How to Live Your Purpose Even If You Have No Idea What It Is

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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:

  1. Go to https://www.imperative.com/ and take their Work Personality Quiz to get an outside take on what your purpose is.
  2. 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?
  3. 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

 

7 Things You Can Do When None of Your Career Options Feel Right

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I’ve always found decisions stressful, probably because I’m usually trying to find the right answer.  That’s how I know that having options can feel just as stressful as not having any if none of them feel right.

I meet people all the time who are incredibly discouraged because they feel stuck—they desperately want to find a new job but none of the alternatives they come up with feel good enough to pursue. It’s easy to become frustrated, self-critical, or even hopeless and depressed.

Is it the options, or is it you?

It may be that you haven’t yet found the right idea. But it’s equally possible, if not more likely, that something is blocking your ability to recognize what feels really right.

Even if you have a block, you’re perfectly capable of finding your path (and keep in mind that there’s probably more than one that lead to what you’re wanting).  Following are 7 things you can do to find your way when none of your career options feel right:

1. Get more information.

Lots of times nothing feels right because we don’t know enough about what it would look, sound, taste, or feel like. It’s like we’re trying to make a decision about which house to buy when all we know about it is the color and number of rooms.

Take time to do research. Read. Talk to people. Go and visit.  Sometimes we resist doing this because we’re afraid we’ll be disappointed and stranded without options if we don’t like what we find.  But disappointment is inevitable if you’re truly living your life, and you’ll never be without options. At worst, what you find will prompt you to generate better ones.

2. Try it out.

This is really an extension of the last idea. Sometimes you can’t know until you try. If I asked you if you like walking on the moon, you’d probably have a hard time answering without trying it.  Fortunately, trying jobs out is often easier than space travel. Shadow someone for a day. Get an assignment in a different department. Volunteer. Do a freelancing project on the side. Make something. Sell something. See what it feels like.

3. Get clear about what you want most.

Often we want multiple things, and each option offers part but not all of what we want.  If this is the case, try to prioritize your desires.  What’s a must-have and what’s a nice-to-have?  What’s most important to you? What’s been key to your sense of well-being or fulfillment in the past?

4. Look for the should.

Nothing can scramble your internal GPS more than the belief that you ought to be doing something. When you feel you should be doing something—say, making more money, doing the “practical” thing, or pursuing what others think you should—you tend to become deaf to your actual desires. Hence, nothing feels right.

Make a list of all the things you think you should do. (Think: “Fathers should…”  “Mothers should…”  “Responsible people should…”) Now ask yourself: where might you be shoulding on yourself when considering your career options?

5. Distinguish between what feels scary and what feels wrong.

Sometimes we get a negative response from our bodies because an option is clearly wrong for us.  Other times we get a negative response simply because we’re scared.  The anxiety of a wrong choice feels different in the body than the fear of doing something desirable but outside of our comfort zone. For most of us, distinguishing between the two sensations is a subtle discernment we have to learn how to make over time, but it’s a worthwhile effort nonetheless.

6. Brainstorm more options.

It is possible you haven’t yet found the right idea for you.  Once you’re clear on what you really want, take time to brainstorm possibilities.  Allow yourself time to generate wild and improbable ideas without judgment (you’ll have time to get practical later).  Ask others to help you.  And play around with tweaking your existing options.  How might you combine them?  Could you do them sequentially?  What would you need to add to or take away from each one to make it feel right?

7. Wait.

If all else fails, wait. It might just be that the timing isn’t yet right. I had a client who felt stuck in a corporate job because none of her ideas for leaving felt justifiable. She was unduly hard on herself for not taking the leap. Then, after having some time to get her ducks in a row, someone offered her a job to work on an upcoming political campaign. Suddenly, what before felt wrong now felt right. She jumped at the chance and never regretted it. Timing really can be everything.

Over to You

What’s helped you move forward when none of your options felt right?  Please share in the comments below so we can learn from your experience and/or insight.

Find the Right Path for You

Right now I offer a free, 60-minute Clarity Call to anyone who wants to find out how coaching can help them find clarity about their calling and how to pursue it. I won’t be offering this session for free for very much longer. I’ve gotten such good feedback on the calls and have had so many requests for them that once my new website goes live, I’m going to start charging for these in-depth sessions. If you’re interested in coaching and would like to experience it for free while you still can, click here to request a Clarity Call.

