Rabbi Sacks on Finding Purpose

JInsider (March 2010)

If you want to find your purpose in life, think about the following sentence: Where what you want to do meets what needs to be done, that is where God wants us to be.

So many of us have passions, and if you don't have a passion, take time out to discover it. Dream a lot, fantasise a lot. Think what really would be a life you would really live for. Keep your dreams. Joseph dreamt dreams. A Jewish leader is one who dreams dreams, and that's what you want to do. But in the meanwhile, there's a world out there, and that world has needs for some things and not others, at some times and not others, and somehow or other, you have to connect to that world. And that is why I say: your purpose in life comes when those two things meet. What you want to do and what needs to be done. And for each of us, it's different, but it's when they come together that you will know your purpose in life.

And if you get it wrong one or two times, don't worry about it. None of us gets it right first time. I did not want to be a Rabbi. At the beginning of my career, I had an aspiration to be an economist. I had an aspiration to be a lawyer. I had a dream of being an academic. I didn't think of becoming a Rabbi until really quite late. I was very conscious that we were short of Rabbis. That's what needed to be done, but I never saw that that's what I wanted to do until one or two great rabbis, the Lubavitcher Rebbe being the most important one, lit that little spark, that flame, in me and all of a sudden what I wanted to do became what needed to be done, and so I became the Rabbi. So I didn't get it right until fourth time, until quite late in life, so don't worry if you get it wrong.

And maybe it's not one thing throughout the whole of life. People I really admire people who really live to the full one role and maybe discover, hey, you know, there's something new that needs to be done and maybe I need to shift direction. But you will always know when it's right because you want to do it and it needs to be done.