It’s ok to be useful instead of grandiose. Your purpose doesn’t have to be big or fancy, it can be the small everyday things that make someone’s life a little bit better. Don’t get paralysed by the need to be perfect, strive for excellence instead. If you’re not sure what your purpose is, ask someone who knows you well. They might have some insight that you don’t.
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- Your purpose doesn’t have to be big or grandiose, it can be the small everyday things that make someone’s life a little bit better.
- Don’t get paralysed by the need to be perfect, strive for excellence instead.
- It’s ok to be usefully ornamental!
- If you’re not sure what your purpose is, ask someone who knows you well. They might have some insight that you don’t.
About Aileen Howell:
Aileen describes herself as a mum of 4, a dedicated Geek girl, a Breastfeeding Advocate, an Aspie & ADHD mum, and a Maker of Things.
Aileen was the founder and managing director of bumpbasics.com, Ireland’s first exclusively online maternity wear start-up. Before her start-up days, she was a software engineer working in the finance sector. These days she is a director with a uniform (school & industry) supplier and a full time La Leche League Leader – a voluntary position in the area of mother-to-mother breastfeeding support.
Contacting Aileen Howell:
You can contact Aileen by email
By Aileen Howell
One of my late grandmother’s favourite putdowns was “You’re neither use nor ornament” – this usually said in exasperation as we dodged about underfoot hoping that a freshly baked bun or slice of apple tart might happen our way. The inference being, of course, that if you weren’t decorative or helpful then you had no business being there. So, I perhaps I have internalised that belief and, as someone who’s not inclined towards being ornamental, over the years it has been my preference to be useful. It has become the running joke amongst my siblings that if there are a couple of us in the room with our mother, she will ask me to change lightbulbs, put on a wash, fix the TV remote or put out the bird food. In my extended family and friends circle I would be seen as the one to go to for help, the babysitter, the picker-upper, the errand runner. These things all bring me a sense of satisfaction, fulfil a need in me to indeed be useful.
I sometimes wonder, especially as I get older, if this serves as my purpose or if it’s a way of avoiding looking for and finding my “real” purpose. When I was younger, I never felt the need to search for a purpose. I didn’t need to climb mountains, swim oceans, run marathons or seek fame. I never “set off with a sense of purpose” to conquer the future.
The Berkeley Greater Good Science Magazine described purpose as: an abiding intention to achieve a long-term goal that is both personally meaningful and makes a positive mark on the world. Somehow this feels like it should be something bigger any more important than giving someone’s dog a lift to the vet or doing a relative’s shopping. That when people talk about purpose they really mean “Purpose” with a capital P – but what if that’s not for everyone. What if, for many of us, our purpose is to support those whose purpose does have a capital P.
A few years ago, I read Brene Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection” and in it she talks about the difference between perfectionism and striving for excellence. For me, this was a light bulb moment. I realised that for years I had been paralysing myself with the need to be perfect and that, in fact, what I really needed to do was to strive for excellence instead. I didn’t need to be perfect to be useful.
So, if you’re like me and searching for your purpose, don’t forget to look for the small things, the everyday things that you can do to make someone’s life a little bit better. It might not be what you had in mind but trust me, it’s enough.