Life’s Meaning vs. Purpose: Giving Away Your Gift

Have you ever struggled with the question of whether what you’re doing in life matters? Is how you’re spending your hours moving you forward or making a difference? Have you ever felt the weight of worry or discontentment on your shoulders as you compare your accomplishments against others you see on social media or in the news? You can’t see it, but as I’m writing these words my head is nodding emphatically. I have all of these questions coursing through my veins most days, just as I did ten years ago when I first took the entrepreneurial leap to start my business, and just as I suspect I will ten years from now.

That seems unfair, right? After enough years invested in your career, you would hope the inner voices of doubt, disagreement, worry, and regret would recognize everything you’ve accomplished and let you continue on your path in peace. I don’t think we’ll ever be so lucky – but it’s also not the worst thing.

I believe that, for the most part, we’re all working toward whatever we have defined as our vision of success. That varies drastically from person to person, so reaching that goal is essentially a moving target for the whole world. But is there really a target to hit? Early in my professional career, at just 23 years old, I had an undeniable stirring to build my own business. I would often look to quotes for inspiration and validation for what I was feeling and to fuel the ambitious goals I was stacking high in my mind. I recently revisited that “folder of inspiration” on my computer and many of the quotes no longer aligned with my views or vision (it’s amazing how time can do that!), some still made me smile…but one made me pause.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

-Pablo Picasso

I imagine I originally saved this quote because it spoke to my desire to find my “gift” – or what I now know was my desire to find meaning in my life. I can say that after a decade of enduring growing pains, losing and gaining clients, marking milestones, and surpassing goals I would have never imagined were possible for a single business owner to accomplish as a “solopreneur”…this quote now speaks to me from its latter side. “The purpose of life is to give it away.”

Finding My Gift

When I first started my Public Relations consulting business, I knew I had a talent for writing and communicating. But over the years, I slowly chipped away – client by client and project by project – to reveal my true gift. I knew I tapped into my gift when things began to excel at a pace I never thought possible. I found myself standing before opportunities that I just simply never had on my radar. But most amazing was that I became less and less focused on achieving numbers and metrics to define the success of my business and that of my own self-worth. The numbers actually became irrelevant after a while. What fueled me was tapping into my gift.

Few things bring me as much peace, fulfillment, and energy as typing away on my computer as the sun rises. It’s during these moments I capture some of my most creative thoughts, innovative strategies, and accelerate my efficiency. I’ll unplug for hours throughout the day to spend time with my children, enjoy a lunch date with my husband, or explore the outdoors on a long run or hike (which I do near-daily). When I first set out to start my own business, I would never have been able to articulate that these were the goals I’d one day hope to achieve – financial freedom and complete flexibility in my schedule. That’s because I didn’t know what I was looking for! What I know now is that everything feels aligned and works at its best when the needs I have are fulfilled by the gifts I’ve been given.

Giving It Away

Now onto the important part. Finding your gift is one thing – and an important one at that. Step two won’t make much sense until you can accomplish step one. But once you find what you feel is your gift in life, you should shift your focus toward how you plan to give it away. What I think is most remarkable about Picasso’s quote is his choice of the word “give.” He didn’t say the purpose of life is to charge people the most you can for your gift…invest your gift in the stock market so it can’t be touched…or lock it away and protect it at all costs. He says to give it away. This will look different for each and every one of us. I believe we can and should use our gifts to make a living – an honest one. And in doing so, I feel we can also substantially impact the world by living generously.

The way I see it is money is energy. I surely want to keep enough stored up for my family when we find ourselves in need, but I also know I don’t want to have bundles of energy packed away from the world when it could go to a better use right now. One of my best examples of living out these words is a project my husband and I recently completed – a house for my parents. Through many years of tapping into the potential of each of our gifts, we were ready to give a large portion of this away. I invite you to explore the deeper story (which is quite incredible!). But for the purpose of this blog, I’ll conclude with this. We are all given gifts and we are all given opportunities to give these gifts away, whether that’s directly or by monetizing your gifts and then living generously with your income. What’s most important is to not stop short of Picasso’s second sentence. It’s in the giving away that life is made so, so much richer.

My Challenge for You

Again consider Picasso’s quote…

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

Pablo Picasso

He’s essentially outlining a two-step recipe for fulfillment in life. In a way, he’s giving us the secret to getting off the “hamster wheel.” Do this, he says. Find your gift, refine it, use it, show it to the world. But don’t stop there. Immediately and relentlessly seek ways to spread it everywhere. Give away your gift wherever you find a purpose for it. Once you hit the spring that is your God-given talent, it simply cannot run out. You’re not at risk of losing this gift. In fact, it’s far more likely that in the process of giving it away, it will accelerate its growth within you and open up the flood gates beyond whatever would have been possible if you kept it hidden as a slow trickle.

Imagine if we all lived out this quote in our lives? We would stop the voices of doubt that question our value or success, and instead, be fully confident in our unique gifts. And we would be compelled to live generously as we give away our gifts to fulfill life’s purpose. There would be less competition and more collaboration. Less jealously and more joyful celebration of one another’s successes.

I challenge you to think deeply about this concept – the concept of finding your gift and then focusing your life’s work on giving it away. How would this impact your inner voices of discontentment in your career, questioning the use of your time, or wondering if you’re impacting the world? Whatever you have to work with today would be enough. Our world’s focus would shift from attaining more to doing more – and doing more without any expectation of the favor being returned immediately or ever at all.

What thoughts or desires has this stirred up within you right now? How do Picasso’s words resonate with the challenges, doubts, or successes you’re experiencing in life? Don’t hold back! Allow us to benefit from your ideas and experiences by leaving a comment below.

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