Want to Make a Career Change You Won’t Regret? Try This.

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You want to make a change.  You really do.  It’s just that you don’t want to make a change that you’ll regret.

How do you know this is what you really want?  You thought the jobs you took up to now would make you happy, and they didn’t.  Who’s to say the next job you choose will be any different?

And change requires money, time, and energy.  What if you go back to school and then realize it’s not for you?  What if you give up everything you have, start all over, and then end up back where you started—miserable in your job after the newness wears off?  What if it’s all a waste?

This prospect is scary for anyone wanting to make a career change because the future is inherently uncertain.  And yet your fear underestimates you and what’s possible when you really, truly listen to yourself.

You have a powerful GPS system already operating within you.  When you tune into it and follow its guidance, any career change you make, no matter the outcome, will bring you closer to what you want.

Case in point: I’ve coached dozens of clients to answer their calling, and not a single one has regretted the change they made in their career.  While their processes were quite different, they all had a few, key things in common:

They drew from all 3 types of intelligence.

Most of the time we use our intellectual intelligence to make decisions.  We reason, analyze, list pros and cons, and try to find the option that makes the most sense.

Often this leads us to ping-pong back-and-forth between options without a real sense of which one is right for us, or which one we won’t regret.

That’s because while intellectual intelligence is great at solving certain types of problems, it has very little to tell us about passion, desire, and purpose, the very things we need to know about if we’re going to be fulfilled long-term.

So to identify work that they didn’t regret, my clients tapped into their emotional and somatic intelligence, both of which offered incredible information about what they loved and what was most important to them.

Emotional intelligence draws on the information contained in our feelings.  Somatic intelligence comes from our body; it’s sometimes called intuition or “gut feeling.”  When my clients learned to listen to these sources of wisdom, they discovered what they most deeply wanted, what was meaningful to them, and what would truly fulfill them long-term.

To apply this to your own life, you can start to notice how different options and possibilities make you feel.  What emotions do they bring up?  What body sensations?  Which options bring up the most positive sensations?

Doing so can help you make decisions aligned with who you really are, which is the best way to avoid regret down the line.

They explored.

We test drive cars before we buy them, but often not careers.  Why?  We spend far more time in our career than we do in our car (assuming you’re neither a truck nor taxi driver).

My clients all went through a thorough process of identifying what was most important to them in their work—from location, pay, and environment to job responsibilities, impact, and people.

They then brainstormed ideas for jobs that included these elements.  Armed with a list of exciting possibilities, they became explorers: They tried out different routes to see which ones worked best for them.

They researched.  They did informational interviews.  They shadowed people.  They volunteered.  They did everything they could to get a crystal-clear picture of what a particular job would look like, sound like, and feel like day-in and day-out.

Then they checked in with their various intelligence centers—head, heart, and body—and noticed their response.  In this way, they got a clear read from their highly accurate, state-of-the-art internal GPS system about which path was the best, not just in theory, but in reality as well.

They followed their fear.

Yes, that’s right.  I know that our programmed response to fear is to freeze or run in the opposite direction.  And that’s okay.  If a giant, man-eating bird is trying to hunt us, that’s probably a pretty good response.

But if we really want to find our calling, we need to learn to follow fear.

We only fear a path when it contains something important to us, when we care, when we really, really want it to work.  Those are all great signs that a route is a good one for us.

So, the next time you feel afraid, stroll right up to your fear, introduce yourself, and shake its hand.  Let it know you’re pleased to see it—it means you’re on the right path.  Then march right along past it and continue in the same direction.

As Stephen Pressfield says, “Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

All of my clients took paths that led them, in one way or another, directly into the heart of their fear.

The path to work you love may not be a direct one.  Sometimes you have to try things out, learn, or even fail; sometimes you have to start one thing to open the door to something else.  But if you use your internal GPS when making decisions, each step you take will bring you closer to what you ultimately want, and each step will bring you lots of joy along the way.

Over to You

What do you make of this?  What’s helped you make changes you’ve been happy with in the past?  Do these point to any action steps you’d like to take?

Your ideas may help others.  Please leave a reply in the comments below.

Make Your Career Change a Happy One

If you’re not sure how to tap into your full intelligence, or if you’ve had trouble exploring or following your fears on your own, click here to request a free clarity session.  Sometimes all we need is a little guidance, support, and structure to be able to do things we couldn’t before.

Photo credit: ** RCB ** / Foter / CC BY

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