Do you know what your purpose is? Have you uncovered your calling in life? Are you crystal clear about the reason you were put on this earth? If not, these questions might be making you squirm uncomfortably in your chair right about now and understandably so.
Being both a traveller and a personal development blogger means I’m never too far away from a “finding your purpose in life” conversation. Lately, I’ve started to doubt the usefulness of focusing so hugely on discovering this end of the rainbow, pot of gold, we call purpose.
The Internet is awash with “finding your purpose” advice, blogs, e-books, e-courses and videos and if you weren’t already feeling the pressure to uncover your calling in life, then a quick Google search is all it will take to tip you over the edge.
I’ve read numerous articles that proclaim that knowing your purpose is the panacea to all your pain, the thing that will turn you into an overnight success, driven, motivated and productive beyond compare.
What’s the problem with purpose?
I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that I’m not sure all this talk of purpose is that helpful. In case you are wondering, yes I do know what my purpose in life is and it came after a I embarked on a yearlong search for it, less than three years ago. Uncovering my purpose has definitely helped me to live a happier and more fulfilled life but I can’t help feeling that the way the purpose conversation goes can at times be less than useful.
An excuse for inaction
When we believe that knowing our purpose in life provides the map upon which all of our plans and goals should be based, it’s all too easy to avoid setting forth in this world until that map is in place. I see so many people not doing anything at all because they are so fixated on working out what their purpose is first. They don’t want to move forward in case they take a wrong turn and move further away from their true purpose so instead they stay still, not getting anywhere fast.
Confusing purpose and career
Sometimes I think that people confuse purpose with occupation. I did that for a long time. In fact my own story centers on discovering that I wanted to be a Life Coach and whilst that has been a somewhat useful realization for me, what I’ve discovered more recently is that being a Coach is not my purpose. Helping people embrace their fears and live more courageously is my purpose, being a Coach is just one way that I can do that.
Looking outwards rather than within
When we go in search of something as elusive as purpose, the tendency is to look outwards. To refer to the plethora of “finding your purpose” guides and quick-fix tools or to start looking at what other people do to see how their lives would feel if we tried them on for size. Whilst I’m an advocate of trying new things, in the context of finding your purpose, I think it can sometimes be overwhelming to start the search by looking outside of ourselves. If we are to believe that we do indeed have a purpose in life, then the uncovering of that can only happen by looking within.
Not a magic cure
When we talk about finding something as romantic and magical sounding as our true purpose in life, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the idea that once we find it, there will be a fanfare of trumpets in celebration and the messy pieces of our life will fall into place allowing us to know exactly what to do and when.
Trust me when I say this isn’t how it works. Realizing that I wanted to help people to courageously remove the fear based limits in their life, has definitely given my life a new quality but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still sometimes feel unmotivated and doubtful about what to do next.
A more useful approach?
Do what you love
I spent a year trying to find my purpose the hard way. I read lots of e-books on the topic and I spent a lot of time investigating various different careers that I thought might embody it. Although it helped to rule some things out, in the main this approach only served to make me feel more confused.
In the end what crystalized things for me was reading Gretchen Rubin’s, best-selling book, The Happiness Projectin which she discusses the point at which she noticed that the peers on her law course had a passion for law that saw them reading case-law for fun. Realising that she didn’t share this passion got her thinking about what she loved to do for fun and that line of enquiry led her to give up plans of a career in law and turn to her true passion of writing instead.
After reading about Gretchen’s experience, I asked myself what I love to do in my spare time. The answer was far simpler than I could have ever imagined. More than anything I love to talk to people about life, growth, personal development and facing fears. Since then I’ve quit my job and left the UK in pursuit of a career that embodies those very things and I’ve never been happier.
Never stop moving
The thing I see people do most often is nothing. They feel so confused by the range of things that they could do that they end up doing none of them for fear of going down the wrong path. Life is too short to stand still and moving forward with an idea does not prevent a change of direction further down the line. It’s equally as important to remember not to stay in a place just because you’ve spent years getting there and feel that moving in another direction would mean you wasted all your previous hard work getting to that point. Check out Izzy’s inspirational story of quitting an established career in education to become a ninja.
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” ~ Earl Nightingale
The most tragic thing in my mind is when someone does uncover their purpose but they fail to take action for fear of how long it will take to align their life and career to that purpose. More often than not, one or two years down the line those same people are still talking about how maybe they should do something about it, seemingly unaware of how much time they’ve already wasted wondering what if.
What are your thoughts on purpose? Are you in hot pursuit or are you basking in the glory of having found yours? I’d love to hear your take on what I’ve written here and I’m open to being challenged on my views. If you like the post, please don’t forget to share it by hitting one of the buttons below.