What is a person’s purpose?
A person’s purpose is a thing they are trying to accomplish or make progress on. It could be at a high level, like get out of debt. It could be at a lower level like learn financial habits from friends and experts. It could be an ongoing purpose like this example, or a single span of time like open a savings account or put money from my summer job into that savings account. The point of a purpose is that it is what the person is aiming for. It’s not what tools they are using to accomplish it.
Maybe a person has a pet who is feeling ill and not eating. Perhaps a short-term purpose is to help that pet feel better and also eat a little and stay hydrated. They may call friends or look up ways to entice their pet to eat. They might be down in their basement and see a can of tuna, and decide maybe juice from that can of tuna may help. Maybe this has happened before and they ask their partner to help recall what worked in the past. If you are a pet store only looking at the “ill pet not eating” problem through the lens of the products you have in stock, you’ll have a very different answer. If you are a grocery store that stocks cans of tuna, you probably won’t be thinking of ill pets. That might be a missed opportunity.
Purpose is something that doesn’t shift quickly over the decades. For example, after a minor injury like a sprained ankle, your purpose may be to get back to how you were before. Maybe you are a runner and you were training for a 10k. Maybe you have a commute that involves a lot of stairs. The purpose of getting back to how you were before is the same now as it was for your great grandparents. You could hop in a time machine and go back to ask them what went through their minds as they recovered from a sprained ankle. That thinking would still be valid today, replacing some of the details such as “training run” and “commute.”
Why purpose? Research is all about trying to fill in gaps in your knowledge, and half the time we don’t realize what our gaps are, so it’s like a chicken and the egg thing. So I have to put some constraints around it so that we can first of all recognize what knowledge we’re missing, but second of all gather some data that actually has patterns. I constrain everything by purpose. Purpose is something that has an action, and I’m just using it as a constraint so that we can gather data, so we can understand what knowledge we might want.