“All men (and women) should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” James Thurber
There was a time when I was doing work that was out of line with my purpose. It wasn’t all that long ago when I was practicing law as a trial lawyer helping those charged with crimes.
It was exciting, challenging and required using a lot of my speaking, writing and persuasive skills. (A lot of my persuasion skills 🙂 )
My days were filled with preparing cases for trial and then presenting the evidence to a jury of 12 who were to make decisions on my clients’ lives.
Shortly after this work, I became actively engrossed in the world of politics. I worked with and helped elect some of the leading politicians in the cities I lived in. Again, exciting and challenging work that really made me feel like I was making a difference in the world.
Once again, I withdrew from doing this work.
Each time I left these careers, I felt a little bit of sadness.
At the same time, I knew I was transitioning from work which didn’t suit my soul completely towards my calling or life purpose.
I didn’t quite know what it would take, but I did know the immediate consequences of my journey included sacrificing promotions, pay and stimulating work.
Despite these personal setbacks, I chose to live more of my life’s purpose so I could be true to myself.
Here are 9 strategies you can use to find your life purpose today.
1) Find a way to serve. If you have no idea what your life purpose is, find a way to serve someone.
Serve at home, work, or a volunteer clinic. Help a friend, a neighbor, your former professor, your mentors, your clients, your cat, your obnoxious boss or even your lovely mother-in-law.
Find ways to give back to people: a way to make their lives easier. If they need help with babysitting, cooking, dog-walking, or dog-searching, lend a helping hand.
If you have skills or qualifications that you can use to benefit others, help them.
In giving, you’ll discover what brings you joy.
2) Find your joy. A decadent chocolate souffle or a hearty steak dinner might make you joyful, but it might also give you heart-burn and cause you to gain a few extra pounds.
Not temporary moments of bliss but what brings you lasting happiness and joy?
Out of all the jobs you’ve had, which brought you the most joy? Write those down. If you hated all your jobs, which skills at those various jobs brought you the most happiness? Note those on a piece of paper as well.
When work stops feeling like work, you’ve found your joy. When you’ve found your joy or satisfied your soul’s yearning in life, you’re most likely living your purpose.
You may like writing, teaching, preaching, singing or running long distances. If each of these bring you joy, see how these activities can contribute to your purpose. What lessons can they teach you about your purpose?
Write down the things that bring you joy, so you can see what common qualities exist between those activities.
Also, try to determine WHY each activity brings you joy. For example, let’s say you enjoy working with people, you most likely enjoy human contact and connections.
If you enjoy making complex subjects easier for others to understand, you most likely enjoy helping others learn and grow.
3) Find your strength. What are you good at? What makes you stand out like a Hollywood star?
If you answer, ‘nothing’, then your strength might be humility because, of course, you’re good at something.
You’re good at something, as much as you hate to admit it to yourself.
When your professor told you that you’re the best researcher he had in college, you ignored him.
When your students told you that you helped them take their practice even deeper in yoga class, you thought it was out of obligation.
When your in-laws praised you for the zea-licious chicken curry you whipped up, you thought it was expected of you.
Often, you don’t acknowledge or admit what you’re good at because all too often you discount your strengths or ignore them altogether.
If you’re painting Mona Lisa-like paintings but not showing them to anyone, you’re depriving the world of your art and depriving yourself of your purpose.
Your personality type can offer clues to your strengths in life. Find your personality type and Penelope Trunk says you’ll find fulfillment and even passion in doing that work.
4) Find yourself. You might want to spend some time getting to know yourself in your quest to find your life’s calling.
A discussion with a trusted pal for self-reflection or other opportunities to take a step back and analyze your life, are good ways to discover yourself first.
Once you unmask all the superficial characteristics and qualities in your life, you will be better suited to find your purpose.
You’ve been conditioned by your family and your community to do certain jobs, have certain beliefs and pursue certain career paths.
Most of these beliefs imposed on you are fear-based and might make you feel like you’re drowning.
