Finding your purpose has become one of those things everyone talks about. Yet most people don’t just have one purpose in life. Raising a family is one purpose, volunteering with a local organization another and a professional career a third. Likewise, some people have more than one career. They might own two businesses, or work both as a writer and a teacher.
Finding your purpose is, therefore, more about finding your path in life — the various things that make up a life you love. As you move forward in life, the path might alter. Therefore, you should ask yourself every year if the path you are walking is still right for you. And bear in mind that each path has its own set of obstacles – no path will be fun all the time, but the right path will inspire you as it’s the only path you really want to be walking, obstacles or no obstacles.
Below, you will find some ideas and exercises you can do to help you discover your purpose, a path, you love. It’s an important thing to do, so make sure you set aside some time for it.
Ask a Younger Version of Yourself
Have a look at what you loved doing when you were younger. Were you always reading and writing? Drawing? Spending time outdoors? What did you love to play with? What would that younger version of you say about your present life?
In the movie, The Kid, Bruce Willis is faced with a younger version of himself showing him what he used to care about. This makes Willis’s character face the life he’s currently living and start living as he’d truly love to live.
Whilst your younger self probably didn’t have all the answers, your older self might have suppressed some of the answers you did have. Go back and find them. If you’re in need of inspiration and you like cheesy movies, watch The Kid.
Start Paying Attention: Where Does Your Mind Go When it Wanders?
Ok, so it might be to a blue-eyed beauty or a brown-eyed charmer, but apart from that, where does your mind go to when it wanders? Do see yourself trekking the Himalayas? Are you vacationing in Bangkok? Usually you will find clues.
Also, check what books and articles you prefer reading and what you do in your spare time. What is it that you naturally gravitate towards?
Try it Out
Most people have one romantic idea or other about what to do with their life that they would never want to pursue. Why? Because their idea of it is as far from reality as can be.
It’s all very well to think of yourself as a ballerina when you practice three times a week, but what would it be like to do so every day? How would it feel to put on your ballet shoes when your feet are bleeding? Most ballerinas end up with deformed feet. It’s part of the job, unfortunately. Most dreamers don’t consider this aspect of the job.
Likewise, cooking for fun is one thing, but running a restaurant where you have to cook for 12 hours a day is another. If you definitively want to do something with food, but don’t want to work twelve hour days, you will have to think of another potential job.
If you are considering pursuing something, research it. Find out what others say about it. They are not you, so they will not handle things the way you do or experience things the way you will, but they will give you an idea of what day-to-day life is like doing something.
Start imagining what it will truly be like, and try it out if you can.
Also remember that everything requires a bit of blood, sweat and tears. At some point, you will face some sort of so-called failure in whatever you do. That doesn’t mean it isn’t for you. So, don’t dismiss something because there are obstacles or because it feels difficult for a while due to obstacles or hard work.
What Would You Do if You Had One Year to Live?
Most people wake up to what’s important to them when they face the fear of dying. In doing so, they also discover their purpose. You don’t have to be close to dying to have a think about what you would do if you only had a year to live though.
Another benefit of contemplating this is that usually the things that have held you back before don’t matter if you think you only have a year to live.
Volunteering often gives a sense of purpose. In fact, no matter what your path, there should probably be a charitable angle to it in some way. So try out volunteering for an organization that appeals to you. It’s an easy way to find out if you’d love to work with something more permanently.
Bear in mind that different organizations are run differently. Just because an organization is a disaster doesn’t mean the job itself isn’t part of your purpose.
When Have You Felt Most Happy?
Was it at dance practice? As the class clown? Doing work in a certain class in school? Helping your grandma? Working in the garden?
Try to remember as many things as possible that make you happy. Write a list if you like. You might discover a theme – maybe most things that make you happy are related to the ocean or to the arts.
Whilst there are many things that would make us very unhappy if we had to do them eight hours a day, some would actually make us happy for the most part.
What Would You Teach the World if You Could Teach Something?
Often, our purpose is connected to our passion, which is connected to sharing our truth. So, ask yourself what you’d teach the world if you could teach it only one or two things?
Two Bonus Tips
Firstly, most people have been influenced by parents, relatives, friends and society at large. As a result, they are sometimes so scared of realizing their own dreams that clash with what others think they should be doing with their lives, that they even hide answers from themselves.
If you disregard everyone else’s opinion, what rings true to your heart? If you moved to a city far, far away, where no one knew your name and you had the opportunity to do anything, what would you do with your life?
Secondly, spend some time alone. Whether you go on vacation by yourself in Tuscany (Under the Tuscan Sun and all that) or you decide to try a vipassana meditation retreat or other silent retreat where you aren’t allowed to speak with anyone for days; it might give you some insight. When all distractions have been taken away, we often discover what our heart is truly saying. We were just too busy to listen before.