In today’s world, there’s immense pressure to discover your “life purpose,” especially with social media acting as a highlight reel of everyone’s grand accomplishments. The message is clear: if you haven’t found your earth-shattering, life-defining purpose by a certain age, you’re falling behind. But let’s pause and flip the script. What if we looked at purpose not as a monumental end state but as a journey, or better yet, a series of meaningful moments?
The Mirage of a Singular Purpose
The societal narrative often glorifies this idea of a singular, grandiose purpose—a one-size-fits-all mission statement for your life. That’s not just daunting; it’s downright paralyzing. While you’re busy searching for this elusive ultimate purpose, you’re neglecting the value in everyday moments. Listening to a friend who’s going through a rough time, cheering on your favorite team, or even taking out the trash—all of these actions have purpose when you are fully present in doing them.
A Deeper Look: The Connection Between Purpose and Suicides
It’s an alarming and heartbreaking statistic—the rise of suicides among active-duty military personnel. What makes it even more puzzling is that, according to recent studies, a significant portion of these tragedies involve service members who have never been deployed to combat zones. One of the leading factors cited by experts is a loss of purpose. It’s a topic that deserves our attention, especially as we explore the broader concept of finding purpose in every moment.
Why Purpose Matters
It’s easy to think that someone who serves in the military, a vocation often idealized as the epitome of purpose-driven work, would never struggle with this issue. But the reality is much more nuanced. When service members transition back to civilian life, they often find themselves grappling with a void. They miss the lifestyle, the shared mission, and the camaraderie with fellow service members. It can be incredibly challenging to replace these aspects in the civilian sector, leading to feelings of aimlessness and, tragically, a rise in suicidal thoughts and actions.
But purpose is universally sought after, and the impact of not feeling it is just as devastating in the civilian world. It’s a common misconception that those in the civilian world, surrounded by the comforts of daily life and free from the pressures of military service, are immune to feelings of aimlessness. However, the truth reveals a more intricate tapestry. Many civilians, despite the abundance of choices in their professional and personal lives, find themselves yearning for a deeper sense of purpose and belonging. In a society increasingly characterized by digital connections and transient relationships, the profound human need for meaningful engagement and camaraderie often goes unmet. This void can manifest as feelings of isolation or lack of direction, which, in distressing cases, can escalate to despair and thoughts of self-harm.
The Wisdom of Amor Fati and Tibi Propositum Est Nunc
The Greeks had a term for embracing the circumstances that life throws at you: “Amor Fati,” or “love your fate.” But let’s take it a step further with another powerful phrase: “Tibi Propositum Est Nunc,” which translates to “your purpose is now.” Imagine if we lived by this mantra, finding purpose in every task, every interaction, every moment.
Small Impacts, Massive Outcomes
Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing bad about dreaming big or wanting to make a substantial impact on the world. But the sum of life is not made up of a few giant leaps; it’s comprised of countless small steps. For the military veterans out there, think back to basic training. No grand act made you a soldier; it was a series of smaller, deliberate actions—each with a purpose—that collectively formed your identity and skill set. The same goes for civilians in any walk of life. Your daily routines, your work, your relationships—they’re all building blocks that sum up to something far greater. Lots of small impacts eventually create a massive impact.
The Fluidity of Purpose Over Time
Purpose is not static; it evolves as you traverse different stages of life. Sometimes your purpose is to be a diligent student, a supportive spouse, an effective leader, or even an obedient follower. At one point, your role might be that of a warrior, and at another, a peacemaker. The point is not to pigeonhole yourself into one forever-purpose but to be adaptable, finding new avenues for impact as you grow and change.
Your Purpose is Now
Being fully present—finding purpose in the here and now—has another significant advantage: happiness. When you’re continually chasing a distant, monumental purpose, you’re sacrificing the joy you could experience today. By living in the moment, by finding your purpose in the now, you’re crafting a life that you can look back on and proudly say, “I lived a life of purpose.”
So, whether you’re a veteran who’s fought on foreign soils or someone navigating the complexities of civilian life, stop waiting for a grand revelation to define your life’s worth. Embrace the idea that your purpose is now, in this moment, no matter how ordinary or small it may seem. When you do that, you’re not just living; you’re thriving, one purposeful moment at a time.
J.C. served in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer for 20 years, primarily in special operations and special missions units with more than 11 combat tours. Since retiring from the military, JC has brought his innovative and unconventional thoughts on education, leadership and resiliency into the private sector, consulting with Fortune 500 companies, the NFL, NBA, NCAA and professional sports teams including the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Hornets.
He holds a Masters Degree from the Naval War College and was a Senior Fellow in the Service Chief’s Fellowship at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
He has earned 3 Bronze Stars, 3 Meritorious Service Medals, a Joint Commendation Medal, and the Order of Saint Maurice. He is a Liberty Fellow, a part of The Aspen Institute and the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.