The title of this post might be a little disconcerting at first glance. It might throw you off because “what’s your problem?” tends to be a rhetorical question we usually throw out in the middle of an argument. When someone cuts you off in traffic, for example, you roll down the car window and yell, “Hey, what’s your problem??”
But today let’s redirect that question to ourselves and ask: “What is my problem?” Or more specifically, what’s the problem I carry in my heart that I want to fix?
Answering that question will help you understand your purpose.
Yes, one key to unlocking your purpose is understanding the burden that presses down on you and using your skills to find a unique solution to that problem.
When Ajit Sivaram and Satish Manchikanti from Bangalore discovered that underprivileged children were dropping out of government-run and low-income schools because of poor quality education, that issue wasn’t just a social problem ‘out there.’ It became their problem. It became their burden. They decided to do something about it by bringing their unique skills and experience to the table. Together, they started U&I – an NGO that brings personalized learning and mentorship to underprivileged children by pairing them up with educated, passionate volunteer tutors. Today, ten years after U&I first opened its doors, this non-profit impacts more than 2000 students every year through its Learning Centers spread across India. For these co-founders, their burden gave direction to their purpose.
Today, take a moment to consider what problem keeps you up at night. Ask yourself what’s the issue that really gets under your skin that you can help address. It could be problems faced by an individual or a group of people or society at large. It could be a problem that you yourself have overcome and hence you have increased empathy for someone navigating the same issue. Perhaps, you want to help people get fit and eat healthy because you see obesity as a growing epidemic. Perhaps, you want to help people sing better or you want to create art that brightens people’s lives. Perhaps, you want to write code that will help someone with their business needs. Dig deep. Understand the needs. And use your unique skills and talents to bring a solution to that need.
The thing about purpose is that we aren’t created for ourselves. We are created to serve. Purpose is never selfish or self-centered. If it is, then it merely devolves into egocentric ambition which won’t bring lasting fulfilment.
There’s a quote from Heidi Wills which goes:
We can choose to be affected by the world or we can choose to affect the world.
Perhaps, we can combine both those aspects of the quote and say that “we can choose to affect what we are affected by.”
Maybe you’re thinking – but the problem is too big.
And, yes, that’s true. Maybe issues like global poverty or climate change are too big for you to change. But you can change things for a few people or in a small geography, even if it’s your own neighborhood. Break down the problem to find bite-sized chunks of it that you can sink your teeth into. There’s no burden too big or too small, too significant or too insignificant. There is no hierarchy of burdens.
Maybe you’re thinking – but there are enough people bringing their own solutions and services to the issue.
And, yes, that’s true too. But no one, absolutely no one, has your exact life experience, your one-of-a-kind approach and your unique gifts and your irreplaceable vision. Don’t let the number of players scare you off the field. The world needs what you alone can bring to the table. So, pull up a seat.
Find the problem. Offer your solution. Discover your purpose.
Author: Susan Narjala
With a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, New York, other publications she’s written for include: Indiaanya, FaithIt, Her View from Home, The MOPS Blog, For Every Mom, The Hindu, Motherly, Engage Magazine (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) and Parent.com.