What's my purpose?
As a coach, it’s a question that many of my clients want to understand or clarify for themselves. I've written a few times around this subject, but it's one that keeps coming up. And given the challenges of the last 19 months, people have had more time to ask themselves questions like this. Many of us have a sense that we are destined to do something of value. We want to find greater meaning and fulfilment in our lives; we want to uncover what we’re ‘meant to do or be’.
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
For some lucky individuals, their purpose comes with a lightbulb ‘aha!’ moment, but for most of us this journey towards to purpose is one of discovery, curiosity and plenty of trial and error.
So, here are some of the ways you can explore this idea of purpose.
1. Nurture your passion…or at the very least, your curiosity
Often the advice we hear is to follow our passion or cultivate our passion – which is great when you know what you’re passionate about. But what if you don’t have a passion for something? Instead, start with looking at what interests you, what you love doing and begin fostering your curiosity in areas of interest. Why does that subject or area appeal to you? What do you enjoy about it? What makes it interesting? See what that leads to and notice the stuff that gets you excited or motivated. Your clues are right there.
2. Keep growing and embrace change
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw
Nothing is fixed unless you want it to be. Seek out opportunities to shift and evolve. Often this means stepping outside your comfort zone, all that familiar stuff you already know, and trying on new skills and behaviours. With every step you take towards change, you create new possibilities for yourself, new connections and new avenues to explore. Embrace the idea that you are the creator of your destiny, so get creating!
3. Create meaning
We often hear that we need to find meaning, find our passion, find what we’re good at. That suggests that there’s this ‘thing’ out there, waiting to be found. Instead, look at ways of creating meaning by exploring what really matters to you, your values, your needs and then diving into your interests with a better understanding of who you are and what’s important to you. Above all, if we’re present to what we have, we can experience meaning in each moment.
“You don’t have to wait for something “meaningful” to come into your life so that you can finally enjoy what you do. There is more meaning in joy than you will ever need. The “waiting to start living” syndrome is one of the most common delusions of the unconscious state.” ― Eckhart Tolle
4. Grow and value your connections
How many times have you heard the expression, ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’? There’s a lot of truth in that phrase because so often, it’s the friends, colleagues and connections we’ve made that can lead us to new opportunities. It’s important to appreciate and value your network, however not solely in terms of what they can do for you, but also what you can do for them. If you add value, if you are interested in their needs, if you help create prospects for them, you’ll see how this comes back to you.
5. Be present
Most of you will have heard of mindfulness or the idea of being present, being here now – in the moment. This practice is event more potent when you want to figure out your purpose. If you aren’t present to the moment, how can you notice what you feel, how you are responding to everything happening in that moment. There are clues and signals when you become truly aware of the ‘now’. What is getting you excited? What is making you happy or conversely, what is making you sad or uncomfortable? Living in the past with regrets, or in the future with worry does not serve you. When you live in the present, you can not only appreciate and be grateful for what you have now, you can become much more aware of what you desire going forward.
“Every single second is an opportunity to change your life, because in any moment you can change the way you feel.” Rhonda Byrne
6. Your obituary
This is a great exercise: write your own obituary. What would you like to be remembered for? What would you want to have as your legacy? What contribution did you make to your family, friends and community? You’ll find plenty of clues as to the direction and purpose you’d like your life to take.
7. Find your ‘why?’
Simon Senek started a movement some time ago, which encouraged people to discover their ‘why?’. Both individuals and organisations were invited to look at their purpose by delving into why they exist in the first place. In his ground-breaking TED talk over 22 years ago, this question helped people uncover purpose. Digging deeper into why we are doing something, then continuing with the question ‘why?’ can help us uncover what really matters to us. More often than not, we discover through this process that whilst our surface happiness can come from what we do, fulfilment comes from why we do it. Discovering our ‘why’ leads to an understanding of our cause, our beliefs and ultimately our purpose.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you feel at a loss about your life direction. Each moment is a chance to grow, uncover your potential and remain curious about who you are and what you already contribute and do on a day-to-day basis. Try on some of these tips and see whether they help you get closer to understanding your true purpose.