Bringing Purpose to our Changing Roles

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old woman and her middle-age daughter embracing and smiling

By Jennifer Browne, Co-Founder of

In the movie Forrest Gump, Jenny asks Forest, “What are you gonna be when you grown up?” Forrest  answers, “Why can’t I be me?” 

Even as a child, we are conditioned to automatically focus on roles as we are asked over and over again,  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”—as if who we are is not good enough without attaching  it to a number of roles. Our automatic response then pulls us to functioning out of a role as opposed to  discovering our purpose and living out our purpose through the roles we find ourselves in. 

A role is defined as a socially expected behavior pattern usually determined by an individual’s status in a  particular society. All of us function in many different roles and roles change constantly. What happens  to us when we are functioning out of a role and don’t know our purpose and the role changes? Each of us will experience different responses but for many of us, it will lead to confusion, frustration, anxiety, loss or even depression. 

As we age and transition through life, we will be challenged often by our ever-changing roles. Whether you are a parent that is sending their child to college, experiencing a painful divorce, or providing for aging parents, we are left with evaluating our new role and responsibilities. Where do we even start? What role or more importantly what purpose do we now serve in the relationship? 

At OneBody3, we believe that everyone was Created On Purpose For a Purpose. Your purpose is  something that has always been with you. It is your unique set of tools that make you different from anyone else on the planet. Your purpose is as unique as your thumbprint. No two are alike. 

When our roles change and our understanding of who we are in that role is challenged, understanding  our purpose becomes more important than ever. Your roles will change throughout life but your  purpose will remain reliable. Your understanding of your purpose is a life-long journey, but it will not be  lost to a change in roles. 

You may be asking, “How can I begin to understand my purpose? How do I live out of purpose and bring purpose to my roles rather than letting my role determine my purpose?” 

Here are a few things that you can begin to do to bring awareness to your purpose: 

  • Observe yourself in relationships. At OneBody3, we believe that you were given purpose not to  be consumed by yourself but to be shared with others. Begin to take note of what you bring often to the relationships you find yourself in. For example, a common thread I have seen in my life is that people tend to seek me out for advice. Even when I was a young child, adults would  often engage me in adult conversations and were genuinely interested in my opinion.  
  • Recognize the patterns in your roles. What do you find that you uniquely bring to most of your roles? One of the best ways to identify clues that will lead you to understand your purpose is to observe yourself inside of your roles. What are the patterns that lead you back to every role? As I mentioned earlier, people love to ask for my advice. The pattern I started to recognize, was they asked for advice during a hard season in their lives. Through much evaluation and discussion with family and friends, I realized people sought me out for the hope they found in my advice. Be in observance of what people are looking to you for within your roles, not just the socially expected behavior, but the good stuff — The stuff they wouldn’t get anywhere else. 
  • Seek to understand (what others cannot see as easily as you). Your purpose is so natural and  comes so easy to you that you will often observe the world and wonder, how is it that others don’t see the world from my view. What is it that is unique about what you are able to see, feel or do that does not come natural or easy for others? There have been many times in my life where my sister and I have been recalling a childhood memory in which we were both present and she shares something she remembered and I think, “Was I even there?” How did I sit through that same event and never see what she saw? It reveals the beauty of purpose. We experienced most of our childhood together, yet both of us saw it through different lenses. We each hold a unique and important perspective and purpose in our family. Our family would not be the same if we were missing either one of us.  

Seize the opportunity that change offers by restoring purpose within your roles. Roles change, but  purpose is reliable. We often use the metaphor of a dimmable light bulb to explain purpose. The bulb (your purpose) never fully goes out, but it can be very hard to see when covered by roles. Begin to bring  intention to the questions Who am I and Why am I here to gain influence over the brightness of your bulb and its impact on your ever-changing roles.


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