Finding your thing…12 ideas to explore
Do you find yourself asking what your purpose is? What you were ‘meant to do’? What direction your life should take? It’s a question or goal that comes up for many of the clients I coach. It seems we all want to find that ‘thing’, what we’re supposed to do with ourselves to lead a fulfilling and happy life.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, from a young age you felt a strong vocation or desire to pursue a direction or career that called to you. Most of us, however, drifted into university and/or jobs without thinking too hard about the direction we were taking. It certainly took me a while to have my ‘eureka’ moment which came in my early thirties, when I discovered that Life Coaching was actually a career option.
I’d love to tell you there’s a quick solution to finding purpose, but unfortunately there is no simple and rapid way to discover our purpose. There are however things you can consider and reflect upon to help you think about this idea of ‘purpose’ and what it means to you.
1. It’s not about finding, it’s about creating
Finding is passive - it’s almost as if you might stumble upon our purpose, your mission in life. And whilst that may be true in some cases, for the most part, you must be in the mode of creating, moving and being in action for those opportunities and new experiences to arise. For example, I took a random job in a recruitment consultancy in between my Costa Rican stays in the UK, and ‘won’ a coaching session as part of a training exercise. It was during that session that I had the sudden but very real ‘aha’ moment when I realised that coaching was exactly what I wanted to do. I wasn’t into the idea of being in recruitment, but had I not been in action and trying something new, I might not have had this new opportunity.
“Don't spend all of your time trying to FIND yourself. Spend your time CREATING yourself into a person that you'll be proud of. “ Sonya Parker
2, Get curious
Finding your passion or tapping into some interests can definitely support you in honing a direction in your life. But what if you haven’t got a passion? What if nothing really lights your fire? Then make a start by noticing what you’re curious about. What are the things that do prick your interest, that get you digging a bit deeper? You might find a clue as you start seeking out those interests, and in turn this could help you foster or cultivate a future passion.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou
3. What don’t you love?
How about reversing the usual question around what you would love to do/be and instead consider what you’d hate to do? Do you dislike working 9-5? Do you hate to work in an office all day? Do you not enjoy too much structure? Do you despise working alone? Looking at what you don’t love can help you eliminate some of the ideas you have thus allowing you to focus then on what’s left, what you do enjoy, and what aspects of work you do like.
Exploring this question also allows you to see what you might tolerate in work, and where your resilience lies…so, it’s useful to look at what you might put up with to get what you really want. For example, you may not want to have a purpose that involves long working hours, but the caveat could be that you’d be prepared to work all hours for a few years if it meant getting that business idea off the ground or supporting a cause you’re passionate about.
4. You’re growing rather than shrinking
We are always shifting, growing and learning – at least that’s what I aim to do. If you consider that this life of ours is but a journey rather than a destination, then each step you take is just that – a step. A point in time. It means you can always shift, move and make new decisions and choices that work for you. So, you may find that a direction or job that worked for you in your twenties, is not what satisfies or calls to you in your forties – and that’s OK. You have a choice and you can always change.
5. You are the creator
You shape your life, you make the decisions. You want to paint, go paint. You want to be an entrepreneur, then get into action and be an entrepreneur. Don’t let the story you tell yourself or your limiting beliefs hold you back. The only way to see if something works for you is to try it on and have a go. And if it doesn’t, what you have is a whole bunch of learned experiences to support you in the next phase of your decision making.
“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.” ―Barbara Hall
6. Make connections
How often do we hear the phrase, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’? There’s a lot of truth in that. Much of the pressure we feel when at school or starting out in work is about achieving some kind of success – good marks, good promotions and so on. But as life goes on, we come to learn that often our biggest opportunities come through the people we know and the relationships we cultivate. I invite you to really value the connections and people you know because someone in that circle of connections has an opening or new opportunity for you. Be open to supporting your network in whatever way you can, and you will find the same is true of them. Also, be aware of those around you who are negative or drain your energy. Choose your connections wisely and trust your instincts. “You cannot expect to stay on the right path if you are walking with the wrong people.” Anas Hossain
7. Create the time
It’s all very well chatting with your mates over a cuppa or glass of wine and saying you just wish you could find your purpose in life, but how much proper time have you given that thought? The most successful people in life are those who invest time in themselves. They make the time to read, to think, and to reflect. They do things to learn and expand their knowledge, or hire other professionals to bring the best out in them; they go on retreats or carve out some of their week to ponder and reconnect with themselves. Take some time out; mind map some ideas; go for a long walk with sole purpose of reflecting upon what calls to you. Start a vision board. Create the space to let those fresh ideas come to mind.
8. What kind of player are you?
You may love the idea of being a successful entrepreneur, but are you really highly self-motivated, and driven to working all hours? Do you like the idea of flying solo, or are you a team-player? Not everyone is cut out to run their own business, just as some people aren’t happy working for a boss. Do you like the idea of receiving regular pay or being the one responsible for generating everyone else’s wages? The main thing is to be authentic and honest with yourself on this one.
“You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” ―Margaret Young
9. What makes you forget where you are, who you’re with or what time of day it is?
I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘flow’ or ‘being in the zone’…that experience when you are so engrossed with what you’re doing, time doesn’t exist. You might get in the zone when you are playing a video game (our kids certainly to do that easily!). Or perhaps you’re in flow when you’re cooking, or writing… That doesn’t necessarily mean that your purpose is to become a games designer, chef or writer. What’s important is to look at what’s behind that flow and what is actually engaging you. So, you may love playing computer games, but it’s probably because you really enjoying attaining the next level i.e. getting better and better at a game. In other words, it’s worth exploring what the cognitive principles and drives are behind those interests e.g. being creative, seeking self-improvement, organising, teaching, investigating and so on. Once you get clearer about those, you can look to apply those elsewhere.
10. Find a problem you care about and start solving it
When you tap in to values beyond your personal desires or wants, you can feel that connection and sense of purpose on a deeper level. As you mature and grow, you start to see that it’s probably not the acquisition of ‘stuff’ and material gains that satisfies. Often, we find fulfilment and purpose by helping or being of service to others. The world is full of problems that need fixing, so tune in to what you care about and explore the opportunities there.
11. Write your own obituary
Sounds morbid I know, but it’s a great exercise to determine what it is you’d like to be remembered for. Imagine you’re a journalist who’s attended your own funeral or memorial, then write a page or two about the life you lived, who was there to remember you, what your legacy was…When you’re writing it, consider whether you are writing to ‘impress’ others. Instead, look at what was important in that life, what values were expressed and what difference that life made to others.
12, What does purpose mean to you?
Purpose means different things to different people. For some it is finding a clear direction or path in work or career. For others, it’s about creating more fulfilment and meaning in their life. Don’t be swayed by what others think purpose is. Your purpose could come from volunteering for a charity outside your normal working hours. It could be from being the one that leads by example and looks to generate random acts of kindness wherever they go. It might be that your purpose is to be the best parent you can be to your children. And yes, it could be to change the world for the better. Once you have a better understanding of what purpose means to you, it will be much easier to attain.
So, there you go, a few tips to invite you explore the idea of purpose and direction. If you would like support in finding your purpose or direction, then I would be delighted to go on the journey with you.