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I was at a seminar organized by Egreen’s  Mind The Gap for NYSC Corp Members. Speaking at the event was Pai Gamde– head HR at Nigerian Stock Exchange. She was giving a talk on the ibrand which I must say, was very engaging and insightful. At some point during the seminar, she asked “how many of you know your purpose?” Silence! She repeated the question again, but got no response. She appeared to be somehow disappointed but managed to shrug it off as she encouraged us to discover our respective purposes as soon as possible.
The word ‘Purpose’ is perhaps one of the most important words any human will ever come in contact with in his or her lifetime. From the pulpit of the pastor to the feet of the parent, the individual is directly or indirectly exposed to this word. It then comes as a surprise that in a gathering of youths, most of whom were in their mid-twenties, no one appeared to know his/her purpose. Miss Pai’s disappointment is therefore to be expected because as we must have learnt from various sources, an individual that does not know his/her purpose cannot achieve anything significant in life.

However, let us look at things from a different perspective; what if we as human beings cannot know our purpose? What if the only thing we can discover is our role in this maze called life?
Let me explain. For those privileged to hear stories of great men and women, you realize how often many of them surmise that their life experiences had prepared them for the task that was set before them. Even more intriguing is the fact that they only realize this in retrospect, either during or after the task has been accomplished.
Using the Bible as a starting point, we see many examples that point us to the fact that in many, if not most cases, purpose is discovered retrospectively. Look at Queen Esther. If you had walked up to her just before she won the beauty pageant that launched her political career and asked her for her purpose in life, she would probably have told you that her purpose was to be the first lady of the empire. Or if you had met Joseph on the bus ride from the maximum prison to the white house of his time and asked him for his purpose, He might have replied: ‘to be the first prime minister in the world’s most powerful country.’ Neither of them would have told you that the climax of their existence would culminate in the critical rescue operation of their kinsmen from extinction.

Fast forward to present day and take a look at Winston Churchill, the English Prime Minister whose inspiring leadership helped Britain beat back the German offensive during World War II. He definitely did not graduate from school thinking of saving Britain from a war that was yet to come into existence. Neither did Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin realize that his discovery would save Winston Churchill from death by pneumonia many years later. Alternatively, take the case of the crusader/evangelist who organized a crusade in which the only convert was a boy! The boy turned out to be Billy Graham – a man who would go on to shape Christianity in Europe and indeed, the world. Apple Company as well as their ifans would not have been impressed with Steve Jobs had they posed him the question as he roamed the hallways of the Reed University. I’m sure you are beginning to catch on.

The point I am trying to make is this – we can only have a vision for the roles we are going to play in life (and even that is not always accurate). Regarding purpose, only the creator of a thing knows the purpose for which it was created. In our case, the creator is God (depends on your beliefs).

The take home can be summed up in on word – Diligence. Here is what I mean – while it is good to have a vision for the future (what we mistakenly refer to as purpose), life always has a way of handling out various assignments, a lot of which are unpleasant and this is where the catch is: As we keep our goals in sight, we should make sure that we are diligent in whatever and wherever we find ourselves. For this could be the training that is preparing us for the purpose for which we were created, be it inventions, politics, counseling, parenthood or religious.

Ifeoluwapo Odedere

© 2013

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