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Embracing a Purpose – Ready, Fire, Aim

November 26, 2010

Embracing a Purpose – Ready, Fire, Aim:

In a recent blog post I mentioned a former teacher and coach of mine, Angela Thoburn. She was an instrumental figure to me when I was in my late twenties. She owned a business called Opportunities Management Incorporated (now OMI Associates), and Angie’s work, in her own words, is “to influence and enhance responsible and accountable behavior so that clients may gain lasting change in their personal and organizational lives.” Her workshops had a strong focus on purpose and vision as the foundations on which to build individual and corporate effectiveness. Angie always had a strong commitment to women in business, and piloted a workshop specifically for them entitled Women Moving Forward. It was in this environment that we met and she became my teacher and friend.

How can you facilitate someone in their purpose and vision when they are not sure what that is? So many people in our workshops said that they hadn’t started working on their purpose because they didn’t know what that was. Angie came back with very simple words of wisdom. “Pick something,” she would say. “There is so much work in the world that needs doing, just pick something.” Her belief was that getting into action was key, and eventually, you would either grow roots in the path you picked, choose a fork in the road that would lead you to a new purpose, or realize that the choice you made no longer served you, in which case you could pick something else.

I remember these words of wisdom like they were yesterday. How many of us wait for that moment of inspiration, when we say, “Aha! Now I know what I am supposed to do. Now I have a purpose!”

This waiting begs the question: What are we doing while we are waiting? I think this is the essence of what Angie was getting at. Every moment is precious, every act, no matter how small, can have an impact for good in some way. Michael Masterson refers to this as “ready, fire, aim,” in his book of the same title. It may be that it is only after we take action, after we make a commitment to following a path, that our purpose will reveal itself.

In my early years I was a professional dancer. I loved dancing as a child but never thought about it as a career. It was by accident that I began to study it seriously in college—through the cajoling of a trusted friend to audition for Ohio University’s dance department. I completely enjoyed the years I devoted to train and perform, but was it my purpose? I don’t think I thought in those terms at the time. I also volunteered my time in many pursuits related to ecological sustenance: working with recycling programs, beginning community organic gardens and providing education. Was this my purpose? I knew it was important to me. I simultaneously trained to become a medical massage therapist, a career that I followed for about twenty years. It was work that I liked and that helped others.

I wouldn’t say about any of these choices that I woke up in the morning saying, God, I know this is the work you want of me. It wasn’t until I was in my early forties that I knew my true purpose. On a lovely spring day in Santa Barbara I had just completed an interview call for the rabbinical school at American Jewish University (then called the University of Judaism). I had that “Aha!” moment. I finally knew my life’s purpose.

A moment never passes in which I feel regret for the choices that I made before that spring day in 2001, whether professionally or as a volunteer. Every step in the road introduced me to people who made my life extremely rich. Every choice taught me skills and tools that continue to support me in my work today.

As Steve and I have been working on Find Fulfill Flourish, we have met so many people and learned of a vast number of organizations doing great work in the world. I am continually inspired by them and the many opportunities that we have discovered. It opens my eyes to the myriad ways any one of us can choose to get involved.

If you know your purpose, blessings to you as you pursue it. If you aren’t yet sure, why not take a risk and simply “fire?” Go ahead and pick something. It will be bound to add vibrancy and meaning to your life and to those of others as well. Who knows? You may realize you have discovered your life’s work.

*             *             *

If you enjoyed this post, you may also be interested in: “Finding Purpose and Fulfillment Through Random Acts of Kindness”

We post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The topic on Monday will be “Why the Metal of Honor Recipient is a Shining Example.”

Robin Damsky

Robin Damsky is the rabbi of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois, and co-author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 26, 2010 8:25 am

    This blog article is very inspiring to me–to think of my goal visually as a target–and to just pierce an arrow into it and go ahead with my goals. Thank you, Robin, for posting this. I very much enjoy all these articles and look forward to seeing them in my inbox. They are very important to me, they help to guide my life with Jewish-based philosophy and thought. I appreciate this blog, and look forward to the next posting.

    • November 28, 2010 10:56 am

      Thanks so much for sharing your reaction to this post and your overall feedback. It means a great deal to us. We look forward to hearing from you again.
      Our best,
      Steve and Robin

    • November 29, 2010 10:29 am

      Dear Beth,

      I am pleased to hear that you are inspired. If we can keep our eye on our goals like they are a target, we have a solid guide.


  2. November 27, 2010 10:26 pm

    Interesting and Inspiring post. Taking a risk and doing something is better that just sitting and procrastinating, making a huge lot of plans. As your teacher rightly said. Thank you for this post.

    • November 28, 2010 10:53 am

      Thanks for your feedback and sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you again.

    • November 29, 2010 10:30 am

      You’re welcome. Let us know what choice you might make. It will inspire us all.


  3. Angela Thoburn permalink
    December 5, 2010 10:17 am

    Oh, Robin, how you have touched my heart. I came upon this by accident. I’m such a neophyte with this technology. But on this Sunday morning, writing in my journal about transitions and completions, how amazing to find this lovely acknowledgment. I am in fact dissolving OMI after more than 25 years, and to know that my work has contributed to yours means so much. What a joy to see what you are up to…I send my fondest wishes.

    • December 6, 2010 3:35 pm

      Hi Angie,

      How wonderful to hear from you after all these years. Looks like you handled the technology beautifully.

      We often have no idea when we have touched a life. My teachers taught this repeatedly in our education classes. Sometimes we know in an instant, sometimes we find out years later, and there are other times when we just don’t know. Well, now you can cross this “don’t know” off your list. Your work still makes a difference.

      It is great to hear from you, and I wish you blessings as you move through this next transition in your life.

      Happy Holidays,

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