Legend has it that when Hernán Cortés landed in Mexico in the 1500s, he ordered his men to burn the ships that had brought them there. He thereby removed the possibility of doing anything other than pursuing their objective of establishing a Spanish foothold in the New World.

What could have motivated such commitment – such reckless abandon?



This story speaks to the power of purpose. Men facing a great unknown, willing to scuttle the only tie to life as they knew it and their only way home.

Though modernity may scowl at Cortés’ objective, the level of dedication evidenced in this story remains admirable and serves as a reminder of the power of purpose in our lives.

Purpose is Integral

Purpose can be an intangible concept. It’s something that many people talk about, but it remains difficult to define. This is partially because purpose is necessarily pervasive. True purpose informs every area of your life.

Think of your purpose as your ‘raison d’etre’ – your reason for existence.

What is it?

Many have trouble answering this question – and that’s a problem for at least two reasons:

First, you cannot have sustained passion or expect success without knowing your purpose. I know many good people who simply go through the motions in daily life. They lack purpose and therefore fail to live up to their potential. Conversely, we can all think of people with misplaced priorities who are succeeding at various pursuits nonetheless – because they are, at least to some extent, ‘on-purpose.’

Second, life will seem much ‘harder’ without a clear sense of purpose.  Life does not define itself as hard; any qualitative assessment is our own. Further, the satisfaction we experience does not necessarily correlate with the feeling of ‘hardness.’ But where life is infused with purpose, then a sense of meaning is clear and nobody is found complaining. Life is a prison sentence if it holds no meaning.

Therefore, purpose is integral. A person who has a clear sense of purpose looks forward to starting her work in the morning. She is eager and enthusiastic, understands her purpose, and is committed to living it out.

That comes from confidence in knowing what you were born to do.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

– Mark Twain

Purpose is Multifaceted

So what’s your purpose?

As I’ve said, your sense of purpose will pervade all areas of your life. Accordingly, your purpose must be multifaceted, as well.

For example, many NexTwelve.com readers are Christians. In addressing the above question, they will rightly answer, ‘To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But the issue remains as to how…

This answer is appropriately transcendent, but must also inform daily life. If we stop here, we stop short. In other words:

  • How do you outwork this sentiment?
  • Does it shine through your passion?
  • Does it resonate when you apply your talents?
  • Have you identified the intersection between your passion and your talent and developed a powerful daily routine to unleash your creativity?

These questions can all be answered yes or no, but the substance of each affirmative answer defines the dimensions of your purpose.

“Thou has formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”

– Augustine

Purpose is Powerful

If you cannot yet answer these questions affirmatively, that’s ok. You must raise the sails before you burn the ships! Click that link to find out more.

“You must raise the sails before you burn the ships!” – Click to Tweet!

I constantly encourage people along these lines. There are few things more exciting than watching someone connect the dots between passion and talent, and develop a sense of conviction about God’s purpose for his life.

It’s worth investing the necessary time and energy to discover your purpose. A clear sense of purpose helps you:

  1. Make better decisions
  2. Have less stress
  3. Get more done in less time
  4. Be more attractive to other people (e.g., with more confidence, more enthusiasm)
  5. Be more valuable to other people (i.e., help them discover purpose in their own lives)
  6. Live a life true to your convictions and beliefs
  7. Make the most of your life

Raise the sails or burn the ships!

Spend some time thinking about your purpose this week.

You may feel as though you’ve never truly discovered it, or perhaps as though you’ve lost sight of your purpose. In either case, start by raising your sails! Commit to doing so wholeheartedly and you’ll be surprised how quickly a sense of purpose will materialize.

Conversely, you may have a strong sense of purpose and be in full pursuit. If so, congratulations! Burn the ships with reckless abandon and then start investing in other people. As your dreams start to come true, embrace the satisfaction of helping other people realize their own sense of purpose. You may be surprised to find that no matter what the specifics of your purpose, true satisfaction requires helping other people find their purpose, as well.

“God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kind of blessings.”

– 1 Peter 4:10

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