Purpose and Spark – Is There a Difference?
Disney recently released its newest movie called “Soul.” It’s about a middle school music teacher who feels stuck in life and unfulfilled at his job. This one-line synopsis alone would likely be enough to hook the interest of most career practitioner viewers. They may possibly wonder, “Where are they going with this?” Personally, I took away many great messages on both the meaning of life and work – messages that relate closely to the work we do with our clients. I learned that finding your “spark” – something that you’re passionate about – does not mean that you’ve discovered your purpose, your vocation, or the meaning of life. When the film was over, I found myself thinking about the words “purpose” and “spark” and how they’re quite different.
The movie starts off with the main character, Joe Gardner, being offered a permanent job teaching music at his school – a job with security, medical insurance, and a pension. Be honest, now; what percentage of your clients are looking for something similar to this as their dream job? Not Joe, though. In his heart, he’s a piano-playing jazz performer. On this very same day, Joe is also offered the one big break he’s been waiting for – the opportunity to play a high-profile gig with one of his jazz idols. He feels that this event will be the one thing that will make his whole life fall into place.
The words he uses to describe his passion for music are, “This isn’t about my career. It’s my reason for living. I’m just afraid that if I died today my life would have amounted to nothing.”
Don’t Die with Your Music Still in You
Joe’s line reminded me of a book titled Don’t Die with Your Music Still in You, written by Wayne Dyer and his daughter Serena. Serena shares, “I knew we all incarnated in this lifetime with a purpose, with something unique that called to us and excited our soul, and the idea of dying without ever expressing the music I came here to play terrified me. It still does! I’ve asked myself many times what my purpose is – why am I here?”
But that’s another story. Let’s get back to Joe.
As luck would have it, on the day that Joe is offered both the teaching job and the gig, his soul is accidentally separated from his body, but he’s not ready to move on to “The Great Beyond.” He has to find a way back into his body so that he can perform in the concert that will fulfill his life’s purpose. Joe flees The Great Beyond and ends up in “The Great Before” – a place where new souls are prepared for life on earth. There, he is mistaken for a mentor of souls-in-training and is assigned to Soul 22.
This soul has resisted coming to earth for centuries because, well, they just haven’t found their “spark.” Soul 22 eventually shares the reason for not wanting to go to earth; “I’ve always worried that maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I’m not good enough for living.”
Making a Shift in Perspective
Joe has his own agenda for needing to get back into his body but, in typical Disney fashion, Soul 22 unintentionally takes on Joe’s body and moves on to earth. Joe follows close behind to try to find a way to make the switch; to reconnect his soul with his body. So focused is he on this goal that he’s blind to observing how Soul 22 starts feeling differently about what it means to be human. You see, souls are not able to experience smell, taste, or touch – senses that we take for granted. But these seemingly simple things fill this new human with awe and wonder. Soul 22 excitedly tells Joe that these experiences could be their spark – their purpose! Joe scornfully dismisses this insight stating, “Those aren’t purpose! That’s just regular old living.”
Joe insists that life is about one thing – one purpose – and if 22 can’t find that one thing, they may as well give up.
How many of us are obsessed by the things we think we need to do (Joe) over who we are being while doing those things (Soul 22); over what we are sensing, feeling, and experiencing in the moment? How many of us are not present in our own lives?
While Soul 22 was shifting her perspective about life by connecting to the world through newly discovered human senses, Joe was obsessing about getting back into his body so that he could play his “big break” gig. The switch is made; Soul 22, resigned to not having a purpose – a message reinforced by Joe – goes back to The Great Before and Joe plays amazingly at the concert. When it’s over, he’s puzzled and feels deflated. He thinks to himself, “I’ve been waiting for this day for my entire life. I thought it would feel different.”
Joe starts to think that maybe – just maybe – Soul 22 had it right all along. Maybe our purpose isn’t a destination, but a journey. And maybe finding our spark is not the same as having a purpose. Joe begins to shift his perspective.
Searching for a way to tell Soul 22 about his revelation, Joe remembers a place called “The Zone” where you can sometimes make soul connections. Joe finds his way back to The Zone only to discover that Soul 22 has become a lost soul full of negative self-talk; obsessed by thoughts of being “being no good” and “having no purpose – no spark.”
Remember; It’s Not What We Do, It’s How We Do It
Joe tells Soul 22 that he was wrong – he had come to the realization that the spark that they’ve been looking for all along isn’t the same as their purpose. It isn’t something they need to do, it’s about being ready to live. It’s experiencing life the way it is, which is what Soul 22 had gleefully started to do while in Joe’s body. With a renewed sense of excitement and anticipation, 22 takes a leap of faith to embrace the experience of being fully human.
Serena Dyer shares the same message; “Slowly, I awakened to my true purpose. There are myriad ‘jobs’ that could carry out this life’s purpose, but what I came to realize is that my purpose is not what I do. It’s how I do it – how I express myself.”
What a powerful message to usher in the early days of a new year. And, it’s very much aligned with the learnings conveyed in CPC’s new Work-Life Coaching program, which focuses on the integration of living, learning, and working as the foundations of career development. The lessons help us work with our clients beyond just their purpose, to allow them to truly LIVE – to realize that “regular old living” is enough.
Finding Our Spark
What really is our quest for purpose? Is it something that we are in constant search of; what we came on earth to do? Stop for a moment now and ask your soul, “What is your purpose?” It may just share with you that it’s the spark in our hearts when we live and experience being human – when we savour, without judgement, every experience for how it feels in this physical body – simply feeling. What a gift we have been given when our sensory circuits are turned on and we can feel truly alive.
This is why I love the new work-life training program; it helps us find our balance in life and work. It reminds us to find joy in the moment, wonder in our experiences, and awe in new realizations. It’s about living our best lives by connecting to our spark; the soul of who we truly are.
Perhaps this is our purpose.
Carol Brochu combines a 30+ year career in HR, operations, and client service with a unique personal and spiritual development journey that has included studies in Mental Health First Aid, energy work, and self-care disciplines. She is a certified yoga and martial arts instructor, mindfulness facilitator, Me First practitioner, CPC member, and Certified Work-Life Strategist.