When it comes to thinking about life and what we want to do with it, I often get people saying to me one or a few of the following sentences:
‘I feel like I’m lacking purpose in life’
‘I don’t know what I’m passionate about’
‘I don’t have any direction’
‘I don’t know what my talents are or what I’m supposed to do with myself’
The struggle to ‘find ones purpose’ is real. We look at ‘the lucky ones’ who from an early age just seemed to know what they wanted to do with themselves and made it happen. We often spend time looking for purpose as though it’s a thing that’s in existence but we haven’t discovered it yet, like a lost pair of keys that we are waiting for to show up.
So here’s my advice, as a life and mindset coach, on how to find your purpose.
By this, I mean experiment. Get out there in the world. Try things. Meet new people. Join different events. Have conversations with people. And most importantly, learn about yourself along the way.
Because purpose isn’t actually something to be found. It’s something you create. It’s something that builds from experiences that you either like or dislike. As you pursue those things further, you will learn more, and you will learn more about what is important to you.
Which, by the way, may be several things. You may end up creating one purpose, or maybe you will create several. A new purpose might arise out of a transition period in life – perhaps you’ve just had a baby and realised that connecting lonely mothers is important to you. This wasn’t some ‘innate purpose’ that you were waiting to discover. It just arose from your experience of life.
I didn’t always know that my purpose was to help others change their life. When I graduated all I knew was “I want to do something with people” (well, that narrowed down my options!!!!) – I joined a graduate scheme in social care, before changing to HR, before quitting to work on cruise ships, all BEFORE I decided that my purpose was going to be to coach people on living the life of their dreams.
As Steve Jobs says, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So make it your mission to place dots on the canvas on your life and see where they lead you.
Rather than thinking about ‘what would I love to do with my life’, which let’s face it, not only creates a lot of pressure on yourself, it’s also impossible to predict, so ask yourself the following question instead:
What would I like to and be willing to try?
It’s like ordering a meal in a restaurant, a meal that you think you’re going to love, but when it arrives, you’re disappointed. There was no way of predicting you weren’t going to like the meal, just like you can’t guarantee you’re going to love that new job or new hobby. However, you knew you wanted to TRY the meal and you were willing to order it. And hey presto, you’ll have learnt something new about yourself – you either want to eat more mushroom risotto, or you don’t. Either you will want to pursue this new interest, or you won’t.
Finally, another problem with trying to find purpose is that we assume it has to be some big, grand, world-changing project that saves millions of lives. It doesn’t. It just has to be something that you think is important. So experiment with life and discover what is important to you. What makes you angry? What disappoints you? What do you regret not trying? What problem would you like to see eradicated? What activity do you get caught up in to the point it makes you forget to eat, sleep, or pee? What are you avoiding doing because you’re afraid of what other’s will think of you? Whatever it is, that’s NOT a reason for not doing something and is exactly the reason you should.
Purpose comes with time and exploration. It’s not already within you hiding somewhere. It’ll develop the more experienced you get with something you enjoy. So start experimenting.