Feeling connected to a greater purpose can literally change your life. According to research, people who have a meaningful purpose in life also report that they are happier and have higher levels of hope and life satisfaction, compared to those who don’t feel connected to a purpose.
It can also help you set more realistic goals and boundaries, guiding where you put your energy.
But what is purpose? It’s more than mystical or philosophical. At the same time, it’s not a single attainable framework atop which you build your life’s goals. It changes, morphs as you grow. Purpose is your central aim in life that not only guides your future goals and current actions, but connects you to the world at large.
Dedicating time to understanding what your purpose is right now can help you have a healthier relationship with your pursuits, including running.
Atalanta NYC’s Aoibhe Richardson and Jamie Morrissey were initially drawn to the newly formed team because of its mission beyond performance–to educate and inspire female athletes. Joining in Mary Cain’s vision was a way for their running to serve a bigger purpose.
We spoke with two pro runners about their personal purpose and how they distinguish ‘dreams’ separately.
Jamie Morrissey’s Purpose in Family
Morrissey grew up in the quintessential sporty household. Her mother was a field hockey player, dad was a Division I football player, and her uncle played for the Chicago Bears. “Athletics runs in my family,” she says.
More than that, sports were fun for her. She dreamt of being a professional soccer player.
“It was a dream,” she says. It took her longer to develop and understand how her purpose was entangled in the dream of being a professional athlete.
Growing up with her brother, who is physically handicapped, helped her put a lot of her pursuits into perspective. “Part of my purpose was always with my family and my brother specifically because he knows more about sports and loves it more than anyone I know. A part of me had always wanted to continue to chase this dream for as long as possible for him because he was never able to use his amazing sports mind in the physical way that I know he would have wanted to.”
The firm grasp she held on her purpose also helped her keep focus when she was sidelined with an injury. Even when it felt like racing was less fun and she certainly wasn’t winning anymore, there was something deep inside her that said, “‘I’m not done yet.’ I’m going to continue to listen to that voice until it says I’m done.”
Her best advice for finding your own purpose: “A lot of purpose has to come from within. It has to be something we’re dedicated to.”
Aoibhe Richardson Held On to Her Purpose to Overcome Fear
Richardson also grew up in a sporty household. Both her parents were distance runners, representing Ireland. She always knew it was something she’d get involved in too. She joined her first local club when she was 10 and played other sports as well.
It was in college in Ireland though that she had to decide, with all the outside pressure to party, whether or not running seriously was going to be her priority. “That’s when I decided I actually want to train. That’s also when I started having passion for it. And going to America became an option,” she says.
Moving so far away from her family and her home was scary, but she was driven by her newly found sense of purpose. She calls it the best decision she’s ever made. That’s when running became more than just something she was good at.
Like Morrissey, Richardson continues to share her passion with her family. “I have three younger sisters and they all run now,” she says. “I love following their results and whatever they’re getting up to.” Running with them when she visits home is even more special now.
Your purpose in life might not be to run, but maybe like Richardson, your purpose is to inspire or connect with people. Running can be a vehicle to do so.
Get Started On Your Purposeful Journey
It’s never too late to hone in on your purpose. The folks at nXu, a non-profit whose focus is on helping youth and adults develop, articulate, and pursue their purpose, shared a prompt with us to help you get started thinking about your purpose.
Journal about the following guiding questions as a way to start honing in your purpose.
What are you good at?
- What are your strengths?
- How do you help people and add value to the lives of those around you?
What do you enjoy?
- What activities, ideas, and people energize you and make you come alive?
- If time, money, and other people’s opinions weren’t an issue, what would you spend your time doing?
What needs in the world activate you?
- What upsets, angers, or deeply saddens you about what’s currently going on in the world?
- What challenges or issues do you want to make sure no one else experiences?
Think about how your answers intersect as a clue to where your purpose lays.