Has the romantic idea of figuring out the meaning of life ever crossed your mind?
Have you ever wondered why you are here? What is it all for?
It’s all well and good to wonder, but how do we act on these questions? Besides, you may think that this kind of self-reflection should be solely reserved for teenagers and those who actually have time to ‘find themselves’.
Our culture is filled with Instagram- and Facebook-worthy idealisms that tell us finding purpose and meaning is all we need to do to live a happy life:
You were created for something awesome. Find your purpose.
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. – Pablo Picasso
Be faithful in small things. Because it is in them that your strength lies. – Mother Teresa
Instead of being inspiring though, reading these sayings may result in frustration. What about those of us who haven’t found our purpose? Does that mean you have nothing to offer the world?
Our lives are constantly in motion. Rest and downtime are viewed as foreign concepts. The idea of taking the time for self-exploration is so far removed that it may as well be in a science fiction movie.
With this in mind an entire industry has sprouted up, trying to capitalize on our shared lack of direction. Seminars, workshops, public speakers and books, all pushed on us to try to help us find that self-worth – while shelling out cash in our quest.
Perhaps you’ve wandered the aisles of Chapters (or the digital ones on Amazon) and come across a number of books on how to find your purpose:
- Awaken your Inner Fire: Ignite Your Passion, Awaken Your Purpose and Create the Life That You Love
- Find Your Purpose, Change Your Life: Getting To The Heart of Your Life’s Mission
- Game On: Find Your Purpose – Pursue Your Dream
Looking up ‘Find Your Purpose’ on the Chapter’s website yields 65 results!
Is it any wonder that authors try to distill the finding of one’s purpose down into two hundred pages? In the age of the shortened attention span focusing for even that long is an impressive feat.
These authors make it seem so simple that I find it makes me angry instead of inspired. How could something as complex and intimately personal as finding your purpose be distilled down into two hundred pages by someone who doesn’t even know me?
It can’t. These are answers. Answers that worked for that particular author and possibly some of their fans, but answers nonetheless.
And while we may all be looking for the answer of how to find our purpose, perhaps what we’re looking for is better posed as a question.
Answers are final. They end the conversation.
Questions, on the other hand, inspire discussion.
Questions invite you to dig deeper.
Questions send your mind on a journey.
Finding purpose is not a finite destination, but an ongoing journey of self-discovery.
In order to find your purpose, you must continue on the path towards finding it. This sounds like a riddle but it’s very simple. You will not one day find your purpose and then live the rest of your life full of self-satisfaction and great happiness.
Instead, spend your days challenging yourself to find your passions, explore your strengths and decide how best to share them with the world. This doesn’t mean you need to leave behind everything you’ve worked so hard to earn. There is no need to quit your day job if you don’t want to; the life you are leading now is not a dead end.
Incorporate your passions into your day to day existence. This is what those trite internet idealisms are referring to: Share your strength with the world and in sharing your inner light, make the world a better place.
The journey towards finding your purpose is just that, a journey. Every day you must continue the exploration of what brings meaning and purpose to your life. Odds are, it will change many times during the course of your life. This is how it should be, an unfolding or revealing that will only come about when you set forth to explore that which brings you meaning. You will not find this in a book, or a workshop.
This is inside you already.
The truth is, it’s easier than you may think. No need to sell all of your worldly possessions and travel to far off countries. You may not even need to leave your home.
The easiest way to find your purpose is by realizing your passions.
What makes you forget about needing to eat? What do you get so engaged in that you completely lose track of time?
If you can name an activity or even two, you’re on the right track. Purpose and passions are intimately connected. Some might say they’re two sides of the same coin.
A passion is defined as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.
Have you ever woken up in the morning excited about something that was going to happen that day? It could have been as large as a much-anticipated vacation, or as small as meeting with a friend for a coffee. Regardless, that sense of excitement is what inspired you to get out of bed in a good mood, looking forward to the day ahead.
Now let’s imagine for a moment that you can wake up each day with that same sense of excitement and enthusiasm for the day ahead. Only the source of your excitement is not an unusual occurrence, but part of your everyday life. Something you love doing, that you are, in fact, passionate about.
Congratulations! You have discovered your purpose. This sense of excitement about the same thing every day is the connection between your passions and your purpose. If you’re regularly engaged in your passions, you’ll know that you’ve found your purpose.
If you can’t think of anything you’re passionate about, it’s time to start experimenting!
What have you wanted to try for the longest time but you’ve always put it off as it seemed too… outrageous, silly, dumb, a waste of time?
What did your teenage self aspire to?
Before mortgages, family, responsibilities set in, what did you dream about doing ‘when you grew up’?
Take a small step towards engaging in that activity. It might be something as simple as researching it on the internet. You’ll know you’re on the right track if you find that time disappears even as you research the topic.
As you begin this process of self-discovery, keep one thing in mind:
Continue to ask questions.
There is no one answer on how to find your purpose but there are multiple questions that can inspire you to look beneath the surface.
What do you love to do? What about this gives you such pleasure?
What do you not enjoy doing? What do you avoid? Why?
These are only a handful of questions to get you started on your path to self-discovery. Once you start you will find the questions, and answers, come more easily. Keep asking – there are no wrong answers, only new directions on the journey.
Learn more about finding your purpose in our other blog posts.
Also published on Medium.