I’ve learned that our words are immensely powerful in conjuring up our perceptions of our world. Often we say things with little awareness of what it is we’re actually saying or the consequences these words may have on us or others. For instance, we all have used sayings or phrases passed down to us from our families, friends or colleagues. And you hear them enough times you assume it’s the correct way to talk. I still scratch my head on this one, “for all intent and purposes.” It’s something I’ve learned to say from time to time. But I’ve never really know why I say it, except it sounds smart while filling a conversational gap.

Then take into account all of the conjured buzzwords that are mere hacks of once well intended words. I thank the likes of political correctness, new-agers, techno savvy marketer, self-appointed gurus and celebrities for that. In my recent work, I’ve been learning to be more deliberate with my words, almost to a craftsman-like precision. This requires a new awareness into what I’m saying and what it may provoke in others. And I’m still learning.

In the last couple of years, I’ve been pondering deeply on the question, “what should I do with the rest of my life?” You know, the infamous life purpose question. So much so it’s inspired my work, what I choose to read and what I’m writing almost exclusively about. And recently I’ve been asked to speak a number of times about my understanding of what does it mean to live a life on purpose. The operative word being “on”.

There are numerous expressions combining life and purpose. And I’ve broken two of them down. Not to be anal. But to achieve a deeper understanding of such things.


What does “with” mean in this phrase? With, means to be accompanied by, possessed by, in relation to, or in opposition of another person or thing. Essentially it speaks to the relationship between two separate things (ie. life and purpose) and the nature or quality of that relationship. With, brings with it the idea of proximity or distance between two things. In this case, how closely do I choose to live with purpose.

Here’s a phrase I hear often with my coaching clients, “I feel I’m more with purpose at home with the family than I am at work.” When I help to unpack this for them, purpose becomes something of a choice. Something they choose to use when it feels appropriate, necessary, worthy, acceptable. Purpose becomes optional. I would believe that anything worth this level of engagement and curiosity is much more significant than a mere accessory to your life.


So here’s where my curiosity on this matter has landed. On, suggests a close physical contact with or direct support by something. In this case, a life steeped in meaning. In contrast with “with”, there’s no proximity or distance between my life and my purpose except to say it’s directly beneath me, supporting me in this very moment. What this provokes as a possibility is a life lived as it is meant to be, fully and completely, in the now. To act out your life aligned to your values and beliefs in servitude to something greater than yourself, as if there isn’t a choice. That you appear in your life, on purpose, regardless of context or circumstance. Because you’re there, so is your purpose.

I’m no English teacher. However it’s easy to see how the choice of a simple preposition can make a profound impact to how you live.

I would love to hear your thoughts. So, I invite you to wonder out loud in the comments area below.

Go deep.