I’d like to use this post as a practical one to help you figure our your purpose.
The process of understanding, or knowing ‘purpose’ can take some time, and it does require your attention and own support.
Not everyone gets it straight away – I’ve coached people for a couple of years to shape their clarity. The way involves experimenting, constant recalibration and often it is the process that is more enjoyable than outcomes. Opening yourself up to being purposeful allows you to feel the world around you vividly, overcome judgments, and pull yourself out of habitual patterns and ways of viewing the world.
I also don’t think everyone ‘has to have’ a purpose. If you think it will help and benefit you in life, go for it. If it’s not going to add to your life, stick with your values to make life align to what is important to you. Having a purpose doesn’t make your life more meaningful than someone who doesn’t have one, so take the pressure ‘off’ if it doesn’t feel right.
So if you’re keen let’s get started, and perhaps it is nice to start with a couple of examples…
I was chatting to my Muma on the phone just this weekend about purpose, and she is one lady I feel knows what it means. For her it is both incredibly broad and incredibly simple; being involved in the community. How she expresses this is in many ways and through many types of communities – they include our immediate family, through her friendships and the interests and activities they pull her towards (and let me tell you, my Muma is very social and into all kinds of activities with her girlfriends – I often joke she has a better social life than me), through her career with the local council, and connecting with numerous local community groups to help them thrive and prosper for each of the local towns in her shire. She gets daily doses of connecting with these different communities she has built around her. But it is not always fun, there are highs and lows, difficult personalities, confrontations to be had, but also wins on the board when success is achieved. A recent example was the local action committee winning in court against coal seam gas mining in their rural street – this battle went on for years before it was settled, witnessing her and the other residents not deter or go off course when it got tough and pull together to achieve not just for themselves but for the future of the local community was commendable. It’s amazing what a small group of dedicated people can achieve for the mass.
I’m hoping this is starting to paint a picture of what purpose looks like. Building on this, I’d like to share my experience of purpose too.
Understand your ‘broad platform’
I’ve borrowed my mother’s approach, using a broad platform, though differently I believe ‘transformation’ is the path to a fulfilling life. I believe we cannot ‘stay the same’ as a person during our lifetime, and we need to adapt, listen and learn about ourselves and the world around us – and keep building on our experiences, or foundation, to become well rounded and stay interested. For me, being able to work with people to guide and inspire them to seek what brings meaning to them is living my purpose. But I can’t have my purpose met purely externally; I also have to walk the talk. By throwing myself into all kinds of new situations, being vulnerable or facing fears, overcoming stubbornness to change and even being brave to speak truthfully to myself and others. Thankfully, its also met by having fun and being more adventurous, be it traveling, trying new foods, walking crazy distances in foreign lands, reading all kinds of self help books, and generally having a feeling of expansion as a person.
Again, I hope I am painting a picture of how purpose can be constructed and also lived. And I didn’t come up with this when I woke up one morning, it was through trial and error and also giving myself the space and focus to work through what I loved doing, what I was drawn to, and had some talents and skills in. There have been (and will continue to be) tears and disappointments, smiles and wins along the way – but this is a choice I’ve made about creating a spirited life for myself.
So what about you? And remember it doesn’t have to be single minded, it can be multiple things or use a ‘platform’ like us, to consider how it can be met in many ways; like creativity or design, compassion, expression, beauty, connection or making a difference – as examples.
Experiment a little…
Let’s start with Values – they are what is most important to you in life. Here is a link to my Values exercise. If you’re getting your Values met on a daily basis then you’re likely living a purposeful life – so check ‘how’ your Values are being met as vital clues.
Next, asking yourself some powerful (and confronting) questions.
Below are great questions to get you kick-started on working it out your purpose. Start by answering on your own, the with someone you trust bounce a few of the responses around, ask for input and feedback – someone who’ll talk straight with you, not tell you what you think you want to hear or diminish you.
– What do I love to do?
– What comes naturally to me?
– What am I passionate about?
– The times I’ve been happiest in my life, I have been doing…
– People have always told me I’m good at…
– When I was a child I always wanted to…
– The purpose of my life is… (go with the gut reaction, no matter how silly)
– I am here to bring ________________ to the world.
Start to do at least one thing each day that is a demonstration of one of the above responses over the next month.
Lastly, I suggest getting a journal ASAP. Start to document your thoughts, feelings and observations regularly – this includes conversations you have with yourself and others, feedback or compliments you receive, and the things that lift or drain you. Collect imagery, quotes and other items you’re drawn to. Years ago, I collected all kinds of labels, pictures or symbols I was drawn to, pamphlets, postcards and greeting cards, photos I took, squiggles I drew, clippings of articles on issues I felt compelled to do something about; see if you can put attention on these and gather them in one place. You’ll start to see topics emerge and these are the pointers you need to look out for. Just the act of starting, and asking, will draw you closer to figuring it out.
And don’t forget this is fun, don’t take it too seriously, enjoy yourself and see what emerges – and I would love to invite you to share any insights or feedback here with me too.