The past six months have been interesting. Challenging. Difficult. Not fun, although there have been fun elements. Not exactly happy, although there have been happy moments.
I have been starting over. And starting over is hard. For more than 20 years, I have been a consultant, an entrepreneur, a project manager (of my projects, and those of others). I have been a speaker, an author, a researcher. I have been a marketer, a salesperson and an accountant.
On any given waking day, I have had a to-do list longer than my arm, and the one thing I have been confident about is that no matter how many hours I work, it will never, ever be empty. And despite many, many days, of many, many hours, over many years, that has never not been true.
Last year, I walked away from that life. I didn’t lose that life. I didn’t get fired. I walked away. Enough personal tragedies in a row finally helped me to appreciate that how I was spending my life is not how I want to spend the rest of my life.
My wife and I came to a place where change was required. Big change. We shut down our company. Put our house up for sale. Moved 3000 kms, back to the city we had left 14 years before. There were a lot of moving parts: checklists, activities, projects and trips.
Afterwards, there were still things to be done. Contracts to complete, projects to finalize, courses to teach. Many trips back and forth between the place I had been living and the place I lived now.
All of that is enough to keep a person busy. To occupy and distract. But as work tailed off and schedules relaxed, the inevitable question emerged: What next? And that stumped me for a good long while. It was tempting to throw myself back into more work. To take on new projects. To keep doing. And that was something awfully tempting. It would be safe, easy, even comfortable in its own way. But it was what I was moving away from.
Purpose is a question that many of us struggle with. What we are meant to be doing. What we want our lives to be. What we want to accomplish. We often define our purpose in terms of what we do. But we are human beings, not human doings. It is not about what we have done, but about who we are.
I’m not all the way to clarity about what I will do going forward. And I am not entirely clear on who I will become. But the broad strokes are becoming clear. Purpose isn’t an end, and it is not a checklist of things to do. It is about being comfortable with myself, being with the people I love and doing those things that I enjoy, and that create meaning and value for me.
It is hard to stay there. It is hard sometimes to remember that intent. There are days that projects and work become a tempting distraction. But I am happy to say that the good days are becoming more frequent. And the checklists are receding in importance. I am not finding my purpose so much as I am choosing to live with purpose. That feels pretty good right now.