LOST: anyone seen my purpose?
As I mentioned in my opening post for this month, purpose can be an elusive beast.
Sometimes the more we want it, the more we search for it, the more difficult it becomes to find.
The reality is that you don’t actually have to look very far to find purpose. It’s something that exists within all of us. You first have to learn where to look and then, more importantly, how to listen.
And that’s exactly what I’m going to help you do in this post.
Why so elusive?
In current times in the western world, most of us are both blessed and cursed by our quest for purpose. As Mr Maslow would point out using his Hierarchy of Needs, we are lucky that many of our more basic needs are being well met – food, water, warmth, security, belonging – so our attention turns towards personal growth and a deeper level of fulfilment by identifying and pursuing purpose.
Many clients come to me with a ‘crisis of purpose’, often in the context of their work. They know they don’t like what they’re doing now and feel a strong desire to break free and do something totally different…..but they have no idea what and they are paralysed by fear in some form.
By the time they’ve got to me, they’ve usually spent 6 months (at least) in deep thinking space and have often only succeeded in heightening their dislike of the current status quo and elevating the phantom of purpose to stratospheric heights.
In my first post, I talked about purpose as a beautiful package wrapped in bow….but unfortunately, it doesn’t arrive one day on our doorstep, exactly when we need it, looking just like that.
How to find it isn’t something you get taught in school. It isn’t something you can buy. It isn’t something you can create.
The place you find it is on the inside, stashed somewhere adjacent to your internal compass – they kind of come as a pair.
What is it?
To my mind, purpose is an underlying framework which can help drive our lives along a personalised, fulfilling and deliberate path.
Where to look?
Although building blocks of inspiration can definitely be gathered from the outside world, the construction of purpose happens at a very personal and individual level. You still have to get practical, as introspection alone doesn’t tend to lead to a satisfying, well-defined, actionable framework.
If you feel like you are truly starting from scratch, then I’d suggest taking the pressure off by not ‘trying to solve the purpose puzzle’ and start by simply making a few notes when you feel any moments of inspiration and engagement. Don’t judge them, don’t over-analyse them. Just jot down, come back to them once you’ve got a good collection and see if you can find any themes.
Here are few questions to start thinking about:
- What are your values?
- What are your core priorities? (distinguish short-term and long-term?)
- What are your strengths? What comes easy for you? (ask a few trusted people?)
- What do other people value you for? (could be different to your strengths)
- What are you fascinated by?
- What subjects/studies/activities take you to a place of focus, absorption and flow?
Essentially anything that you feel drawn towards has the potential to form part of your purpose.
How to listen?
Listening for your purpose is all about tuning in to the natural skills and attributes that you were born with, the things that are most important to you and then, most importantly, applying the overlay of your gut instinct.
Forget what might be expected of you by society or others – this is perhaps the biggest potential distraction which will divert you off your true course.
Listen for the little gems, the small sparkles of interest and passion which could blossom into something greater.
Look for the threads which tie together your priorities and interests – these can become the themes for your personal story.
Pay attention to things which sound and feel ‘most like the real you’. You might not be very comfortable revealing this ‘real you’ to the world, you may have spent many years trying to be something different but the connection to your purpose can only be made from the most authentic version of you.
Where’s my purpose now?
In my last post, I talked about the ‘happiness equation’ that I devised in 2012 which drove a load of change in my life and, ultimately, led me to where I am today.
Since that was published, various people have been asking me what my purpose is now……so I thought I better practise what I preach:
- My relationships – to give and receive love openly, with kindness, generosity and sometimes vulnerability
- My mindset – to practice acceptance that ‘right now’ is always exactly where I’m meant to be, change and growth will happen and I will always be ok
- My growth – to keep learning and being curious
- My work – to develop great relationships with interesting people, help them get unstuck, rebalance, grow and be content
And, above all, my reason for being is simply “to see what happens next”.
In my humble opinion, here are the most important things to remember when exploring your purpose:
- ‘Try easy’ – don’t chase too hard, take the pressure off, back away from trying to ‘solve the purpose puzzle’
- Follow what you’re drawn to and tune in to the ‘real you’
- Accept that your purpose can evolve over time – what you discover now doesn’t have to be for life
- Know that you may not be able or need to find purpose in every aspect of your life
And, to keep it all in perspective……remember that, in the grand scheme of things, none of us as individuals really matter at all anyway.
BUT it’s so healthy and good for the soul to have the desire to matter regardless.