What is Purpose?
When I say find your purpose, and when you think about “what is my purpose,” what is that thing that you’re finding or wondering about?
Another way to think about this is if you are trying to explain the word “purpose” or what you mean when you say purpose to someone who doesn’t have that word or concept in their native language, how would you describe it?
Would it be your drive? Would it be what gets you up out of bed every morning? Why you continue? What motivates you?
Think about that for a moment.
If you had to describe purpose to someone else (and maybe now for the first time to yourself) what do you mean by that?
Is your Purpose your Calling?
What I want to suggest is that we might think of purpose in these terms, and it’s not necessarily any of these.
It doesn’t have to be a calling. It might be, but that creates a lot of pressure and creates a lot of expectation.
if you think of your purpose as a divine calling, or some type of calling from the universe, that might put a lot of weight on it.
Is your Purpose your Occupation?
It certainly doesn’t have to be an occupation. It might be, some people’s purpose aligns with their occupation or their career aligns with their purpose. But most people, that’s not a complete parallel path.
There might be a little bit of aligning or a little bit of overlap, but most people’s career or occupation or how they spend their time, or how they earn their money doesn’t need to necessarily be part of your purpose.
If it does, that’s great, but again, thinking that it has to can create a lot of expectation and then a lot of judgment and maybe some doubt, so let’s just disconnect those two words. Purpose is not necessarily what you do as your occupation.
Should your Purpose be Noble?
The other thing is, purpose doesn’t need to be noble. It doesn’t need to be appreciated or revered by others.
Purpose is what you care about, what lights you up, what sparks in you.
If you share it with other people and make it part of your outward identity, great. If it’s just something that you know, internally, it’s just a quiet knowing. Great.
If other people revere you for it and applaud you for it – okay.
But if they don’t know about it, or they don’t care about it, that is fine, too. It’s not about others. It’s really only about you and what you think.
Is your Purpose Lifelong?
Another misconception is that your purpose is something that is part of you for your entire life. That’s not necessarily the case.
We do know of and we hear of people who find their purpose or find their passion or their talent at an early age, it is their calling, they make an occupation about it, other people applaud them for it, and that’s what they do their whole lives.
That is more of an outlier than a consistent thing amongst most people. S
Your purpose can be one thing, or more than one thing, a certain part of your life and then as you evolve and grow, you might find other purposes, you might find a different calling, you might find a different occupation.
The idea of purpose, first of all, is not singular, nor is it lifelong. I think you can have many purposes at many different times throughout your life.
Life is the story I tell myself
Your life really is the story that you tell yourself. This sentence is so important, because the word “story” is in there. It’s not a fact. It’s not an absolute truth. It is literally a collection of thoughts that you think and therefore it is a story.
It’s what you tell yourself. It’s not what your parents tell you. It’s not what society tells you. It’s not what your government tells you. It’s what you repeatedly tell yourself.
This sentence is so liberating. Because think about where you are right now in your life, what you’re doing, what you know, what your experiences have been.
Compare and Contrast to your Past Self
Then contrast that or compare that to an earlier point in your life, when you didn’t have the experiences that you have now, when you didn’t know or understand or realize what you now know.
If you compare those two parts of your life, and you go back, like let’s say maybe when you’re 18 years old, or maybe when you were 15 years old, and you think “wow, if I knew then at that age or at that point of my life, what I know now what I have since realized and learned and experience. I would do things differently.”
So let’s answer that question. If you didn’t know then what you do know now what would you do differently?
Apply it to Yourself Today
All these ideas might pop up for you. Maybe for some people, they might say “Oh, I would save money or I would spend more time with my family or I would follow the things that light me up instead of doing the things that people tell me to do.”
Whatever those sentences are for you, whatever those ideas are that you would do differently: apply all that wisdom and experience and perspective to yourself today.
Even though we can’t necessarily go back to when we were 20 or 15 and make different choices and live a different life. We can use all of our wisdom and experience and apply it right now to our life and make different choices and go in a different direction today.
You Get to Decide
If we don’t like exactly where we are right now. You get to decide who you want to be.
Look at your life right now. Look at the way it is.
Who decided where you would work? Who decided where you would live? Who decided who you would be?
Maybe many of us were set on a default path – society or our parents or our religion or a novel or a movie told us “this is the way we’re supposed to show up. This is the way we’re supposed to be. This is how we’re supposed to dress. This is what we’re supposed to like and want.”
Reevaluate those Decisions
This is a perfect time to reevaluate all those decisions. You can start today and think: “who do I want to be now? With this openness and with this awareness and with this freedom? Who do I want to be?”
What if You Don’t Know?
You can also ask yourself: “What do I currently have in my life that I don’t want?”
This opens up so many possibilities. If there’s something that you are currently doing, or experiencing or continuing or owning or wishing for, or living with that you don’t want, decide if you have any flexibility there. Decide if there are any decisions to be made. Can you let go of it or change it? Pivot, start fresh. There’s so many options here.
