Your Greatest Purpose… or Just a Wish

Mike Henry Sr. – Guest Expert


“Great minds have purposes, others have wishes. Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.” – Washington Irving

There are two types of people in the world; those that are experiencing misfortune and those who will. The measure of you as a person lies in your response to life’s events. As you journey through life, some of those events will be classified as misfortune. Rather than devising plans to avoid misfortune, you will be better off if you plan your response to it. How will you respond?

Washington Irving gives us a great quote in the comparison of great and small minds. A great mind has a purpose and rises above misfortune. Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune. The difference between a great mind and a small mind according to Irving: a great purpose.

Do you know your purpose? Are you living for something great enough to pull you through misfortune? Your purpose is the object of your effort in life. If your wealth and comfort are your ultimate purpose, that purpose won’t pull you through great misfortune.

Great purposes energize us and focus our thoughts. A great purpose helps us remember our goals when we might otherwise take lesser choices. For example, if you have a great reason for saving money or getting out of debt, that can help you avoid the instant gratification of a shiny new purchase. The goal of a strong family pulls us through times of temptation to selfishness. Someone once said that discipline is just remembering what you want.

But we also see that “wishes” oppose or contrast purpose. A wish is something you merely dream about but refuse to take action toward. Your commitment to a wish is weak. Have you ever thrown a penny in a wishing well? What did you get? A common saying when I was growing up was, “Wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one gets filled up the fastest.” A wish won’t pull you above misfortune. Only purpose will. Only an object you’ve committed yourself and your effort to.

And, the greater the purpose… the greater the misfortune it can help you overcome. Great misfortune inspires you to reach towards a great purpose that will  help to pull you through. You won’t sacrifice for a wish, but you will for a purpose. Great misfortune calls you to your greatest purpose – something outside yourself and greater than yourself. Focus on your greatest purpose to pull yourself through difficult times and achieve great results.

Misfortune is inevitable. Pursue your greatest purpose and you will rise above the inevitable misfortunes that come your way.


Mike Henry is the founder of the Lead Change Group. Known nationally as a character-based leadership coach and committed leader, Mike’s passion is mobilizing people and communities to apply character-based leadership to make a positive difference.

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