“How do I find my purpose?” I hear this one a lot. It’s a big question, and in Western society, a lot of weight is placed on the answer. When I came across mine, I wasn’t looking. In fact, I had given up the pro/con lists and analysis charts, and I donated “What Color Is Your Parachute?” to the local bookstore. I very well understood what I did and did not like. I knew exactly what caused me pain and what made me feel good. I knew that giving to others and serving communities made me feel at ease and alive and redirected self-absorption away from myself and onto something positive.
While the path to finding purpose is hardly straight and narrow, there are steps you can take to find your way.
1. Know what you’re good at.
This requires a bit of truth-telling on your part. If you have dreams of joining the MLS but lack coordination and athleticism, it might not be the best use of your energy to focus on what’s unattainable. Instead, consider the skills and talents you do have. What do you do well? What are you known for? Ask a friend if you need help identifying your plus points.
2. Know what you hate.
Sometimes knowing what you DO NOT LIKE is easier than figuring out what you do. It’s pretty straight-forward if you have a visceral reaction to something, and you know when you dislike a certain kind of work. It’s simple: don’t like it, don’t do it.
3. Identify your “non-negotiables.”
This is a phrase often used by matchmaking extraordinaire Patti Stanger. Not only can identifying a list of “must-haves” in a mate help you find The One, it can also help you find The Work. The process forces you to drill down those items that are most important to you while simultaneously reminding you of the fact there will always be shortcomings. No situation is perfect. Compromise and exchange is inherent to the most valuable relationships and life experiences. You will have to give up something in order to do the kind of work you love. What that something is depends on you.
4. Change your environment.
From the clients I’ve worked with, the ones most looking for their purpose are the ones feeling the most stuck. Altering your environment can help. It doesn’t need to be a trip around the world. Changing the furniture in your office, hanging new paintings, even going for long walks can freshen your perspective.
5. Establish routine.
This sounds counterintuitive, but creating a daily routine builds the framework to invite sparks of imagination into your world. It’s like a creative brief: without one, creative people go crazy. Provide a bit of guidance, however, and ideas can be channeled in such a way that finished projects satisfy and delight clients. You also need structure to feel good. Eat frequent meals, sleep at consistent times, exercise regularly. Having a schedule will give your mind a break in routine areas so it can focus on what really matters.
6. Realize nothing is perfect.
Even when you do find the work that makes you come alive, there will be days that feel like death. Once you realize this, there is less pressure on daily ups and downs, and you can relax into projects that bring you satisfaction. I’m not talking about settling, I’m talking about coming to terms with moments that are challenging and hard (typically these tumultuous times are good for you, serving to recommit yourself to your purpose).
7. Don’t stop.
Don’t quit. Don’t give up. You’re too important. The world needs you.