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Purpose:  A goal or meaning in your life because there is something that you want to achieve. – MacMillan Dictionary

Open up any newspaper this month and you’ll see the future.

Smiling graduates from every school are pictured and the only difference between today and say, my class of 1965, is that the coats and ties on the young men have been replaced with caps, sporting gear, or casual shirts.

The faces look the same – mostly smiling, some serious, but all looking ahead to the next phase in their lives.

Let’s hope their faces are as happy when they reach middle age.

At a recent conference, the speaker said that “middle age” is between 35 and 45 and the crisis that often accompanies it is because a 17-year-old laid out the plan.

Think about it. How many middle-aged people do you know who wish they had taken a different path?

Schools offer aptitude tests, which are designed to tell students their interests or what job would be a good fit. Some schools also provide “shadowing” opportunities so that students can spend time in different business or professional settings.

Students often are advised “to do what you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Put in a religious context, use the gift that God gave you and you will find happiness.

Sounds easy, but for many it is not.

At 17 or 18, how many graduates know what they love to do? A few, perhaps, and because of my age, I have known many. When my father-in-law returned from World War II, he had already determined he was going to be a dentist or optometrist. He liked helping people, he liked science, and he wanted to be his own boss.

For others, it’s harder. So here’s a question for graduates:  If you had a million dollars, then what would be your purpose in life? Removing the money factor can bring clarity to who you are.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it as well as anyone could:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ ”

The other thought is this: If your first career choice is not satisfying, try something else. Life is about second and third chances.

May 25, 2016