I always thought that finding your gift and living your purpose was the ultimate life goal. Since childhood, I've had a distinct feeling I was “meant” for something. I was convinced I was destined to do something meaningful in life. The only problem? I could never figure out what it was!
Throughout my early adult life, I explored several different careers... public relations and corporate communications; social enterprise and nonprofits; hospitality; business strategy; business development; product management... the list goes on. Yet, none of these careers ever felt like my calling. They just felt like work. I read hundreds of articles and books, did personality tests, career tests, and talked to dozens of people that seemed to have found the ever-illusive "purpose".
Everyone I listened to made it seem like finding your purpose was so easy! I’d hear things like “Just figure out what motivates you”, or “Your purpose is whatever makes you forget to eat” --um... I, for one, never forget to eat. But, was it really that simple? Was I doomed to spend the rest of my life floating between careers? Was I ever going to find that ONE thing that made me so deeply happy and fulfilled?
One day, during one of my lowest and most frustrated moments, I had a realization. I realized I’d been blocking myself. I'd been blocking myself with beliefs about who I thought I was, what my purpose should look like, and what the process of discovering it would be. So, I started the challenging process of letting go.
I let go of who I thought I was.
I let go of who I thought I wanted to be.
I let go of what I thought success was.
I let go of what I thought I could or couldn't achieve.
I let go of other's expectations of me.
I let go of it all.
It was hard, but lo and behold, things began to get clearer.
Suddenly, I could see that every part of my life - every job I'd had, every personality test I'd taken, every person I met was part of my path to purpose. I’d been so focused on getting there, that I didn’t realize the journey was the destination!
Today, I have a much different perspective on what it means to find and live your purpose. So, I wanted to dispel a few myths for people who might be feeling just as frustrated as I was:
MYTH #1 - Your purpose is something you do.
I personally think this is one of the biggest misconceptions about purpose. Your job or what you "do" each day is merely a channel for expressing your purpose. Today’s world is obsessed with doing. When we think of the term 'life purpose' we often think of working, doing, or creating. This can, of course, be a component, but your purpose more often manifests as the frequency of our being. Your purpose is who you are underneath the cloak of who you think you "should be". Remember, we call ourselves humanBEINGS not humanDOINGS.
MYTH #2 - We only have one purpose in life.
Your purpose can and will evolve as you do. Your purpose now isn’t necessarily what it will be in 20 years. We aren't static creatures. As we evolve and grow, so do our gifts and so does our focus. As we stretch and learn, our perceptions change and our experiences help us grow.
MYTH #3: You won't doubt yourself.
I dunno about you, but I thought that once I found my purpose, I’d also find new levels of confidence. How could I not be 100% confident in what I was “meant” to do? Yet, here I am, about to hit publish on this post and suddenly sharing my thoughts feels like one of the scariest things I could do! This happens because we have social conditioning and emotional baggage to release as a part of the process. This baggage includes things like fear of the unknown, our beliefs and feelings about ourselves, our perception of the world and how it “should” be etc. The process of releasing this conditioning doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and patience.
MYTH #4 - Life will finally become perfect once you start living your purpose.
When I used to think about living my life purpose, I envisioned myself being happy all the time, not being stressed or having worries about money, and having everything effortlessly fall into my lap. If this was what I was meant to do, the universe would support me each step of the way, right? I realized this wasn't true after we moved into our new house and have dealt with an onslaught of issues including a leaky roof; broken irrigation; and termite, scorpion, AND mosquito infestations. You definitely will still deal with the ups and downs of life. In fact, I’ve found that the purpose-driven road can be even more challenging than living a life without intention. Being purpose-driven requires us to be even more determined, focused, and intentional about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Being purpose-driven challenges us to continue to grow and evolve. There’s no such thing as a perfect life and you’re not going to become a stronger version of yourself without challenges. But, the challenge is well worth the reward.
MYTH #5 - Figuring out your purpose will be a crystal-clear ah-ha moment.