A mindfulness practice, continuously listening to your inner-self and reflections on your intuition are needed to bust through all the layers of family, community and society.
Living your purpose unfolds miraculously in front of your eyes when you figure out who you are, what you stand for and what you value.
5) Find your clues. In many instances, you already know your life purpose is, but are in denial about it. Fear-based or scarcity-based thinking deprives you from fulfilling your purpose.
You might already know what you excel at and what your strengths are. You know what people repeatedly compliment you about and what you do well. But you may not be acknowledging the clues which will lead you to your purpose.
Your purpose may have been scattered in various experiences through different educational experiences, life experiences and jobs. It may not even be career-related.
It may have been when you pursued a hobby or tinkered around with some gadgets at home as a kid.
It may have been revealed in a soul-touching incident which brought you wander, awe or desire to re-experience the incident.
It could be something you’re already doing each week or during a part of your day. You just have to grab that captivating experience and pursue it more intensely.
6) Find your motivation. Sure, you have to feed the kids’ dog because you have to. Ok, fine, you want to, as well, to keep the local animal protection agency from coming after you.
You do have to cook for the kids, or child protective services and/or prison time might be involved.
Reports to your boss might be required in exchange for a pay-check.
But what do you do without being coaxed?
What part of your life at home or day at work do you start without feeling like it’s an obligation?
What are you naturally motivated to do? Your purpose isn’t very far from that activity.
7) Find your small and big breaks.
“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
When you’re doing your purpose, the most interesting manifestations occur. You begin seeing favor in your life supporting the work you’re doing. It’s yet another clue that what you’re doing is in line with your purpose.
Let’s say you’re trying to practice your public speaking skills at the local Toastmaster club and get an overwhelming positive response by all club members. Small break.
Or you started a small personal development and spirituality blog called Vishnu’ Virtues and snagged a guest post on your favorite space in the blog-o-sphere, The Tiny Buddha community. Small break.
Or you’re trying to make it as a professional life sage and guru and you’re suddenly spotted by Deepak Chopra. Big break.
Positive reflection from others or the universe, honors and accolades from others, opportunities to partner, grow and nurture your talents should be seen as indications that you’re on the right path.
8) Find what isn’t your purpose. As my friend Razwana would say, you can’t just sit back downing a glass of wine to discover what your purpose might be.
She’d say you have to get out there and try new things. If you believe something is your purpose, do it. Get your hands dirty, invest in the tools you need, provide that service for a friend or gift that product you made to a potential customer.
Purpose isn’t found in theories and daydreams. Purpose is found in taking action to match life’s work with your being.
Want to be a chef? Take a class? Start a food movement? Start a blog?
Want to direct a movie? Volunteer your directing abilities to local actors at the community college making independent movies.
And the caveat is that you may not find your purpose once you do some of this but you will know if it makes you happy and brings you joy. You’ll know if it’s something you want to do the rest of your life.
If it isn’t, eliminate it and keep moving forward.
Test what you believe is your purpose. Continue to do what resonates with you and give up what doesn’t.
9) Find God. “Trusting God completely means having faith that he knows what is best for your life.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life.
If you’re of the religious sort, please read this point. If you’re not, don’t call the authorities or throw your computer out the window. Remain calm and skip #9.
In Rick Warren’s book, the Purpose Driven Life, Warren talks not so much about following YOUR purpose but more of following God’s purpose. If you buy this premise, you must be ready for surrender and submit to God’s will.
“You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
Warren suggests trusting and being guided by the divine.
The Purpose Driven Life takes a different twist on the purpose question and asks you, not what is your purpose, but instead, what is God’s purpose for you?
As you get to know the all powerful more and have a divine presence in your life, your purpose will become more clear.
With that kind of commitment to a sacred power, be prepared for many divine gifts, including your divine purpose, to unfold in your life.
Have you found your life purpose? How did you find it?
To pick up my book, One Way Ticket: 11 Ways to Discover Your Highest Purpose and Transition Out of Your Profession, click here.