as a fatherly figure in the community. Even into my adulthood, at least two of my friends he took in when they were going through financial difficulty for months on end, and basically, one of my friends, basically helped him get back on his feet. This particular person was not fully literate, and so he basically helped him sort of understand how to manage his finances, and taught him how to write a check, and helped him buy a house, and became a father to this person, who was not even related to him and was actually an adult, not even a kid. So, he owned father. If you watch my father, even today, wherever he is, he comes at life from a very fatherly place. Not in a patronizing fatherly way, but in a way of like I will support you in a fatherly role. He’s an inspiring figure, someone that you want to make proud, someone that everyone knows that they can lean on.


[27:04] That’s because he chose father. Now, many people, the reason why his purpose is father, if he was just being a father to kids, that’s not that special. That’s meaning, and that’s for him, but not for anyone else. But as soon as he starts being father out there to other people, that becomes purpose. That’s where he gets filled up by that. That’s where he can see that he is successful. And because he defined his purpose and didn’t define it through society and what society deems as a purpose, he is incredibly happy. He doesn’t care what kind of car he drives around in; he doesn’t care the status of his house. What he cares about, and what he measures his success by is how purposeful he was in being father, how successful he was in being father. To this day, my father is now 76, and there are people from different times in his life that come and hang out with my dad, and go there to the house, and want to be close to their other father, in a sense. That’s who he was. All of my high school friends see my dad partly as their father because he chose that. This brings me to the next part of purpose and then we’ll close out this particular episode. The next part of purpose is the following – as a Next Level Human, purpose is essential, and purpose is often times found in creative pursuits. You create your purpose, and part of the way you bring your purpose to the world, part of the way you love or share in those 3 imperatives of learn, teach, and love, the way you love/share, is you create something that only you can bring to the world. And this why often times purpose shows up in people teaching, like often times teaching and sharing. An artist who was passionate about art and dabbles in art, that’s just a passion. Someone who just goes and paints just to feel better, and they’ve done that for years and years and years, that’s meaning. But someone who paints for others, gives their art away, or even sells their art and makes it their career, makes it a means of serving the world with their art, putting art out on buildings, doing art shows, giving away art, inspiring through their art, that’s when it becomes a purpose. So, if you want to kind of know, you don’t find purpose, you choose it. It’s often times manifested in your creative pursuits. This is a very important piece of this, and this is another, the final piece of this, is that when you find purpose, what are you really finding? What you’re really finding is – and this is going to be really interesting, because remember, I talked to you about passions and meaning being more fleeting, not lasting – purpose lasts. This is the difference between happiness and fulfillment. Happiness and contentment – you can be happy, you can feel content, but these are states of being, they’re fleeting.


[30:05] You can find happiness and contentment in a passion and in meaning. Passions that happiness and contentment don’t last too long, meaning that happiness and contentment last as long as that thing lasts. But when the thing goes away that happiness and contentment goes away. So, in a very real sense, happiness and contentment are states of being that come and go. They’re like the hamster wheel. When you’re doing the passion or when you have the meaningful person or thing or experience, you can feel happy, but when it goes away, they go away. Purpose is much deeper than happiness and contentment. When you have purpose, it’s about using your signature strengths, your unique pain, all of your experience and wisdom and talents, those 5 Ps, to bring something to the world that only you can teach in your unique way. And when you bring something to the world in your unique way, that’s a sense of achievement, it’s a sense of accomplishment. When you take happiness and contentment and you add in the sense of accomplishment and achievement, as if I achieved and accomplished what I wanted to, what I set out to do, I used my abilities to do something worthwhile and I can see the psychological trophy, I can appreciate what I have done and what I have brought to the world, and the way that I’ve made the world better, and how I’ve made a difference for people. When happiness and contentment get that achievement-oriented aspect put on top of them, happiness turns into fulfillment and contentment turns into joy. So, fulfillment and joy are far deeper than happiness and contentment in the way that I see them. Happiness and contentment are only as deep as what we can borrow, what we can have in terms of what is being delivered to us, and they go away when those things go away. However, purpose, because of its achievement-oriented aspect, and the idea that we create it and then we produce these creative things out in the world for other people, and we can see how we made a difference, that’s when we feel fulfilled. That’s when we can tap into joy, and if you look at the differences between fulfillment, happiness, joy and contentment, you might think those are synonymous but they’re not; there’s a subtle difference. The difference is that joy and fulfillment are sort of these deep, lasting states of being whereas happiness and contentment are more fleeting experiences. So, they’re more fleeting in nature, where fulfillment and joy are things that you can tap into at anytime. So, happiness, you can’t be happy when you’re sad; however, you can feel fulfilled when you’re sad.


[33:02] You can be sad at the loss of a loved one and grieving for them and still feel a deep sense of joy, and fulfillment, and gratitude for who you are in the world and what you’ve done in the world. That feeling buffers against stress, buffers against depression, buffers against anxiety, buffers against overwhelm, buffers against confusion. It is the signature thing that you, as we all walk on trying to get to this Next Level Human path, that we want to achieve. I’m hoping that this sort of brief understanding about purpose, and reframing purpose, and this philosophical discussion on purpose help you understand how powerful this is. I’ve been rambling on a while, so I’m going to stop right there and I hope you enjoyed this episode. Do me a favor, after you listen to this one, do me a favor – find me @jadeteta on instagram – just tell me what you thought of this episode. Better yet, go and leave a 5 star review and tell me what you thought of this one. I really would love to hear your thoughts about passion and meaning and purpose, and the difference between fulfillment and happiness and joy and contentment, and how you see your own 5 Ps of people, and passions, and powers, and perspective, and pain. I would really love to hear that from you. See you at the next podcast.


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