Not exactly. I questioned the path I was on for a long time. I asked myself - “Is this really what I’m meant to be doing? How do I know this is my purpose? What if I’m on the “wrong” path?” What I didn’t realize is that I was already successfully on the path. It’s important to remember that there are many potential paths to a life of purpose, and not one of them is right or wrong. They’re just different. Some will work for you and others won’t. This is why it’s so important to try a variety of different approaches. See what fits. One of the techniques that worked best for me was journaling. I'd try something - whether it was a new way of thinking, or a new activity, I'd journal about it, then I'd read it later. Stay open and curious.
MYTH #6: You shouldn’t have to work on yourself to discover your purpose.
If you’re serious about living a life of purpose, you have to be prepared to let go of everything you believe about yourself and about the world. Our perception of who we are and who we really are are often different. Prepare to let go of things you’ve been holding onto - ideologies, ways of living, ways of working. Often there’s a reason that what you were doing before didn’t feel meaningful. I did a LOT of self-work throughout my journey. I spent years seeing therapists, coaches, healers, and doing daily self-reflection. I had to redefine my definition of success, redefine my relationships, I questioned my beliefs about myself and rest of the world, and did some deep soul-searching about my hopes for the future. Let me tell you, it's hard work to look at yourself this closely in the mirror. This work takes time - embrace it without judgment.
MYTH #7: There’s no such thing as a life purpose.
Myths on myths. Some people argue that there’s simply no such thing as a life purpose. They say that "purpose" is something we developed to create more meaning in our lives. The people who believe this say that the self-development industry coerces people into obsessively looking for something that doesn’t exist. I personally believe that the problem lies in what we think purpose is (ref Myth #1). This misunderstanding can create frustration and shame. It did for me! But if we can look at purpose with a new perspective, we can understand it's significance. Each of us is born onto this planet with a special essence, a special set of gifts. Regardless of what you believe about life and why we're here, it’s been proven that purpose-driven people tend to be healthier and happier than others. So, why not give it a shot?
MYTH #8: If I live a life of purpose, I'm going to make less money.
I hear this one ALL the time from clients and friends. Does this sound familiar? - “I want to do purpose-driven work, but I know I won’t make as much money as I do now. I have a family to support, so it's just not an option.” This really boils down to challenging your beliefs around two things: #1 what’s possible, and #2 what it actually means to live your purpose (reference Myth #1... again). Remember that money is a tool and your job is merely one of many potential channels of self-expression (or purpose). Not to mention, a recent study published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that people who had a sense of purpose actually accumulated more wealth than those who felt as though their lives lacked meaning. The most successful people in the world understand that magic happens by aligning what excites you with your natural gifts. It’s this alignment that leads to feelings of meaning, contribution, and significance. This can be through your career, relationships, a stand you take on a cause or political issue, your hobbies etc. Don't let money be the reason you don't connect with your purpose, let money be something that supports you in the process.
MYTH #9: There’s no way to be sure what my purpose is so it’s not worth trying to figure it out.
If it was easy, everyone would do it. This is a lazy person’s response. Purposeful living is all about how you feel, so in that sense, you absolutely can be confident about what your purpose is. You just have to get in touch with yourself. Our bodies are constantly giving us information about what feels good and what doesn’t, what excites us, what doesn’t seem right etc. By tapping into that, we can feel when we’re living in alignment with our purpose.
MYTH #10: You have to figure out your purpose before you can start living it.
This seems logical, right? How can you start doing something before you know what you're doing? Let me tell you, most of us don’t wake up one day and magically know what our purpose is. It’s a process of trial and error. Usually, our life purpose is connected to our values, what we're good at, and what we enjoy. So, when we start doing what we love, we take our first steps on the path towards our purpose. This also means that we don’t need to wait to start living a purpose-driven life. We simply need to start doing things we enjoy.
For me, living a life of purpose has been about discovering and nurturing who I truly am. It’s been about knowing and loving myself at the deepest level and learning to guide myself back home when I lose sight of what’s important.
What does this actually boil down to? As of now:
My purpose is to utilize nature (specifically, horses) to help people heal and grow. And, man it feels so awesome to get to do that every day. <3
What's your purpose? If you're unsure and feeling stuck, shoot me an email - I'd love to help. firstname.lastname@example.org