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Part I: What Is Purpose? > Distinguishing Purpose from Meaning

Chapter 5. Distinguishing Purpose from Meaning

Is there a difference between purpose and meaning? Yes, there is an important distinction. You can have a meaningful life whether or not you believe you have a purpose, whether or not you have uncovered your purpose. Meaning is the significance you attach to an event, person, or situation. You can have meaningful work, no matter what you do, if you decide to assign it meaning. To give something meaning is a rational, left-brain act. A well-known story makes this distinction clear.

Two stone masons were at work when a visitor came upon them. Curious, the visitor asked the first one what he was doing. He replied that he was cutting stone. Then the visitor moved on to the second stone mason and asked the same question. His reply was, “I’m building a cathedral.” The second man had given his work meaning.


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