Meaning and Purpose.
Socrates, Pablo Picasso, William Shakespeare, and author David Viscott have all had virtually the same deep quote attributed to them: “The purpose of your life is to find your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away” or “The meaning of your life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
I know they sound like the same thing, but there is a subtle difference. So, which quote is more accurate? In other words, chicken or the egg: does purpose or meaning come first? Here’s my take, which you may or may not agree with.
Meaning is personal, while purpose is communal. Discovering your gift—while it may manifest publicly—is something that you feel inside. It’s that feeling of being in the flow with a talent, idea, or way of being that feels deeply personal to you.
While purpose may feel personal as well, there’s often a beneficiary of your purpose. Purpose doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s something people rally around, and there’s often a sense of generosity associated with being purposeful. Put another way, meaning is inflow, and purpose is outflow.
So, all that said, in my humble opinion, here’s the ideal way to consider this directive from the four wise men listed above:
"The meaning of your life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away."
What are your thoughts?