Purpose is a multi-faceted idea but a large part of it can be made concrete through the use of psychometric testing. These tests don’t resolve the question of what purpose you may have but they provide a bedrock of self-knowledge from which additional information and self-knowledge can be derived.
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- A sense of purpose can be derived from self-knowledge
- One isn’t obliged to follow one’s purpose
- Psychometric testing can reveal insights into the personality
- One can intuit one’s purpose or once can derived it from self-observation
About Tom Murphy
Classics and Philosophy student at NUI Galway.
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By Tom Murphy
The word purpose has a good few meanings, and many connotations. Fit for purpose, for instance, is a way of expressing appropriateness while the word ‘purpose’ itself can have the stand alone meaning of a proposed destiny. It is this latter meaning that I want to devote the rest of this essay.
Purpose in the conventional sense of pre-ordained function – the purpose of a car is to transport you somewhere – gives us a sense of potential completion. It doesn’t automatically follow that because something has a purpose it will be fulfilled. We see this most clearly in others. We all know people who have great potential but fail to take the appropriate steps for the realisation of their apparent purpose.
One’s life purpose, if indeed there is one, is the outcome of a conglomeration of personality traits which are well understood in the psychological community. These professional psychometric tests have the potential, in the absence of self-knowledge, of providing insight into one’s personality and one’s motives. They can provide the means from which a purpose in life can be derived.
Determining what one’s purpose in life is a bit like hitting a moving target. In many cases what would suit us best is determined not only by our natural proclivities but also our circumstances and life experiences. But at the back of it all most of us have the feeling that there is something that we should be doing and that we won’t be truly happy until we are acting in congruence with it.
In many ways having a purpose in life is a luxury. I often think of the Irish men who went to be navigators in Victorian London. Many of them had beautiful minds and hands capable of great artistry but their potential to fulfil their purpose was thwarted by the circumstances that they found themselves in.
So having the time and ability to fulfil one’s purpose is a great thing. Of course, only a few of us are ever going to devote ourselves to our life purpose come what may. We have families, jobs, responsibilities, and obligations. But for the lucky few we do live in times when many things are possible.
I would suggest that purpose is not fulfilled in the completion of specific achievements, but that success is a by-product of purposeful activity.
However, purpose is not about worldly achievement. For instance, while more than one Formula driver has claimed that it is his purpose to drive fast one could also argue there is no need for grown men to race cars around fast tracks for millions of dollars. The fulfilment of purpose must exist outside the worldly realm. One can have the good fortune to be able to race fast cars through personal disposition and opportunity, but it can only ever be when our personality traits match the circumstances.
In many ways, purpose can equal destiny but that is based on having a good understanding of oneself. A deep dive into one’s character and granular knowledge of the facets of that character such as derived from self-examination protocols such as the NEO-4 allows one to determine how one faces and deals with life. Such an exploration can reveal new things about oneself as well as act as confirmation for other attributes of character that one is already familiar with.
The attempts to attend to and adhere to one’s purpose can act like a unifying force on the personality. If you are good at certain things, then doing those certain things can have a reinforcing effect on the pursuit of one’s purpose.
I am not suggesting that we form our perceptions of ourselves or of the world through the wonders of psychometric testing alone. We all have pluses and minuses in life. What I am suggesting is that a modicum of self-examination can produce illuminating results.
When dealing with the concept of purpose these insights from the field of psychology can tell you whether you are on the right track or acting on a misperception of who you really are and what you are really about.
Obtaining accurate information about one’s character can tell one in great deal about what works for you and what doesn’t. I am assuming that a prerequisite for a life of purpose is greater knowledge of oneself. With greater knowledge comes the opportunity to focus one’s valuable time on what works for you and ameliorate what doesn’t. The sum of these facets of personality can add up to what, are very strong pointers, to having a purpose in life.
It may sound simplistic just to say, ‘do what you are good at’, but the point is to use this information as guidelines pointing in the direction of what your purpose may be. It is better to travel through life with better and more useful information than just noise.
What the psychometric tests reveal is that our brains are only wired together in so many ways but with a great deal of variance within those parameters. One doesn’t have to adhere to narrow definitions but are expandable to suit the needs of one’s circumstances.
Ultimately, psychometric testing can provide a valuable short cut to self-knowledge and the results can be incorporated into one’s sense of purpose to act more effectively in the world.