Finding the Path to Purpose
I posted in several Facebook groups last week this question, “A question for you. . . Do you know your purpose? If not, do you know how to find it?”
I had tons of responses – from people recommending books to me to people telling me that my own purpose would find me. (Funny, that’s not what I was asking!) I even had one guy make some comment about a sock behind the couch. Still not sure what he meant.
The wide range of answers means only one thing to me. Purpose is a tricky topic. Kinda like herding cats.
We all want to know our purpose because there is security and direction in that part of knowing. When you have your purpose firmly in hand, you can better evaluate opportunities that come along and know whether or not they are in alignment with where you are going.
Even though we know it is “good for us,” figuring out what your purpose is can be really, really challenging.
Mark Manson has a great way of defining purpose. He said, “Here’s the truth. We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time. So when people say, ‘What should I do with my life?’ or ‘What is my life purpose?’ what they’re actually asking is: ‘What can I do with my time that is important?’”
I love this for so many reasons. Manson has pulled out of the purpose discussion the satisfaction factor. When we are working within our purpose, there is a sense of satisfaction that we are doing something fulfilling and helpful not only for ourselves, but for others.
So if we need to find our purpose so that we eliminate those unimportant, unsatisfying things, how do we do that?
A couple of points to ponder:
Purpose is more than a career.
A purpose is more than a singular job or a career. I know a bunch of college aged kids (my son is one of them) and many of them say, “I’m going to be a doctor.” Really? Why? When I probe more deeply, it is generally because they would like to make money. But that’s not purpose, unless your purpose is to make money. Even the most successful entrepreneurs measure their purpose and performance by more than money.
A life-guiding purpose is more than just a job, a title, or a career path. In fact, it is something that permeates your whole life. The kids that do want to be doctors are successful when they are aligned with, “I want to heal people. That feels satisfying to me.”
Your purpose can also span across jobs and careers. As my own career has developed, two themes have always come out – coaching/training and writing. No matter where my own path has taken me, those two things are my constant companion. Even in my personal life.
Your purpose is unique in style.
Charlie Harary, in an article for Entrepreneur.com, writes, “What unique contribution can you bring to those in need? Identify the talents and interests that will allow you to be helpful and make an impact.”
Feeling satisfied at the end of the day is the key to living your purpose. Satisfaction comes from making a difference. Remember that there are loads of ways to make a difference. You don’t have to go to Africa to help build wells (though that is an amazing thing to do). You may find that your purpose is fulfilled when you volunteer through your church or a civic organization. Or even in your family life.
Leo Babauta wrote, “We can tie our daily actions, like learning about how our minds and bodies and habits work, or getting healthy, or creating something, not only to our personal satisfaction and success (trivial things) but to how they help others, how they make the lives of others better, how they might lessen the suffering of others.” A piece of art, for instance, may help children heal from trauma. Those who have a passion for fitness may find their purpose fulfilled in helping others become healthy. It’s all about leveraging what we love for the greater good.
Purpose is a life long journey.
For an interview series I did recently, I chatted with singer/songwriter/creativity coach Lauren Lapointe. She mentioned in our interview that she believes that purpose is part of our lifelong journey. It is not a single destination. Isn’t that kind of a relief? You don’t have to have a permanent purpose for your life or feel stuck if you aren’t sure what your purpose is.
Tips to finding your purpose.
If you do want to go on a purpose journey, here are a couple of steps you can take:
- Think about what you loved to do as a kid. Those past-times may lead you to your purpose.
- Consider how you can help others.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Truthfully, it is nearly impossible to find your purpose if you don’t try new things.
- When you have a satisfying experience, journal about it. Try to understand what about the experience was so satisfying.
- Remember there isn’t a “wrong” purpose. Be true to yourself and embrace whatever your purpose is, no matter what.
Purpose is a big topic, but when you consider that it can be changeable and that it involves your feelings of satisfaction, then you will find what you need to live a satisfying life.
Photo credit: www.lifehack.org