We dedicated a whole month to the topic of finding your purpose because it’s something that is almost always unnecessarily complicated and stressful. We all want to know why we’re here, but when we start to do the investigating, it can become overwhelming. Sofia Fonseca, architect, professor, and 4word: Houston board member, wraps up our discussion this month with her thoughts on purpose and how community plays a pivotal role in helping you connect the “whys” in your life to form your personal purpose.
Tell us a little about yourself!
I am a daughter of God and follower of Jesus who has also studied Buddhism, Taoism and Sufism on the path to discover her purpose. I love inspiration and creating beauty, dancing flamenco, traveling, and throwing parties! My husband George and I have been married 23 years and we have four formidable kids ages 22 to 15.
What does “purpose” mean to you?
Finding our purpose is finding the reason for our existence. Purpose involves recognizing and putting to use our talents and passions. The inklings we feel within us as we grow up regarding which topics and skill sets are exciting to us point the way to one part of the purpose equation. When we are engaged on the subjects and ideas that we love, we feel purposeful and aligned.
Purpose seeking involves also finding an answer to the why of life? This is the second part of the equation. It requires answering the questions:
- Where do I come from?
- Where am I going?
- What matters in life?
- What is my ultimate end?
If we do not answer these questions, using our talents alone leaves us feeling empty.
My purpose is to help others find their purpose and to create beauty. I remember writing in my journal when I was 8 years old, “Why am I here?” I have been asking that question ever since! As a little girl, I wondered how people chose what they did or where they lived. Recently in life, I have been around executives and successful people who have made it in the world, achieved power, fame, or wealth, and are still wondering “Is this all there is?”
Along with our purpose come the lessons we learn on the journey to our ultimate destination. Purpose involves connecting the dots of the “whys” of life with the ups and downs that create the reality of life.
How does your career as an architect help satiate your desire to help others find purpose?
To build something, we have to start with why we are building the structure and what is its purpose. The constituents involved in this process have to answer why something is to be built from a financial, functional, cultural, social and material perspective. The developer has one purpose for building, the architect another, and the user another. A masterpiece in architecture, as in life, harmonizes all purposes into a higher one that serves all.
Architecture is a perfect medium through which to answer the meaning of our life. From cave dwellings to cityscapes, we can see remnants of previous civilizations and the answers to the important questions of their time.
How can we use the low points of our lives to still positively impact someone’s search for purpose?
As we walk, we learn from our successes and our failures, from the things we gain and lose. The lessons we learn on our journey help us to clarify our purpose. Even when we feel we have lost our way, we learn of things we should not do. When we lose someone or something, we recognize the impossibility to hold onto anything on the path through life. Low points give us a new perspective for how to redirect our lives and how to better use our resources, our time, and our energy.
How does purpose tie into community?
When we find what we are meant to be and do, we can expand our capabilities by walking the path with others. This is the power of my 4word community for me. In our 4word: Houston weekly Bible study, monthly meetings and larger gatherings, I find a group of women who are bold and committed to live as Christians in the world and in their workplaces, using their talents to love the world. They bring stories and share their victories and defeats. Together, we find ways to address what is before us. We find strength, we find clarity, we find direction, we laugh and we cry together.
Sofia Fonseca is the founder of Kyo Consulting with 20+ years of experience in design thinking and innovation services providing visioning, workplace innovation, change management and architectural consulting for institutional and corporate clients on a variety of project types. At the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, Sofia teaches classes and conducts research in architecture and design thinking. She earned a Master of Architecture from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design from The Honors College at the University of Houston. Her clients include Fortune 100, 500 and start ups from energy to telecoms to tech/ media companies as well as schools, universities. She has been married to George for 23 years and they live in Houston with their four children.