Growing up, I learned that securing a respectable job and earning a good living should be my primary goal in life. It didn’t matter if I felt fulfilled, only that I could take care of myself. So, I studied hard and worked even harder to achieve just that. Even with a successful career, something was missing.
The end of each year brings opportunity for reflection and assessment. It’s when we re-evaluate areas of our life and our degree of fulfillment. Often, it leads us to question if what we are doing is in alignment with our purpose. Or, are we just doing what is expected of us.
Years ago no one put an emphasis on living a life consistent with your purpose. But somewhere along the way, we figured out that purpose was a key to fulfillment. Since that time, it has become acceptable, and even encouraged, to align with one’s purpose. So much so, that if you haven’t discovered what your purpose is yet, you may feel inadequate or that there is something wrong with you.
For all of you searching for “it”, I want to let you in on a secret. I want you to know that your purpose is not a “thing”. It’s not a job title, it’s not a hobby, it’s not a cause. Your purpose is you being you. It’s your interactions. It’s your experiences. The job title, the hobby, or the cause are just vehicles of expression for your purpose – not your actual purpose.
We are so concerned with having a name for our purpose, that we miss our purpose. Let me explain.
When we search for the vehicle for expressing our purpose instead of our actual purpose, we put too much pressure on ourselves to get it perfect – causing us to miss it altogether. If you think about it, it’s a lot of responsibility to pick the right job or cause to dedicate your life to. If your purpose is you being you, then there are many ways for you to express who you are. Maybe your purpose is helping people to feel good about themselves. Think about the different ways you can do that. You could be a counselor, you could be a jewelry designer, you could be a plastic surgeon, etc. Maybe you love engaging with people in a personal way. You could be a therapist, you could work retail, you could be a bar tender, etc. The examples go on and on.
So, if you feel you are lacking purpose in your life, you may be missing it simply because you are trying to make it equate to a job instead of a calling. If you find this to be true for you, here are three things you can do bring you into alignment with your purpose.
1. Identify those interactions, qualities, and experiences that are most closely aligned with who you are at your core.
By understanding what brings you joy and fulfillment you will move away from trying to equate purpose with a singular vehicle of expression, like a job title or a hobby. Shifting your focus from “my purpose is to be a nutritionist” to “I find great joy and fulfillment in helping people adopt a healthy lifestyle” will take the pressure of finding that one perfect thing in life and give you the flexibility to experiment with different forms of expression for your purpose.
2. Think back to situations or times in your life where you experienced those feelings.
Looking back at your life to identify times in your life where you have found that joy and fulfillment will give you clues to the options available to you. For instance, if you experienced great joy and fulfillment from direct, personal interactions, then you may find that sitting behind a desk with little to no interaction with others may not give you experiences you need to live your purpose.
3. Brainstorm new ways to have those same types of interactions and experiences now.
Once you understand how experiences contribute to your fulfillment, identify other ways to experience the same thing. If working as a teacher energizes you because you love seeing someone internalize an idea then working as a trainer for a large company might provide the same type of fulfillment.
Finding your purpose doesn’t have to be pressure filled and anxiety ridden. And it won’t be if you shift your focus from finding your “thing” to understanding what interactions and experiences allow you to be your best you. By detaching your purpose from the “thing”, you open your world to endless possibilities.