Purpose is a daunting word. Being asked to define your “why”, to figure out your reason for existing, or to articulate your life goals can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.
Why is purpose important?
But at Becoming, we believe that purpose is important for a much more simple reason:
Purpose helps us to make choices.
We spend all day, every day making choices: how we interact with people, what we do professionally, how we spend our time… And connecting to our purpose is one of the things that helps us to align those choices to what is important to us. And when those choices align, when we make them consciously, we are better able to live a full and meaningful life.
What do we mean by purpose?
Dictionary definitions of purpose talk about intentions or resolutions. Blogs and articles about purpose all over the internet mention passion, inspiration, aspirations and meaning.
There are famous entrepreneurs and media stars who can nail their purpose in a single sentence:
“To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.” Amanda Steinberg, founder of dailyworth.com
“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” Oprah Winfrey, founder of OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network.
But that pressure to have it, know it, be able to articulate it can be less than helpful.
At the end of the day, your purpose is simply your answer to the question:
“What is it that you have to do – that you can’t not do?”
And it doesn’t even have to be a polished answer, it can be some words, phrases or images. It will come out as a bit of a jumble at the start. But finding your purpose is not a one-time thing. And the more often you revisit and challenge it, the clearer it will become to you.
How do I “find” my purpose?
The good news is that really you don’t have to “find” your purpose. Your purpose has already found you!
If you think of your life like a tapestry, a rich pattern of all your experiences, then your purpose is the few golden threads that are consistently woven through it. The things that reappear time and time again, although often in different ways.
Sometimes it might be very clear. Imagine you loved baking as a child, grew up in a family of hoteliers and restaurateurs, went to catering college, got a job as a chef, but then got made redundant so set yourself up in business delivering meals to the elderly. Your purpose might shine through to you as something around feeding people, bringing joy through food, helping people live healthy lives, or words to that effect.
At other times, it might feel very opaque. You never knew what you wanted to do when you grew up. You’ve worked all over, from a cocktail bar to a high-end women’s fashion shop. You fell into a career in marketing. Then after having children, you became a personal shopper for women. You may not feel there are any consistent themes in your story. But perhaps, if you dig deep enough, you will be able to identify threads around creativity, communication, colour and style, connection?
So, rather than challenge yourself to “find” it, consider it more like catching a glimpse of it out of the corner of your eye. It is just there, waiting to be noticed.
Look back at your life and your experiences and ask yourself questions like:
- What do you do that makes you feel most alive?
- If you could only do one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
- What do your friends and family value most about you?
- What are you most grateful for today? And least grateful for? And if you asked that every day, what pattern would emerge?
But above all, it is that question above: What is it that you have to do – that you can’t not do?
And allow the answers to come naturally, the patterns to emerge, the threads to shine through.
What do you do with your purpose once you’ve found it? Frame it and hang it on the wall? Maybe not!
Once you have some words, phrases or images that help you to connect with or articulate your purpose then you use it to help you make choices. Whether those are big or small, time-critical or less-pressing, personal or professional. Whenever you face a choice, being connected to your purpose allows you to make choices that actively move you in the direction of a full and meaningful life.