How to Not Quit on Purpose

Part 1: Getting Clued In

Exploring our interests, pursuing our passions, and discovering our purpose is a universal desire. I have yet to meet a fellow human who doesn’t have this desire.  

There is a disconnect, however.  Despite our ability to present very logical and emphatic cases that justify our present state, why do these arguments still leave us feeling dismayed… and how do we turn our desire into reality?

The Present vs. The Future:

One of the main reasons we aren’t living on purpose today is that we don’t take the time to paint a picture of our future.  Why?  First, most of us are either consciously or unconsciously preoccupied.  We live in the past, carrying around the burdens or the glory of previous decisions or circumstances, or we are consumed by the busyness of the present.

Second, we are scared.  Even if we feel dismayed or discontented, there is comfort in the familiar.  A lot has been invested in our lives and careers to date.  Just the idea that a change in our present momentum or trajectory may be necessary to track toward purpose can often be enough to call our bluff.  

The reality, of course, is that change is inevitable.  One day, our kids will grow up and one day we will be older.  Our momentum and trajectory is taking us somewhere different than today.  The real question is whether we are (or will be) content to end up where the flow takes us or whether we want to work to charter our course.

Discovering our purpose starts with understanding our past and present… and then proactively linking them to a future that naturally and effectively utilizes our unique skills, talents, assets, gifts, experiences, and perspectives.  


“Our purpose naturally and effectively utilizes our unique skills, talents, assets, gifts, experiences, and perspectives.”

-Peter C. Atherton



Reality Sidebar:

We can’t immediately escape to the future.  Living a full and purposeful life requires taking personal responsibility.  Our future begins when we do whatever it takes to thrive in the circumstances of our present and resolve any issues of our past.  A successful and contented life in the future is founded on meeting our obligations and working to make a difference where we are today.

The Role of Our Interests and Passions:  

In terms of linking our past and present to our purpose, the best clues and the most direct connections come from understanding our interests and passions.  These provide a road map to how we got to where we are and offer insight as to where we could be gearing up to go.     


In an interrogative word sense, our interests cover more of the “What”, “When”, “Where”, and “How” of our lives.  They are the things we like to do and the situations we like to be involved with or around.  They are things that make us happy, things we look forward to, and things we can do for hours for what seems like minutes.  

Our interests also change and evolve as we grow and transition between our work and life seasons.  

Our interests are largely responsible for our actions and our actions determine our level of happiness and satisfaction.  Our ability to recognize, understand, and respond to changes in our interests is a determinant for both our engagement at the office and our contentedness in life.  The greater our overall awareness, the more proactive and effective we can be doing the things we like and linking our activities to purpose.  

When we find we are not doing the things we like, we need to pause… and we need to figure out what has changed, as well as, when, where, and how our interests changed.  

Mapping our interests over time provides us clues we can use to piece together.  This trail can begin to paint a picture of how we got to where we are.  Taking a step back can then provide us a better perspective about the things we were drawn to in the past and how they are the similar or different to the things that draw us today.

For example, over the past decade my career has seen significant transformation.  This followed 15 years of near unwavering focus.  It was a shock to me when I finally realized that my career interests had changed.  Mapping my interests both at work and outside of the office were critical to being able to see and understand my “engineering” interests.  I was able to accept that my interests were not so much about the specifics of designing sophisticated water treatment plants and major public infrastructure projects of my past as they were about problem solving and systems design for people and organizations.  Having this perspective was a source of encouragement and empowerment as I sought to connect it all to my future.  

If our interests have changed, it is the result of changing and evolving passions.  

Our passion is our “Why”, a driving force that helps explain our motivations.  Passion gives meaning and emotion to our interests.  Why that is the case, and how we can leverage it, is the subject of our next blog: Connecting with Passion, Part 2.

Part 3, It Starts with Who, Not Why, provides a formula for realizing purpose.

To your winning,

PS – I invite you to schedule a free, no-obligation 30-minute conversation HERE.  We will walk through the I.M.P.A.C.T. process for organizations and I guarantee you will leave the call with a few new ideas and a clearer vision.

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Pete Atherton

About the Author

Pete is the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, and creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process.  ActionsProve works with professionals and business owners to create greater growth and profits through more effective employee attraction and retention, impact, and branding.  Prior to founding ActionsProve, and for more than 20 years, Pete was a very successful and accomplished professional engineer.  Pete sold his engineering firm ownership to focus on designing systems for you and your organization to grow and succeed in more relevant and effective ways.  For over a dozen years, Pete has also been serving in multiple capacities in the non-profit sector to achieve both local and global impact, and is a co-founder of the 100 Men Who Care chapter for Knoxville and the 100 Men Who Care chapter for Southern Maine.

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How to Not Quit on Purpose – Part 1: Getting Clued In