Purpose

As a general policy, I try to do things purposefully rather than passively.

“Purposeful” can mean different things, though, depending on what aspect of life we’re talking about.

Exercising each morning is purposeful in that I hope to remain fit and healthy, but it’s also purposeful in that it feels good, is difficult enough that I derive a sense of satisfaction from completing my routine, and in that it adds a nice bit of structure to my day.

Writing is purposeful for me in that I derive a sense of pleasure from selecting the right words and putting them in the proper order. It’s also purposeful because it helps me pay my bills, and because I believe communication is fundamental to achieving all the things we want to accomplish as individuals and as a species (seedlings of solutions are less likely to disperse and bloom without clear communication).

We can be purposeful in our movements, then—how we walk, how we eat, how we breathe—but we can also be purposeful in the shape our lives and environments take, plotting moves decades in advance so we’re in the position to do fulfilling work and/or nudge society toward ambitions we deem appropriate and vital.

Medium-sized purposes are also important: the week- or month- or year-long endeavors that culminate with our having written a book, moved to a new city, picked up a new skill, or sparked and defined and cultivated a fresh relationship.

These are less meticulously tweakable than a daily workout routine, but not as ponderous (and thus unhurriedly steerable) as a lifelong undertaking.

Such mid-size purposes require consistent attention and energy, but may not bear fruit for some time—which can make gauging the impact of our adjustments tricky, and assessing the role they play in our lives (including if and how long we want to maintain them) an exercise in stamina and durability, rather than just brute strength or brazenness.

Purpose of any scale is worth our attention and measurement, though, because it can provide us with a north star to aim for and help us harvest meaning and pleasure from daily minutiae, intermediate-scope projects, and epic-scale undertakings.

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