How Do You Perceive Your Purpose?

The story of the bricklayers moved me. Have you heard this story? Let me tell it to make sure we’re talking about the same story.

A visitor came across a bricklayer hard at work. The visitor asked what the bricklayer was doing. “I’m stacking bricks”, came the answer.

The visitor moved on and came across another bricklayer. That bricklayer was also asked what he was doing and replied, “I’m building a wall.”

The visitor continued on his way and saw yet another bricklayer. Again he asked what the bricklayer was doing, and heard a very different answer: “I’m building a cathedral.

Different Perspectives

What interesting and different answers! More telling is the vision each bricklayer had for what he was doing. The first vision was of a chore. The second of a job. The third vision was of a dream. What contrasting ways to experience their respective assignments.

Wanna bet that each man lived his life with similar imagination? These attitudes toward work or life span the range from adequate to excellent — from ambivalent to engaged.

When you are asked questions like “What’s your calling?” or “What’s your purpose?” or even “What do you do?”, which level of response to you give? Maybe you don’t think about that at all. Or you could think of your calling or purpose along the lines of stacking bricks. Maybe you think your purpose is to build walls. Perhaps your calling is more like that of building a cathedral.

Your dreams can passively float along, they can be driven with passion and purpose — or they can be ignored. Which approach brings more reward and satisfaction, or peace of mind?

Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind
as a steady purpose —
a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.
~Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Think about designing your life as a master builder would design a cathedral. Begin with the end in mind. Have a vision and determine step by step how you are going to reach that goal. That’s how you make a valuable contribution to the world — and live your life with joy and satisfaction.

Visions — your cathedral — don’t have to be grand. They just need to be. There’s a role for everyone in life, and we need all those roles filled. The concept behind building a cathedral more addresses the passion of doing what you want with the idea of doing it at your very best. It’s seeing how you fit into the overall scheme of things.

The Allegory in Motion

On a road trip, we stayed at a hotel that offered a buffet breakfast. A young man was responsible for making sure the chafing dishes were filled, and the tables cleared and cleaned. During our conversation, he grumbled that he wished he was doing something else. I told him I was grateful he was there to make my morning brighter by making sure I had a good breakfast. He stopped, looked at me with amazement, and replied that he’d never before thought of his job like that. He didn’t know he was making a positive difference in anyone’s life. He didn’t realize he was building a cathedral; he thought he was stacking bricks. When we left, he thanked me for giving him a fresh perspective on his job, a job he needed to pay his way through college. I hope he keeps building cathedrals.

How do you perceive your purpose? Are you a stone stacker, a wall builder, or a cathedral builder?

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