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The Power of a Purpose

The Power of a Purpose

A grey sky above a sand beach and ocean shoreline

Observing Objectives in Life 

By Emmett Pennington-Guthrie 

A sense of purpose is what helps people find meaning in life and move forward. Defining that sense is a difficult thing for many of us. Ask yourself: can you say exactly what your purpose is?  

For many people, it is an altruistic thing. For example, Devon Border, a junior English pre-medicine major, describes that his self-purpose lies in “making sure that the people around [him] feel supported and cared for, especially those who need it most.” [1] Purposes like this one center around other people, so they motivate individuals like Border to do things that help others. In his case, it resulted in leading him toward the medical field.  

Periods in life without a feeling of purpose can be “very pessimistic… very dull,” as Rajen Patel, sophomore history major, puts it. [2] In contrast, having that raison d’être (“the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence”) can help create the drive needed to get through challenges, be it an unhealthy relationship or a particularly difficult chemistry class. [3] 

Patel’s view on purpose is a mix of his desire to help people and “actively [choosing] every day to do good,” which comes to him from the belief that people are capable of both good and evil, with the pursuit of goodness being a goal in his life. [4] Finding his purpose, he said, helped him decide what he wanted to do with his life and ultimately let him determine his goals for the future. 

When someone finds their purpose, it can help them make decisions on where they want to go in life. I find it hard to define a purpose when I cannot say that what I value now is going to be what I value next year. Photo by Emmett Pennington-Guthrie

The drive caused by a sense of purpose is a motivator for the big decisions and actions we all take, such as going to college or choosing a field to work in. Feeling motivation to help others might lead you towards medicine, teaching, or any other field where you can influence people’s lives. 

When someone finds their purpose, it can help them make decisions on where they want to go in life. Ken Norton, a sophomore computer science major, describes that he has changed his major in the past to better fit with his motivations, which were the need to help other people while also enjoying his life. Realizing our purpose, or even just the underlying values we have, may create major shifts in how we choose to live. 

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Before the COVID-19 shutdown, I was too busy with school and life to slow down and ask what I thought I might want in the future. With classes canceled and nothing to do, I could suddenly take time to think about my future and what I wanted to do in life. I still do not know if I really have it figured out. It reminds me of the description of life Norton gave as being “split up into short terms,” in which your purpose changes in each term. [5] I find it hard to define a purpose when I cannot say that what I value now is going to be what I value next year.  

I am now committed to the nursing program here at Walla Walla University, and I also have a vision for my future, motivated by my purpose—a purpose which I feel is to develop connections with patients and friends alike. Not just to help them, but to understand them more deeply. 


  1. Interview with Devon Border, 10/7/2021. 
  1. Interview with Rajen Patel, 10/7/2021. 
  1. Lexico Dictionaries. (n.d.). Raison d’être English definition and meaning. Lexico Dictionaries | English. Retrieved October 13, 2021, from 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Interview with Ken Norton, 10/7/2021. 
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