Our purpose is our reason for being.
Is our reason for being a one time big hairy decision, that once made, is cast in stone?
I think not!
This blog was inspired by: How to Find Your Life Purpose in Under 10 Minutes
Is Purpose Found or Does it Reveal Itself?
Are we Asking the Wrong Questions?
“What is my reason for being?”
“How do I find my purpose?”
“What am I passionate about?”
“What if I make the wrong choice?”
Perhaps these are the wrong questions to ask. In my experience, the more a purpose is sought, the more elusive it becomes.
I think we all have a good sense of knowing when we are on purpose or not. However, if you are like me, perhaps you find it rather difficult to articulate purpose. Isn’t it much easier to describe how we feel when on purpose than what our purpose is? Could this be because our sense of purpose lives deep in our limbic brain where our emotions reside, and not in the rational, reasoning and language parts of the brain? We are intuitively aware of our purpose.
The three steps that I have found to a more purposeful life are:
- Showing up to life,
- Getting to know ourselves better, and
- Getting out and doing things
Step 1: Showing Up to Life
Life is about creating ourselves, it is not about finding ourselves. It is about taking action, doing things, trying things out and connecting with others, all the while learning more about ourselves. In taking action, the key is to only tackle a few things at the same time. We do not want to spread ourselves too thin, or overwhelm ourselves. We want to give the things we try a fair shot.
Not everything we try out is going to be right for us. We must not confuse quitting something that is not fitting with failing. On the one hand it is okay to change what we are doing does not feel right. However, on the other hand, it is necessary to persevere through the bumps and hurdles. So stay the course and invest some effort before assessing whether or not what we are doing is working for us. We may need to kiss many frogs for our prince to reveal itself.
I have come to believe that one’s purpose reveals itself in gradual and intangible ways as we journey on our unique paths. For purpose to reveal itself, we need to show up to life:
- Self aware,
- With an open mind,
- Enthusiastic and committed to try things out,
- Living in the present,
- Compassionate to ourselves and others,
- Willing to listen with intent to understand,
- Willing to give of ourselves without any expectation of outcome or return,
- With an attitude of gratitude and appreciation, and
- Receptive and grateful for what others have to offer.
Our purpose is not static, it evolves as we live our lives. Things that fired us up years ago no longer do, and we now feel strongly about things we never did. Continue to show up to life being aware of the things that matter to you now.
Living a life of purpose and meaning gives us a sense of worthiness, happiness and fulfillment. Our sense of purpose and meaning comes from connecting to and being of service to others. As Brenè Brown puts it, “We are wired for connection”.
Step 2: Get to Know Ourselves Better
Being of service and connecting in ways that are meaningful and special requires knowing ourselves well. It is important that we get to know who we are at our core, where everything else is stripped away. We can improve our self knowledge by pondering on what:-
- Matters most to us?
- Makes us come alive?
- Are our dreams and aspirations?
- Feeds our souls?
- Drains our spirit?
- Is our personality? Both our public and private persona and both our natural and learned behaviour?
- Are our core values, the moral code by which we live?
- Are our physical abilities: limits of strength, flexibility, balance, speed, reflexes, etc.?
A Self-Discovery Activity
Start by creating the following four lists:
What am I Good At?
This is our “Credible” list, including:
- Experience and accomplishments.
- What our friends say we are better at than others.
- Things we are confident at doing.
What do I love doing?
This is the list of things we could effortlessly spend hours talking about, for example:
- Interests, hobbies, sports we love to participate in or follow.
- Things we are or would like to learn more about.
- Where we can be found in our spare time.
- What we are doing when we are our happiest.
- What we enjoy reading, listening to or watching.
- On what do we spend our discretionary money.
What does the world need?
It is much easier to fill an existing need than to create a new one.
- Look around, read journals, magazines, news, biographies to identify these opportunities.
- List tangible (sliced bread) as well as intangible (kindness) needs that speak to us.
- What needs are the people we admire serving? Hypothetically trade places and deconstruct what they are doing and imagine yourself doing that.
What can I be paid for?
The person behind the reason for being needs sustenance. Bills need to be paid, (not “how can I make a lot of money?”):
- Describe jobs we are capable of doing that others pay for.
- List your abilities that you see other people using to earn money.
- List the things you can make / grow / trade that you see other people buying.
- What can you teach or coach, that people would be willing to pay to receive?
First List Consolidation
- Passion list is the intersection of What I love and What I am good at lists.
- Mission list is the intersection of What I love and What the world needs list.
- Vocation list is the intersection of What the world needs and What I can be paid for lists.
- Profession list is the intersection of What I am good at and What I can be paid for lists.
Second List Consolidation
- Delight list is the intersection of our Passion and Mission lists.
- Satisfaction list is the intersection of our Passion and Profession lists.
- Excitement list is the intersection of Mission and Vocation lists.
- Comfort list is the intersection of Vocation and Profession lists.
Last List Consolidation
Our “Reason for Being” list is the intersection of the Delight, Satisfaction, Excitement and Comfortable lists.
The benefit of going through this process rather than just creating a list of the things we love, are good at, believe are needed and believe we can monetise in one step, is that this long approach promotes more insightful self discovery and deeper reflection.
Our purpose will most likely reveal itself when we tackle the items on this final list. I recommend keeping these lists in a living document that we can revisit, review and revise. Feel free to adjust this framework creating your own personalised “Reason for Being” living document that works for you.
Step 3: Get Out and Do Things
Some suggestions are:
Volunteer / Contribute to a Cause
Giving of one’s self without any expectation of return. Altruistic activities gives us a special sense of meaning and connection. Find causes that resonate with you.
Listen to Feedback
Sometimes it is hard for us to recognise, characterise, or articulate our passions and capabilities. Listen to what those who are close to us and who we respect have to say about us. It is highly likely that there are insights in their feedback.
Positive People with Qualities you Aspire to Develop
We are the company we keep. What do we have in common with the people who you choose to hang out. Do not think about co-workers or family where it is more of an obligation than a choice.
Join a hobby groups, associations or societies, where we believe people with the qualities we aspire to hang out. Befriend those we relate to.
Strike Up Conversations
Engage with strangers, ask them what projects they are working on or what they do for fun. Ask them about the organisations they are involved in or causes they feel passionate about.
It may feel awkward at first, but will improve with practice. The pay-off is worth it, it could open your eyes to activities, causes and career opportunities you never knew existed.
Pursue your Interests
What do we like talking about or finding out more about? Think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child / teen. Sign up for a classes or a course or join a group, be it pottery, learning a new language, astronomy, hiking. Anything that is of interest to you.
What Injustices Bother You
What are your pet injustices? Animal cruelty, discrimination, abuse, corruption, pollution. . . Get involved in organisations working for these causes, they are out there and they need your help.
At those times in our life when we grapple with purpose, may I suggest not focusing on the question of “What is my purpose?” But instead, rather show up to life, get to know ourselves better and get out and do things. This way our purpose will begin to reveal itself, not necessary as an articulated statement, but rather as a feeling and intuitive knowing that we are on purpose.