The Need for Purpose

Brain Injury Blog by Jessica Felix Jager

April 20, 2011

The Need for Purpose

Part I

As we all journey through life and get older, the timeless and fundamental human development questions: “Who am I? Why am I here? and What is my Purpose?,” begin to entertain our thoughts. For many of us, it is when we find the answers to these fundamental questions that we begin to gain a sense of meaning or purpose in our lives. When I was a little girl at the age of 6, I recall sitting in my first grade classroom in Germany learning that I could be anything I wanted to be when I became an adult. What does that mean exactly? Could I become a singer just because I wanted to? Or could I become the next Van Gogh using my doodling skills?  As I grew older I learned that there is a difference in becoming who you are, rather than becoming what you want to be.

Can anyone truly be a singer merely because he or she wants to be one? What if he or she  is tone deaf and cannot sing on key if life itself depended on it? The point here is that we are each uniquely made with different skills, talents and purposes that incorporate these natural skills within us. Although acquired and learned skills are essential for implicating our natural skills, it is still important to note that there is a difference between becoming who you are rather than what you want to be.

It is when we find our sense of purpose that we begin our journey of becoming who we are as individuals. For example, Mother Teresa did not become the epitome of true servant hood until she actively lived her purpose. Mother Teresa found that her purpose in this life was to love God and His people by serving them and meeting their needs by any means necessary. Suppose Mother Teresa fought who she was and instead became a stewardess. How would life as we know it have been different? How would the lives of all those she impacted in Calcutta have been different? As she lived out her purpose, she became who she was- a true servant of God.

Some may now be asking, “So how does one find their purpose and then live it?” The answer to this question can only be answered by the one asking the question. Each of us have been made uniquely, with different abilities. We all must search within ourselves and ask ourselves “What do I love to do? What stirs me up inside when I am doing it? What makes me feel a sense of worth and passion when I am doing it? What makes me feel accomplished?” If one can ask these questions and answer them, the hard part is done. Once you identify your passions, the foundation for your purpose in this life has been laid. Everything else you do from here on out should build off of this foundation. The need for purpose is prevalent to each of us, as it ultimately defines us.

Now here is the twist. You find your passion and purpose and then with no forewarning a traumatic accident or event takes place, and life as you once knew it is no more. What now?

The millions of American’s that have been diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) find themselves asking this very question: “What now?” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of a TBI (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). According to Brain Injury Association of America, Brain Injury is the second most prevalent injury and disability in the United States (2007). The second most prevalent, means that acquiring a Brain Injury via a traumatic event has become common. Over 1.7 million people sustain a TBI each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). It could happen to anyone on any given day, and would result in needing to re-learn one’s self,  one’s limitations, how to function in society again and how to re-gain a new sense of purpose to be motivated and keep going. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, language, learning, emotions, behavior, and/or sensation (2010).

There are different ways one may acquire a brain injury and no brain injury is the same, as it affects each individual differently. The rationale of this article is not to define what a TBI is or how one may receive it. The principle of this article is to focus on how a traumatic event that results in a Brain Injury can affect an individual’s sense of purpose, and what measures can be taken to help the Survivor find purpose once again. This article will attempt to articulate how identifying a new purpose in the life of a TBI Survivor can be an essential component for their road to recovery.

To be continued next month…..

2 responses to “The Need for Purpose”

  1. Marie G. Cooney says:

    I think the greatest challenges are letting go of the purposes we thought we had prior to injury, learning to accept and resume previous purposes with assistive aids or compensatory stragagies, and creating or finding new purposes to carry us forward, wherever our new life brings us.

    Sometimes I have to remind myself of the old adage, “When one door closes, another one opens….. or a window” Also, the purpose we struggle to find in our lives is NOT always the purpose our friends and/or family members want for us. That’s when one must truly struggle to be true to him/herself. Thanks for writing.

  2. Wayne Spencer says:

    Great Blog!
    Very good information and very well presented.
    Keep up the good work.

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