There is a great scene in “Alice in Wonderland” where Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”
The cat replies, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
It’s important to know where you want to go; to have a purpose in life. Finding that purpose is among life’s biggest challenges. Discovering what is important to you, what you are passionate about and where you can make a difference -- those are the factors that drive your purpose.
No matter how much money you make or how famous you become, living without a purpose takes the joy out of life. When the most important part of your existence is missing, the quest for success becomes hollow.
People with a strong sense of purpose know what they want, why they want it and how they plan to achieve it. Purpose-driven people get in the habit of doing things they don’t like to do in order to accomplish the purpose they have defined for themselves.
Businessman and philanthropist W. Clement Stone said: “When you discover your mission, you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it.”
Winston Churchill, addressing the House of Commons in his first speech as prime minister in 1940, made his purpose crystal clear: “You ask: ‘What is our aim?’ I can answer in one word: Victory! Victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”
Rosa Parks also had a purpose: to take a stand for personal dignity. She believed that having to give up her seat on the bus because of her skin color was not right. She took a stand for human rights and put equality for all people in a new perspective.
Vietnam veteran Jan Scruggs had a vision and commitment to recognizing soldiers who died in that war. Today the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, engraved with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who lost their lives in that conflict, is the most visited monument in Washington, D.C.
Candy Lightner’s life changed on May 3, 1980, when her daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Less than a week later, the grieving mother met with friends to discuss what they could do to make an impact on drunk-driving fatalities, and thus Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was born. Today there are more than 360 chapters of MADD throughout the world, and hundreds of new laws have passed addressing drunk driving.
In February 1980, the U.S. Men’s Olympic hockey team did the seemingly impossible by upsetting the heavily favored Soviet team and then beating Finland to capture the gold medal in Lake Placid, New York, to shouts of “U.S.A.!” Before his team's victory over the Soviet Union, the coach of the U.S. hockey team, my friend Herb Brooks, told his players, “You are born to be a player. You are meant to be here at this time. This is your moment.”
James Montgomery Boice, in his book “Learning to Lead,” tells a story about Yogi Berra, the famous catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, who at that time was playing for the Milwaukee Braves. The teams were playing in the World Series, and the famously talkative Yogi chattered nonstop, intending to pep up his teammates and rattle the Milwaukee batters. As Aaron came to the plate, Yogi, trying to distract him, said, “Henry, you're holding the bat wrong. You're supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark.”
Aaron responded by smacking the next pitch into the left-field bleachers. After rounding the bases and touching home plate, Aaron looked at Yogi and said, “I didn't come up here to read.”
Mackay’s Moral: A person without a purpose is like a plane without wings.
(Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.)