The Pursuit of Purpose, Not Things

The Pursuit of Purpose, Not Things

If you are like me, you may have taken a big, deep breath once the clock struck 12:00 am. It was a moment to reflect, pause, and refocus on what lies ahead for the New Year. As with previous new years, many of us have set goals such as healthier eating, better budgeting, or less stress.

Yet, what about the motivations behind our goals? Our motivations determine what type of goals becomes our focus. Are we pursuing purpose or are we simply pursuing the lifestyle advertised on television or social media?

The bible, scientific studies, and even personal experience will tell us that the pursuit of things does not actually bring lasting joy. Over time, things outlive their novelty and excitement. Researchers at the University of Chicago performed a study that compared happiness associated with things versus experiences. They found that the acquisition of things provided the shortest period of happiness.

Some people are starting to pay more attention to this concept despite the material-focused society in which we live. A new movement called the minimalist movement is starting to pick up traction where people are getting rid of the “clutter” in their lives in order to make room for what matters the most. There are numerous blogs and even a Netflix documentary that focus on what minimalism looks like on a day-to-day basis.

Minimalism doesn’t mean that a person can’t look their “best.” Instead, it means buying things that will be used on a regular basis. Instead of having 40 pairs of shoes that we kind of like, we have eight pairs that we really like and wear. Instead of buying the biggest house for which we can obtain loan approval, we buy a house that is easily affordable and easy to maintain.

Can you imagine the decrease in debt and increase in time that we would have if we decided not to “keep up with the Joneses” but instead pursued our purpose? In 2017, there is much work to be done to live a purposeful and intentional life that doesn’t waste time.


The Rev. Shakira Sanchez-Collins, MD is a resident physician, ordained minister, and health advocate. She writes about issues pertinent to the health, well-being, and lifestyle in communities of color.

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