We all want to find our purpose in life. I mean, I presume that we all do. Especially when we hit that point a decade or so after college when the reality of whatever job (or series of jobs) has set in and you start thinking…is this it? I cannot possibly fulfill my purpose in life here.
I remember when it hit me. I actually really hated college and after three and a half years and at least two different majors, I decided it would be better to just work for awhile and see if I liked that better. And I did. I got a job in event planning, and then another one and then got promoted really quickly a few times in a few short years. I felt like I was doing just fine with this whole working thing, thank you very much.
One day, while walking to my car in a downtown parking garage, wearing a suit and nylons and high heels, I just stopped. Literally stopped in the middle of the garage and thought….how did this happen?! This isn’t what I want AT ALL. And then I continued to do it for 15 more years. Really.
Apparently I enjoy learning things the hard way.
So when I say that I have a little experience with figuring out how to find your purpose, I’m not kidding. That being said, I notice that most people are able (nowadays) to do it a little quicker than me. The internet really has opened up so many more opportunities for us when it comes to “work” than it seemed like I had back in 1990-something.
Let’s be honest. That “nylons” comment really dated me. Of course it was the 90’s – I wouldn’t be caught dead in nylons today. Let’s all pray those don’t come back into style like hair scrunchies suddenly have. How did that even happen?!
Okay, I digress. So…how can you go about finding your purpose? Here are a few things I’ve learned in my search that can help get you started in the right direction.
- Remember that your purpose is something different than your job. Your purpose could be to be a teacher. That does not mean you need to teach children in a school. It might mean that, but it might also mean you teach makeup tutorials on YouTube, or travel the world as a public speaker teaching people specific skills. You can express your purpose in a multitude of jobs. And you probably will over your lifetime. Because we spend so many of our hours working, it makes sense to find a job that helps us to express our life’s purpose, but looking for that one job where you can fulfill your purpose from now until forever will be an exercise in frustration.
- That leads me to my second point. Quit looking for your dream job. It doesn’t exist. At least I’ve never found one. And I’ve quit a whole lot of jobs in my life that other people said were dream jobs. “Yeah, okay, well I know it looked like an amazing gig, but the pay was horrible, my boss never flushed the toilet in the one bathroom everyone had to share (true story) AND was verbally abusive.” So that’s not a dream job, right?? Look for places that value your natural talents and don’t suck your soul. When it no longer feels fulfilling, look for your next move and don’t feel bad about it.
- Spend a little time figuring out what you’re naturally good at. This isn’t easy for most of us to do. We can quickly see the talents in others, but struggle to find it in ourselves. So here’s something fun you can do to torture the people who love you. Ask them. Then ask more than one of them. I did this with one of my best friends and we both were surprised at what the other one said about us. They weren’t necessarily things we would have said about ourselves but were absolutely true. Go figure.
- And on that note, your personality traits are as important as your skills. It can help give you direction on the types of work you might like or dislike. Are you incredibly sensitive to the feelings of others? Are you an excellent negotiator? Do you love learning every detail about a particular subject? Think about how each of your qualities connects to your natural talents.
- Make a list of your personality traits, skills and talents. What kinds of things do you just simply enjoy doing? You won’t necessarily be able (or want) to make a living from all of them, but it will help you focus on the things that bring joy to your life and see where your passions and skills overlap. I love plants and trees and gardening and have a deep respect for working with Mother Earth to bring health and balance to our lives. But I know from my skillset that I would make a horrible landscape designer. Instead, I share about how to experience wellness in our lives through plant medicine.
- Which makes the next step: Dream Big. No, bigger. No…even bigger!! How would you choose to spend your time if you could do anything you want and money was no object? Once you have that in mind, see if you can work backwards. Make up a story (or a resume) for yourself. What did you have to do to get to this point? What jobs and experiences added up to this fabulous life you now live? Spoiler alert…I find this is where I often run into limiting beliefs as to what actually is possible for me. Make note of where you might need to do some healing and mindset work if this project feels intimidating to you.
- Next, try lots of things! Take up hobbies or sign up for classes related to your interests, get a part time job or volunteer. There are lots of low-commitment ways to explore what you think might be your purpose before diving into something head first. That being said, I’ve never regretted jumping into something that felt really exciting. Even when things don’t turn out like I planned, I have at least learned something about myself, learned new skills, or met new people that pointed me to the next step. When you quit looking for the one right thing and instead look for the next right thing, it removes some of the fear around making a change and the frustration of not being “there” yet.
- Remember that this is a journey. This is part of what makes life fun and and interesting (in my opinion anyway). I think of it kind of like a scavenger hunt – each step along the way uncovers another clue about myself and my purpose. The closer I get, the more excited I get, and the more enjoyable my life is. But if there was an “end”, I’d be a little disappointed. What next? Game over?? No thank you. I want to keep playing.
So there it is. My hard-earned experience about finding your purpose. I’m sorry to say that you probably haven’t figured it out just by reading this post. But I also hope this saves you a little heartache about why you haven’t found it yet. And gives you permission to keep looking and enjoying the people you meet and the experiences you have along the way.