Curious and Exploratory
You can find out what you want by being curious and exploratory.
So many times, people are looking to find their
calling or find some direction in their life, or get out of feeling stuck. Oftentimes, part of the “feeling stuck” is that they don’t know what they want.
They know they don’t want what they have.
They know they’re not completely satisfied or delighted with their current life and their current choices.
But how to change if they don’t know what they would rather have?
This is an invitation to be curious and exploratory.
It’s not a time to be judgmental, not to be shut down or closed off.
This is your chance to let your mind open and look around and consider the possibilities.
Consider the Options
Notice what is available. Notice what other people are doing.
Notice what you would like to do, just open your mind in a curious non judgmental, non closed off way.
You might take one step in this direction and then turn around and go in a different direction. You might look in that corner and decide not to continue in that corner and take a different path instead. Imagine yourself being so open minded and so curious and exploratory and then you can get closer to finding your purpose.
if you’re like me, throughout your life, there have been some little sparks: some little ideas that presented themselves in your mind, either from your own mind or reading a book or being in a conversation or noticing someone.
There’s been some kind of a little spark like, “that would be fun. I like that. That would be interesting. I wonder what it would be like to do that or have that or go there or live there or try that.”
Sometimes those sparks just stay there. It’s just a little spark. It’s just kind of fun to imagine or daydream or think about.
Sometimes those sparks actually get fanned and it grows and it actually does light you up and it warms you up and you take action towards it and maybe you even make decisions and invest in whatever that little spark is.
3 Time Periods
Think about what is sparking your interest.
Have you had any little nudges lately? Have you got any little inspiration? Think about what sparks have you noticed now (within the last 24 to 48 hours, maybe in this month).
What has been a little spark for you lately (within the last, maybe this year, maybe the last couple of months).
What is a spark that keeps showing up for you in different ways, at different times, that your mind keeps on reintroducing, even though you’ve already shut it down or even though you tried it once and it didn’t work.
What spark keeps reigniting and comes back?
This might be a good time to write down some of these little sparks that you’ve noticed throughout your life – either recently, lately, or continuously.
What Smothers your Spark?
Think about what smothers that spark.
You might think “Oh, that would be interesting.” Or, “Oh, I wonder what it would be like to do that or wear that or try that or taste that or make that?”
What “reality” and “reasons” shut that spark down?
What smothers that spark?
What keeps you from considering the spark?
If you have had a spark today or yesterday or this week, and then some “reality” set in and you couldn’t afford that, or you would never do that, or “I’m too old for that.” That’s the smothering.
Think about the sentences that have smothered some of your sparks.
When you were much younger and you got a little spark and then some thoughts, some sentences smothered that spark.
Whatever the sentences that smother the spark – take notice of those because that smothering is resistance.
Your brain is very logical and rational and it tells you that no, it’s just being realistic. It’s just being practical. It’s just giving you the honest reasons.
But the true reason that that spark has shown up for you is because it is interesting for you. You are curious about it. You might want to explore it. Just because you explore a spark doesn’t mean you have to sign up for it. It doesn’t mean you have to promise that you will fan the flames of that spark for the rest of your life. It just means you can be curious and explore it to see if you want to go further with it.
Find your Purpose Exercise
if you were writing a character for a book or a movie, you would think about “who is this character?”
You would ask:
How do I want this person to be?
How do I want them to show up?
What do I want them to like and dislike?
Where and where would they live?
What would they do?
How would they be?
You would answer all of those kinds of questions. You can use character development questions like that a writer uses.
I have a mini list for you.
There’s also a notebook that has so many questions.
You can go through and you answer all the questions.
Just answer from your future self without any resistance. Just let your imagination and curiosity and exploration run wild.
Once you have all of those answers, then you can edit and wordsmith and move things around.
You’ll notice patterns and cross things out, not from a place of resistance, but from a place of refinement, while you’re still being open and curious and exploratory.
Resistance will Appear
This is kind of a difficult exercise to do if you haven’t let your imagination run wild before.
Your resistance wants to save you from disappointment.
Your resistance wants you to protect you from the unknown.
Resistance will show up somewhere, maybe even right now, as you’re reading about the exercise.
Maybe once you get started, you’ll think “oh, this is hard. I can’t do this. I don’t know how.”
Maybe, once you’ve written the character development answers out, then you’ll think “I can’t do this. What was I thinking?”
Somewhere, or many places along the line, resistance will show up so resistance coaching can help you notice and release your resistance.
I am a resistance coach. If you need a partner through this, I can help you.
My coaching clients meet with me twice a month, and it’s $159 per month and it’s month-to-month.
You can get more information and schedule some sessions at bexb.org/coaching .
Resistance Check and What’s Coming Up
What’s coming up for you?
What is unclear about what you read?
Is there any resistance?
What do you think your next step is?
If you’re ready, you can get some character development questions on the handout or in the notebook – get all of that information at https://bexb.org/purpose/
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