If you’ve had a hard time figuring out what your purpose in life is, don’t worry. You’re not alone. And what’s more, you don’t really need to figure it out to find what you’re looking for.
When we talk about finding our life purpose, we’re usually looking for an organizing principle to give direction and meaning to all the chaos. We want to find a noble aspiration to dedicate ourselves to, something that will tell us who we are and what we were born to do. We’re searching for something that can make us feel we belong on this planet and that our lives are complete.
Finding your purpose can’t do this for you. Living your purpose can.
Where fulfillment comes from
When I was in my early twenties, I worked for a series of nonprofits that were doing work I truly believed in. I dedicated myself to furthering important missions like ending homelessness or empowering Mexican factory workers or creating a more just and humane economy.
I loved working on causes I believed in, but I still didn’t feel fulfilled. I didn’t feel my life was complete, and what I did at work gave me no sense of meaning or purpose in any other area of my life.
What I’ve found is key to fulfillment and meaning is making choices that align with what’s most important to me. Purpose hasn’t turned out to be some external goal or aspiration. Rather, it’s a living breathing part of who I am that can be expressed in any moment. It’s less grandiose, quieter, and harder to pin down than I used to imagine, but if I listen to it, it leads to far more joy and satisfaction.
The secret to finding your purpose
The wonderful thing about purpose is that the process for finding it is the same as for living it, and you don’t have to know what it is to get started.
You live your purpose by expressing who you already are in each action and in each moment. To do this, first listen to what your inner guidance is telling you do to. What action feels right when you’re connected to your wisest self and your innate goodness? What do you feel pulled towards? What fills you up? What brings you joy? What makes you come alive?
How can you nurture what you care about deeply?
After you listen, you do. You act on the guidance you’re getting, or find ways to do more of what makes you feel your best in each decision and in each moment. It doesn’t matter if you see a pattern, can name what you’re doing, or know what’s next. What matters is that each action resonates with you on a deep level and expresses who you really are.
The Listen-Do process works on a day-to-day level as well as on a larger “life” level. You can use the questions to determine what to eat for lunch or you can use them to see which activities, commitments, ideas, professions, organizations, job opportunities, or career paths you feel called to pursue.
No matter what you decide or where you end up, if you follow this process over and over again, you’ll be living your purpose. And you don’t have to do it perfectly (I know I certainly don’t). In my experience, just making a sincere effort leads to loads of joy, meaning, fulfillment, and a sense of doing what you’re meant to even if you have no idea what that actually is.
And if you still really want to know what your purpose is…
I can’t blame you. Sometimes you need to communicate it to others. Sometimes you just really want to know. Here are three things you can try:
- Go to https://www.imperative.com/ and take their Work Personality Quiz to get an outside take on what your purpose is.
- Write the eulogy you’d like to receive after you die (after a good, long life), keeping in mind that the word comes from the Greek word for praise. How did you impact the people around you? What contributions did you make? How was the world different as a result of you having been in it?
- Keep a daily journal listing the things you did that you feel good about or that benefited others in any way, no matter how small. Which were most fulfilling? Which brought you the most joy? Which had the biggest impact? What do these contributions have in common?
Live Your Purpose
If you’re still not sure what your purpose is, more help is available.
I offer individual and group coaching programs at various levels of investment designed to help you identify your purpose, discover what you’re meant to do in the world, and get started actually doing it.
To find out more, schedule a free 1:1 call with me. We’ll illuminate your goals, clarify your challenges, and discuss what each program involves and how it can help. There’s no cost for the call and no obligation to buy anything. Click here to apply for your free call today.
Photo credit: Cheryl Brind // CC
What’s made me feel like I’m doing “something” right lately?
I always feel good when I smile sincerely and say Have a good day! to random strangers (especially those who look like they don’t often feel Really Seen) – Tuesday night, one lady replied “Thank you – for being the first person to smile at me today! That makes me feel good!” I said “Great! Me too. Thank YOU!” and we *both* walked away smiling 🙂
Terrific post – Thank you!
Beautiful example, Karen! I love how you’re pointing to how something as small as a smile can have such big results. Thanks for sharing your experience!
I resonate with your statement: Purpose is not an external goal or aspiration, purpose is living the expression of who we are. I enjoyed reading your article, it makes a lot of sense to me. If we follow our inner guidance we are living on purpose. Thank you