“What is my purpose in life?” Not only is this a very common question I hear from my clients but it is a question that has been pondered for centuries. Aristotle was even pondering life’s purpose as he was developing his theory on the idea that everything in life has purpose. And in today’s world with individuals living complex lives, finding one's purpose seems more important than ever.
So how does one start to find their purpose, and can it even be “found”. Finding one's purpose often involves figuring out the personal needs and values that drive you. For most they may have thought they found their purpose, but it is often mistaken for a short-term goal, material items or a particular status, and the feeling of unfulfillment will quickly set in because while a goal or obtaining an item or status can give achievement, it's not truly your life's meaning. So again you are back to square one asking “what is my purpose?”
So What is the Importance of Finding One's Purpose:
What first needs to happen is to define what purpose means to you. And keep in mind that what you might think is purpose, actually is not. Like previously mentioned some think material things or reaching a particular status in your personal or professional life are "purpose", and then don't feel fulfilled when they obtain those things. Some may feel a particular job or career is their purpose, and while this could help lead you to the right track of one's purpose, the actual job itself is not necessarily the purpose, rather something in the job you are doing may actually be your purpose. Purpose takes your life to a higher level. Think of purpose as equaling happiness, and I mean true happiness. Not just happy that I achieved a goal happy, an actual true sense of fulfilment that generates happiness.
Research shows that finding one's purpose is linked to longer life. I am not surprised by this knowing what I know about mental and physical health connections. And while I could go deep into the psychology and medical side of things to explain why this is, for the sake of keeping this post from being an entire research paper, I will just say that having a sense of purpose can put you in a state of increased happiness over decreased stress. Most individuals understand that less stress can reduce disease or other health concerns within the body like a heart attack and stroke.
One great thing that the research has shown is that the results were universal across the board, and the health positive benefits of finding and living one's purpose did not discriminate against income, race, gender or education level. These findings have researchers and doctors saying "find your purpose in life, it's important for your health and longevity". For myself, doing what I love and what I feel is my life purpose makes me happy and I can feel the health benefits of this by reduced stress, better focus and more of the good things flowing through me. I can say my overall health just feels better both mentally and physically.
So how do I go about finding my purpose you might ask. Aside from directing you to a professional that can help, there are ways to figure things out on your own with enough time, patience and focus. That said a professional, like a life coach, can help you organize your thoughts and help you work through the process to narrow down your purpose. I find many of my clients when we work on this topic have a lot of negative self-talk, limited beliefs and unresolved trauma, too much to even allow themselves to not only narrow down their purpose but also allow themselves to live that particular purpose. As their coach and additionally as someone who specializes in trauma, this is where I can help them with a road map. I can help them understand or narrow down their purpose, reminding them this is their journey, no one else's. Not only am I there to help ask questions that they may not have thought about asking themselves, or showing them a pattern they may not have noticed, it's during this process we can start resolving emotional trauma and reframe that negative or limiting inner chatter, that is often holding them back.
While not everyone feels the need for a coach it is possible to find your purpose on your own. To find your purpose on your own, know that you may feel frustrated with your lack of direction, it’s ok, this can be expected and knowing this should allow yourself to be gentle with yourself. Give yourself a break and know finding your true purpose is generally not going to happen overnight and digging deep is not unheard of. So be prepared to feel like you have come to the bottom of an empty cup and have no idea where to search next, take a few deep breaths and re-center yourself, I guarantee you will find more to explore.
Feeling Stuck Trying to Find Your Purpose, Try Some of the Following Ideas:
1) Search From Within - Your purpose needs to be yours, you wont find your purpose and ultimately generate true happiness if you are going to live a life based on others expectations. This is not limited to just what others are saying to you in the present time, this can also includes those limited beliefs or any negative self-talk from what others have told you in your past.
2) Remember Purpose is Not Goals - Goals may lead you to your purpose but they are not your purpose. An example is: You might feel your purpose is to be a teacher. Reaching that goal of becoming a teacher is fantastic and an achievement for sure, but your purpose may not exactly be the “teacher in a school” part, look deeper, your purpose may be to help children in a particular way, maybe it's to inspire, or something more than just being a “teacher”. Don't be afraid to dig deeper!
3) Develop Your Personal Vision Statement - Companies have these statements as a way to keep their companies staying on track with what they feel the purpose of their company is, a type of road map where purpose is always the destination. So ask yourself “ What would your ideal world look like and how can you fit in it". Once you have thought about that, then identify what it would take from you to fulfill that. For myself I asked "what do I want to see improve in the world (my community, etc) and how can I do what I love doing to fill that need", for some clients of mine they have asked themselves "How can I make a difference?".
4) What Brings You Joy? - If you are having difficulty figuring out where to start try to identify the times you felt true joy and why that happened, what you were doing when that joy happened. Identify and connect the dots. Was it a successful presentation, something you did for another person or community.
5) What’s Your Story? - Sometimes looking back at the joys and obstacles we encountered in our lives can show your strengths and can help lead you in the right direction. For myself my difficult past is directly related to my purpose. Putting your life on paper can help you see the hidden gems you may have overlooked. Take the time to look and reflect.
6) Find Your Community - Sometimes finding your purpose is about discovering where you fit in in the grand scheme of things. Finding your community that shares your same values, can make you feel relaxed or at home. This setting can help you in your purpose discovery process. It's not uncommon for a group of similar people who share similar likes and possibly similar life struggles to have a similar life purpose.
7) Be Flexible and Be Kind to Yourself - As we grow and change you will need to learn to be flexible and furthermore be kind to yourself, especially when your brain refuses to be. Choosing to live a different way is hard for our mind to wrap around and it will resist in all ways. Change is hard and choosing to live a different way……… well that a big change. After all, your body and mind thinks that living like you have for “X” amount of years has been just fine, and change is not necessary. Be kind to yourself and know that resistance, frustration, uncertainty….. it's all part of the process. Know that you will have set-backs, slips and bumps in the road and when these happen, just recenter yourself to get back on track, make adjustments needed to reach your next steps and ultimately your purpose.
Finding Your Purpose does not happen overnight, and takes a combination of things into consideration in order to help create your road to happiness and meaning. To succeed in finding your purpose, you must decide what’s truly right for you, and not let yourself be driven by fear or others thoughts and expectations. Purpose........ everyone has one, and finding yours will bring your life meaning, happiness and fulfillment like nothing else.
My Purpose: To break the stigma of mental health and help individuals overcome obstacles holding them back from reaching their goals or happiness. I enjoy seeing my clients achieve that breakthrough and truly live a life of good mental/ physical health and overall happiness.
So have you asked yourself “what's my purpose?” Take the journey to find out, the road may be a little bumpy, but the destination can be beautiful.