We’ve all been confronted with this question in some form or another. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. The famous question that most if not all of us have been asked at least once growing up. In the grand scheme of life, I feel that this question is the predecessor of the quarter life crisis, during which we try to find our ‘purpose’ also known as our ‘why’. Assuming, that there is something out there that we are meant to be doing. Something that we are good at AND that we enjoy.
It can happen that you discover that you are a wiz in the kitchen, but that nothing makes you unhappier than spending more time than needed there. Problem. This is where the link between finding something that you are both good at, as well as something that makes you happy, comes in.
Happiness versus Purpose
This might just be a classic chicken and the egg situation. Which comes first? Does happiness give life purpose? And is that the ultimate goal? Like an enlightened state of happiness. Or, does a life of purpose lead to a happy life?
You know what they say, all roads lead to Rome. But in this particular instance, I want to approach it from the perspective of purpose leading to a happy life.
Why find your why?
True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
― Helen Keler
Then the question remains, how do you find your purpose? Or better yet, how do you know when you have it? Would you recognize your purpose, if it was staring you right in the face?
This calls for a healthy dose of self-awareness. You cannot attempt to try and find something that you need, if you don’t know what you need, to begin with. Therefore, it’s important to be in tune with your needs. Once you find your purpose it should feel comfortable and good. Something that benefits you and indirectly also others. Then you know you’re on to something good that is worthy of your commitment.
Purpose does not have to be static. You can find one for a season or a lifetime. You don’t just need to have one for all your life. As we move through different chapters of our lives we ourselves grow and develop and so must our purpose, as well. Sometimes, our purpose may seem selfish but quite often it is in taking care of ourselves that we inspire others the most.
Once you’ve found your purpose, it’s important to stay on track. With that said, there are plenty of distractions out there. What is the point of knowing your purpose if you don’t have the means to incorporate it into your life? The best way to make your purpose actionable is by redefining it in aims and goals. These help you stay focused and on track for when you start drifting off course.
The purpose-driven community
But of course you do not have to go at it all alone. Purpose unites people. Better yet, in purpose we find community. When you have something to work towards, something that drives you, you can find others along the way headed in the same direction. Purpose creates unity and steers people away from loneliness. If you have something that you are working towards you can find others with the same goals. Together you can keep the focus and stay the course.
7 steps to help you find your purpose
The purpose of life is a life with purpose.
After all that talk about what purpose is and what it can do for you, it’s time to get practical. Bear with me and read on to find out what you can actually do!
First things first, read. Reading never hurt anybody. But beware you might just become wiser than when you started! There is so much out there but the benefit is that you can learn from those that have come and gone. Their journeys, learning point and mistakes, live on in their stories. You can apply the takeaways to your own life in order to figure out what inspires you to act.
2. Keep a purpose journal
Besides reading, it can also help to put your thoughts down on paper. Each day, we are faced with numerous stimuli, which in turn incite us to think, act etc. However, this can all get quite overwhelming and it is in these moments that good old pen and paper come in handy. Sometimes it’s better to simplify and remove all the bells and whistles. Just you and your thoughts with a pen and paper. Sometimes less, truly is more.
3. Discover what you love to do
We al have that one thing that makes us al giddy, even just thinking about it. For some, it might even be more than one thing. Either way, we owe it to ourselves to explore our interests and to listen to feedback from our surroundings. This can help us find what ‘tickles our fancy’. Listen to what other people appreciate about you. Sometimes those around us, and closest to us, see the things we overlook about ourselves.
4. Surround yourself with positive people
Create a community of positive influencers that help reinforce what gives you energy. Not only can you support each other to stay focused, but you can ensure that the influences that you have on one another is healthy and constructive. That way, people draw energy from focusing on doing what they love, as well as from the people around them. Double win!
5. Act on your purpose
Without action there can be no reaction. If you wish to make positive change in your life, you need to do something about it. Sitting around and waiting for change to happen is not a winning strategy. Be proactive and do something about it!
6. Donate your time/money/talent
Sometimes you help others by helping yourself and other times you help yourself by helping others. Life is a balancing act and though most of us spend the majority of our time looking from the inside out, we need to become just as comfortable looking from the outside in. By becoming comfortable doing this, we learn to see ourselves through the eyes of others. This external lens, gives us the necessary nudge towards a more accurate self image.
Even though we might see ourselves in a more accurate light, we can still get caught up in our own little world, so much so, that we are unaware that life continues for those around us. By giving our time, money and/or talent to others, we acknowledge them and their stories. When we reach out to help we open our hearts and put ourselves in a position to affect change in the lives of others. If we can do this for others, just imagine the power we also have to affect change in our very own lives.
7. Practice Mindfulness
Lastly, we can use the power of self-reflection to gain greater insight into the effect our actions have and our ability to affect change on those around us.
Purpose is the key to motivation. Everyone deserves to find that one thing that makes them excited to get out of bed. That one thing that you look forward to, where the anticipation is already have the fun. Having purpose gives you that laser focus, that drive to succeed.
No matter where you are in life, it is never too late to start looking for your why. The most important thing is that you are open to feedback, willing to learn, and ready to act.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche