What’s Your Definite Major Purpose?

Over the holidays, I caught up on some reading.

Okay, Maxine, let’s try this again and this time could you strive for accuracy?

Over the holidays, I gorged on books like a piggy at the trough. I was greedy (I read and read and read) and I was sloppy (I did not engage in personal or family or household care) and I wallowed in the pages for inordinately long periods of time.

Of all the books I read — er, wallowed in — Room, by Emma Donaghue, packed the biggest whallop.

The narrator of Room, a five year old boy named Jack, carried me from the sweetness of a beautiful mother-son connection . . .  through the rising realization that something in this idyllic picture was not quite right . . . to the deep horror of discovering myself in a hidden pocket of Hell . . . to an adrenaline pumping escape . . . and the crazy-making paradox of liberty.

Room was an immensely satisfying read but what it did for me, above all else, was to remind me why I’m here. And by “here” I mean HERE, on this planet, in this body, at this particular point of time.

Let me explain.

Bill Harris, in his on-line course, The Success Solution, teaches that all successful people have a Definite Major Purpose, a reason for being that informs everything they do. He gives examples of well-known people and their Definite Major Purposes:

Thomas Edison — to have the entire world powered by electricity

Jacques Cousteau — to educate people about the wonders of the sea

Mohammed Ali — to be the best heavy weight boxer in history

Bill Gates — to make it possible for nearly any person to have powerful computing power sitting on their desk

I’ve been doing a lot of pondering lately, trying to figure out what my focus will be as I move from full time Mommydom to . . . whatever the heck else it is I’m supposed to be doing in the world.

So, Maxine, why are you here? What is your reason for being? What is it that you are uniquely suited to bring into the world? What drives you? What is your purpose, da##it?

Reflecting on the decisions I’ve made in my life and how I’ve chosen to spend my time, I did get a sense of what my purpose might be, but I still had a hard time articulating it and I have definitely been waffling on making it definite.

And then Emma Donaghue gifted me with the innocent clarity of a five year old child.

Jack finds himself living in the real world after a dramatic escape from the madman who held him and his mother hostage in an 11 by 11 foot shed for 7 years. The world is overwhelmingly “too much” for him at first, but over time he becomes used to all the noise and confusion. One of his observations of this strange, new world spoke directly to my waffling heart.

Also everywhere I’m looking at kids, adults mostly don’t seem to like them, not even the parents do. They call the kids gorgeous and so cute, they make the kids do the thing over again so they can take a photo, but they don’t want to actually play with them, they’d rather drink coffee talking to other adults. Sometimes there’s a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn’t even hear.

Sometimes there’s a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn’t even hear.

Our children are crying. They are crying for our attention and our love. They are crying for us to truly see them and to give them what they need. Not more stuff. Not more entertainment. Not more “learning.” But our time and our focused attention.

But we can’t give it to them, because we are still little children ourselves. In between the photo ops, we stuff ourselves with baubles and fluff, trying to fill the hole that tears bigger with every diversion we shove into it. Our children are just another toy to show off and then shove out of sight until we’re ready to play dress-up again.

It’s a mess.

And, chances are, in the vast majority of cases, it will remain a mess, because growing up is very hard to do. Especially as an adult. We no longer have the childhood luxury of time. We lack good mentors. And we don’t have the tools. Besides, it’s work – sometimes painful work – and why would we willingly inflict pain on ourselves?


Considering how easily those last few paragraphs flowed, I think I can finally put words to what seems to have been a driving force in my life to date –  returning childhood to the children and encouraging adults to grow up.


How am I going to do that?

I have no idea.

So I’ll continue what I’ve started:

I’ll be the best parent I can be to my children (giving them their childhood now so they can move into adulthood in a timely fashion) and to myself (continually encouraging those parts of me that stubbornly resist growing up).

I’ll publish my children’s book.

I’ll write this blog.

And we’ll see what happens.

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6 Responses to What’s Your Definite Major Purpose?

  1. Yvonne says:

    There are goosebumps all over me right now. Wow. If that is any indication, I think you are on the right path. Again wow. I don’t know if you realize how powerful this commentary is. Thank you for your honesty and your willingness to risk and your gift to walk your journey with the audience that is your readership. This inspiration alone makes a difference in our world.

  2. maxinespence says:

    And there are tears in my eyes as I read your words. Thank you, Yvonne.

  3. Mark says:

    I am fascinated by your thinking and what seems a life purpose. I havent read the book, is the Mother and child being locked in a shed for the first years of Jack’s life drawing a comparison to the transitions from Jack’s childhood “sub-consciousness” (protected by his mother) to the dawning terror of the adult consciousness ?

    • maxinespence says:

      I don’t know, Mark. I didn’t think of that as I read the book, but you have an interesting take on it. I’d be interested to hear if you still think that after reading the story. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. googly says:

    It was Napoleon Hill who came up with the concept of definite major purpose. Google it. Think and Grow Rich. And he often spoke of and wrote about Thomas Edison. No idea who Bill Harris is.

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