Live with Purpose Men!

by | Jun 7, 2023 | CC Favorite Essays, Essays

Most men are running on empty today. It’s the kind of empty men rarely acknowledge and quickly replace with a steady stream of ongoing, temporary distractions. We don’t want to confront the uncomfortable sense that our lives have been knocked off center – and certainly don’t want to admit that we are the culprits. Instead, we pray at the altar of achievement – a destructive, false idol that can lead to addiction and literally fill our lives with disease and decay.

And, when we do achieve, no matter how great, it simply does not mend the widening hole in our individual souls. So, we double down – try to do even more and yet continue to ultimately find emptiness despite our redoubled efforts and growing list of accomplishments.

As younger men, we learned to trust those idols in which we were told held freedom and joy, but we were betrayed. Yet, the irony couldn’t be thicker, as we tell ourselves that we chase our idols in support of family, the greater good or for a brighter future – and once that future finally arrives, we will invest in those things we have ignored and neglected yet claimed to be supporting all along. We don’t see we are destroying the future we aim to build. These stories we tell ourselves to serve our idols couldn’t be more insidious. Men need to embrace a brand of ruthless honesty and reject the stories we tell about the idols we serve – that ultimately rob us of the most important things in life – before it’s too late.

Karl Marx was wrong (on this and many other subjects) when he wrote, religion is the “opiate of the masses” – for men, the drug of choice is material success and achievement that’s untethered to a higher cause and can only offer a fleeting and hollow significance without any real meaning or connection to purpose. In this, men are prolific box checkers, hoping that one of the boxes will hold the key to a deep and abiding satisfaction in life. We fail to see that the answers must come from us. As Victor Frankl wrote, it is life itself that questions each of us – what meaning will we make of it?

Unfortunately, our broken idols stir a potent and primal desire for meaning that they cannot fulfill, yet these are the things around which we organize our lives – and sadly lead us to a dead end without the means to navigate further. We become stuck at the altar of the meaningless and thirst for an opportunity at radical change. But without a path forward, we look back and regret – living lives, as Thoreau once wrote, of an ever growing “quiet desperation.”

Not only do many men lead lives of quiet desperation, we also lash out in anger and frustration among many other forms of despair about the unstoppable march of time. We sense our once full hourglass is dwindling, and our lives are not more, but perhaps less, meaningful despite our best efforts over years – even decades. We know something must be done, but seem paralyzed to act out against the inertia of the cycle we have created in our lives as a result of our choices.

We try to ignore the ever growing sense that something is off, that we are adrift far from home base, seemingly navigating our lives in a dense fog across a wind-swept sea. We feel, at times, depressed, not to mention run ragged and often totally unmotivated. Men have become a tribe of exiles trying to find home; as author Timothy Keller wrote, “always traveling but never arriving.”

We lose sight of the fact that our great ancestral home is not a place but rather a way of living – and we have, in many ways, lost our connection to that ethos.

When we know something is amiss in our lives, we bury those feelings and “suck it up” – as the pressure builds in our psyche. We continue to chase our false idols, climbing ladders of political, social or economic power – and we achieve prominence in the world around us, but fail to know or acquire any appreciable meaning or purpose. In this, men have become spectators in life by chasing dreams that are not our own, and watching the power and promise of our authenticity and potential – that could manifest as “unique purpose” – drift slowly away from us across our lifespan.

We become trapped in our worthless cycle, and while some simply hope for better days, others rage at the state of their lives – but hope is not a strategy and anger is not a course of action. Rather than hope or anger, only meaning can beget meaning.

After his last conquest, legend says that Alexander the Great, “wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.” Having conquered the known world, Alexander had run out of the possibility of achievement. Without the prospect of “more worlds to conquer,” Alexander was left with those unfilled holes in his soul that he instantly discovered could never be mended by conquest or achievement. He must have experienced the ultimate sense of panic followed by a mournful surrender to the very real possibility of an empty and meaningless future. In short, he had no idea how to move forward in life. He knew it, and, so he wept. Alexander had become a spectator.

Men need a way forward. God knows I did – and still do.

As men, we must confront our role in this quagmire we find ourselves in, and in doing so, we must reclaim our purpose and recapture what has been lost to an adult life spent chasing other people’s definitions of success. In this, we have lost the most authentic and powerful part of ourselves – the part of us that informs and guides our purpose.

Men often lose their most authentic selves as they enter the workforce, run the rat race, take on responsibilities and eventually lose sight of their deeper aspirations and childhood dreams – dreams that were driven by the uniqueness and authenticity every child embodies before it is silenced by a world that demands a sheeplike level of conformity to simply “get by.”

I believe the most common ways of living are inadequate to produce the kind of meaning that men need from life; as it should be – each of our unique purposes cannot be contained or expressed through a reversion to the mean. Average is the enemy. Instead, we must make meaning by discovering and living out our unique purpose guided by three powerful elements:

  1. Sacred things : Those things for which we would kill or die without doubt or hesitation – these are the things that must play the primary role in our lives. Our sacred things offer the basis on which to build a personal ethos – the drawing of lines in the sands of life without regard to cost. Our personal ethos – our non-negotiable principles – emerge and the moral issues that plague life’s toughest decisions are already decided before they confront us.
  2. Passion : Our unique making, those things that are unlike anyone else, produce a unique perspective on what we find fascinating and around which we cultivate passion. Focus on the common denominator found in those things for which you have passion. This is a powerful clue to your unique purpose.
  3. Potential : Because you are uniquely made, you have a unique potential that includes your physical, mental, emotional, intuitive and spiritual domains. Build and care for these domains and apply them in ways others cannot, inching closer towards your unique purpose.

Don’t worry if the discovery of your purpose is not immediate – most men find that this is a worthwhile journey entirely on its own. Conversely, the rewards of seeking out your purpose are powerful and meaningful – and can be immediate and permanent. Finally, while unique purpose is subjective and experiential, it yields objective, life-changing results – and it is often others that first recognize you are living out your unique purpose (so listen carefully to those you trust).

Spend time in consideration of these things and develop a constantly flowing intention to discover your purpose. Nothing could be more important, and nothing could be more rewarding.

7 Pillar Worksheet

The uneasy feeling you keep ignoring won't go away. You're living a life that's unworthy of your unique purpose, and you realize you've got to do something.  Where do you start?

Download the CONQUER CULTURE 7 PILLAR WORKSHEET and launch a 3-step process to ignite your personal reclamation.

7 Pillar Worksheet
My Biggest Challenges