On September 1, 1985 explorer Robert Ballard made a discovery that made his heart leap into his throat. He later recorded his feelings about this event and said, “My first direct view of Titanic lasted less than two minutes, but the stark sight of her immense black hull towering above the ocean floor will remain forever ingrained in my memory. My lifelong dream was to find this great ship, and during the past 13 years the quest for her had dominated my life. Now, finally, the quest was over.”1
Ballard spent 13 years of his life searching for the long-lost Titanic. He had dreamed of it even before beginning the expedition. The goal of this find drove him on. His experience demonstrates the power that a single purpose has in a person’s life.
This makes me ask a simple but important question: Do you know how to live on purpose?
I am not sure most people know how to dream as Ballard, and countless others before him, knew. Many of us seem to drift along, never dreaming, never longing for something better, never fighting to achieve, and never following the power of a single purpose. I am not referring primarily to getting things — new cars, stereos, computers, and the like. We have garages full of stuff, but still lack a single, compelling purpose for living. Without that purpose, we drift along as sticks in a swollen river. Think about many of the people you know. Many are after things that do not seem to matter much. They feel that life is composed of the accumulation of gadgets and gizmos. But if that is all life is, then life is nothing worth worrying about.
To have a purpose in life is a guiding and steadying influence. What you are "up to" in life is one way of describing your purpose in life. Another way is to think about what you consider most worthwhile.
All of these are the same way of asking, “Why are you living?” “What is your purpose in life?” We simply must have some overall purpose in life. Joseph Addison said, "The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." Those elements give us a reason to get up in the morning and to keep pursuing our dreams even when they seem out of reach. We are made to live on purpose.
People with a clear-cut sense of purpose can withstand many challenges, inconveniences, and difficulties that others cannot. They do not give up. They do not break the 11th commandment — “Thou Shalt Not Whine.” These people are like the explorer Ballard who kept going for 13 years while pursuing his dream of discovering the Titanic. People who live on purpose are like the early explorers who risked their very lives to carve out places in the wilderness for their families.
One person’s mountain is another’s molehill. The same hammer that tempers steel shatters glass. The difference is in the material. Thus it is with life. An experience that might throw one person off course is hardly even an inconvenience to another. One is drifting and gets sidetracked anywhere. The other knows where he or she is headed and lets nothing interfere for long.