What is my life purpose? What am I here to do? The idea of never finding our purpose, our ‘thing’ can be a frightening prospect. What if life will passes me by? What if I look back at my life without having found meaning in the days gone by?
You may feel paralysed with uncertainty and frustration, feeling like your life is stuck at a roadblock. Searching for your purpose can feel like chasing your tail – going around in circles in your head, questioning everything and getting nowhere.
But there is a way to get out of roadblocks – to take another turning. What if, instead of searching for the perfect job or lifestyle we drive a different road to our destination?
We can find purpose and meaning in a much simpler way: by doing what is meaningful to us right now!
If you are like most people you will probably agree that the inward purpose of your life is to be truly happy, deeply fulfilled and at peace – it’s the kind of baseline happiness that we experience over weeks, months and years, not ecstatic feelings that usually only last minutes or hours. It’s something we build the foundations for slowly… a marathon, not a sprint.
We know on a logical level that happiness comes from within… but yet many of us don’t live that philosophy. We search for an ideal circumstance that will make us happy in the future – we say we will be happy when we have the perfect job, partner,home, car… we treat happiness as if it’s something that will find us. But if we know logically that happiness is really something we find by looking inside the logic follows that the only real question is what outside experiences can support that. Once you shift your mindset to understanding the purpose is really to be happy, your view of life changes from that of a stressful exam to more of a playground that you can be free to explore! You no longer need to have the perfect plan to be happy because being happy is already the plan.
We can only find those outward things that support our happiness by going outside of ourselves and experiencing them. Anything that makes your eyes light up, any book you want to pick up, any city you want to explore… go there, immerse yourself and learn.
For some people this may mean a life changing trek across South America. For others simply immersing themselves in a topic of study such as literature or fitness will show them whether that path is the fast road to joy. Make the present an adventure! Anything that excites you, that is your guide.
Of course, one complication is that there are some things that could excite us on a superficial level such as casual sex or fancy clothes… these may not show us a fulfilling long term purpose. These kinds of happiness aren’t the foundation for fulfilment – more like a hastily pitched tent (pun possibly intended.) But even in these instances we can look within and see what unmet needs or healthier versions of the same interest these desires are exposing: Do we have a need for attention? Do we have a need to feel powerful, desired or needed? Do we desire status? Are we afraid of being judged? Do we desire to connect deeply with others? Are we passionate and expressive? Do we long to make art of our own? Being aware of these wants can bring us to our own attention to unlock more doors toward fulfilment.
One way to see your personal fast track to happiness is to think about what excited you as a child. What were you told that you couldn’t or shouldn’t do, that you left abandoned on the wayside in exchange for approval? For example, when I was at school I felt a lot of pressure to pursue an academic route because I got top grades. However, in the process I abandoned creative pursuits like drama and music… Only now can I see that in hindsight, having a good grade in subjects I wasn’t ever going to pursue affects me far less than the absence of those tools for expression. Since formal education I haven’t opened a maths book or done any arithmetic except for the odd fun IQ test but I have exposed myself to authors and philosophers that nobody had brought to my attention. Equally well someone could have learnt to fly a plane or build a motorbike and never picked up a novel again. The point is that if we want to find our purpose we should take time to notice what we do without any outside obligation .. and do more of that! From there, the answers begin to organically unfold. If we can see what we truly enjoy, what we are drawn to, the things that we talk about passionately with others, avidly research into, immersing ourselves in these does two things. Firstly, the simple act of inviting into our lives more enjoyment, more excitement gets us out of our heads. We cannot be enjoying our favourite experiences and worrying at the same time. If we can suspend the goal to decide our purpose right now, only then can we commit to wholly enjoying the moment. Like a flower, we cannot expect it to bloom without the right conditions. But in the self nurturing state of making more space for what we are passionate about in any form, then we let the answer open up inside of us.
Perhaps I should illustrate.
(Writing this, I’m getting in my head and aware that talking about oneself in length is sometimes perceived as narcissism. But even this thought teaches me more about my purpose! It teaches me that I want to connect with you as an equal and that being able to express things on a personal level is important to me. It also teaches me that I am concerned about the current society we live in which doesn’t always know how to handle people being open about their emotions or more personal topics. I would love it if everyone felt comfortable enough to talk about their passions and strengths without judgement. )
So here’s a few examples of how my childhood has shown me and how I took what I learned to explore the way to the future:
Me then: Sat in fields all afternoon reading trying to avoid goat chewing on my page. Wrote stories sat up trees. Turned in English homework twice as long as everyone else’s.
Me now: Regularly explores self-development books, websites, videos etc. Writes stories on ground under trees (can’t find any with good seats). Writes excessively long posts on this blog. Doesn’t have a goat but plans to, instead has two demon cats that chew hands and toes.
Me then: Enjoyed reading my dad’s psychology books from the bookcase behind the armchair, hid there reading to avoid doing chores. Favourite book was called ‘How Do You Know Who You Are’ which included philosophy, palmistry and handwriting analysis as well as modern scientific ideas. Enjoyed science but honestly my heart was all in creativity, expression and the humanities.
Me now: Hides toes from demon cat at the end of my bed. Uses theories from psychology, nutrition etc to add to my ideas. Discovered a fascination for personality typing such as MBTI and the Enneagram. Have become a scientist of my own body, trying different holistic protocols to live the healthiest life possible. Written a chubby folder of poetry that may well be terrible but hey, I had fun making it.
Me then: I wanted to become a psychologist or a journalist, or a writer or some kind, or an actress, or a singer. (Still kinda disappointed my childhood self never wanted to be a Space Bunny or something…)
Me now: I want to expose the truth in beautiful ways.
Through simply taking note of what I enjoy and I’m driven towards naturally and pursing those interests I realised the common theme of being an educational / inspirational communicator but I realised how I wanted to do that beyond the label of a certain job title. There is so much information around us about what our heart is truly asking for – we just have to learn to pay attention. For example the way I’ve written this post teaches me that I like to speak informally and remain open about my flaws and that being candid is a quality I can draw upon in living a purposeful life. Having purpose is so much more than a job title and I think it’s important for our wellbeing that we don’t limit it to finding the ideal career – sometimes you will find a way to make your purpose your job and sometimes you’ll find it in parenthood or a hobby or just in the way you interact with the world from day to day.
I didn’t work this all out overnight. Heck, I still don’t have all of it worked out but I’m free to change my mind and that’s okay. Finding your purpose is a mixture of looking at what experiences have put you in a state of flow and also going out there and having new experiences to learn from. We are constantly learning and reevaluating and maybe different purposes will speak to you at different times of your life. Finding your purpose isn’t about the finished product – it’s a process.
So make the world your canvas. Do what makes the life you’re living feel like art. Your way to purpose is whatever feels like magic to you.
Before wrapping up, here are some cute quotes: 😄
Have you found your passions and purpose? Are there any hobbies or career dreams you left behind that you’re thinking of picking up again? Let me know below!