Ask yourself these three questions to find your purpose
“You have a purpose.
You were born for a reason…
Your life purpose defines you. It helps you know who you truly are.
For most of us there is a gap between the life we are leading and who we truly are…
The bigger the gap, the greater the stress.” - Neil Crofts.
There are many reasons that people seek to work with a life coach but one of the biggest is not feeling that they know the answer to this question, "what is my purpose?"
Some people are happy to coast along in a career that just pays the bills but so many of us want and need a sense of meaning. When we don’t have that, we can feel lost, depressed, stressed and ask ourselves, “what’s the point?”
So, here are my three questions to help you clarify your own sense of purpose.
1. What do you feel strongly about?
What do you see in the world that you long to change for the better? Or what is it that you’d love to create or express to people? Whatever it is, you feel passionate, frustrated or just plain fascinated about it.
It could be something in your local area as small as seeing that there’s a need for better school dinners or maybe there’s a group of people that you want to help - the plight of teenage girls in Africa forced to marry too young, for example.
There’s often something personal about it, something that makes you feel strongly, whether it’s that you’ve been affected by a particular issue or feel close to someone that has.
Or it might be that the way you feel comes from sheer joy - you just love making hand stitched Italian leather bags, for example.
Maybe it’s about expression - you love to express your ideas through playwriting and the bonus is the joy you see on people’s faces or the way it makes them think.
It might be that you’ve seen a gap in the market for your product and you feel fired up about it.
Your purpose doesn’t have to be your full time work (although it might be). For example, Becky’s step mother sadly died of cancer, it left her feeling passionate about helping other sufferers so she combined her skills in marketing and her love of musical theatre. She got her talented friends and family involved and created an incredible show raising £2,500 for her favourite cancer charity. Now she’s planning a show double the size and researching starting her own charity. She says, it’s the most fulfilling thing she’s ever done.
2. What are your gifts?
Dave Isay, author of 'Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work' says that, your purpose is at the intersection of a Venn diagram of three things: doing something you’re good at, feeling appreciated, and believing your work is making people’s lives better.
So, what are you good at?
You don’t have to be noble prize winning scientist to have gifts. In my coaching practise I so often see people who ignore their abilities, they assume everyone must have them. For instance, it may be that you’re adept at making people feel at ease, have brilliant practical skills and are great in a crisis. This was true for Emily who after many years of feeling lost, realised she wanted to train as a nurse.
There are some great online tools to help you figure out your gifts and strengths too, such as the enneagram, gallups strengths centre, the fascinate personality test and the 16 personalities test.
We don’t come with ready made talents either, learning is part of the journey. I find that people often ignore potential skills that require some development, telling me that they’re too old. Of course, we’re never too old!
The wonderful ‘Desperate Housewives’ actress Kathryn Joosten didn’t begin her acting career until she was 42.
We also might be multi talented - that’s true for most of us. For example, Philippa spends her days working for a charity raising money to save ill treated monkeys and in her free time impresses audiences with her beautiful singing voice.
3. What do you want to fight for?
Author of 'Playing Big' Tara Mohr says that when you find your calling:
“You feel huge resistance. A part of you wants to run the other direction. You feel like the task is huge, and you just couldn’t possibly be up to it. It feels like this upends your plans, and doesn’t quite fit with what is convenient in your life.”
So, not only might you feel resistant, fearful or under resourced to take on the challenge but once you do, you will have to keep going with it - take a night class, get funding, slowly grow a business and perhaps ruffle a few feathers. It can take courage.
In philosopher Joseph’s Campbell’s story of ‘The Hero’s Journey’ (the steps to listening to and acting on your ‘call to adventure’) part of the journey is the road of tasks and trials. I often see people come across obstacles and think this means they are going in the wrong direction, when actually anyone that has ever followed their call has had to fight their own outer dragons and inner demons (often their own inner critic).
'Harry Potter' author J.K Rowling was turned down by countless publishers and spent years on the breadline before finally being published. She has now sold 450 million Potter books.
It might seem hard to find (and it might even change through out your lifetime) but what is life without meaning, without listening to the whisperings of your heart, without developing your own precious gifts and offering them to the world?
What’s your vision?
After reading these three questions, let yourself brainstorm the answers. Don’t censor yourself, write down whatever comes to mind. Experiment with choosing one idea and imagining what that would look like, what would you be doing, where and with whom? Grow that vision, fill it with colour... now ask yourself, what’s the first step?