Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown/Unsplash
Jack Canfield of The Secret and the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series fame said:
What is the why behind everything you do? When we know this in life it is very empowering and the path is clear.
I tend to agree. When you know what drives you, everything else has a way of taking care of itself.
But how do you find your purpose?
Doesn’t it require hundreds of hours meditating, journaling, and doing weird exercises with weird people at sketchy home-based workshops?
Here are some thoughts on finding your purpose, based on my own experience.
Ask Yourself Whether Your Purpose Needs to be Found
This may seem an odd place to begin.
But it’s a question worth asking.
Does your purpose need to be discovered, or is it innate? Has it been with you since the moment you were born?
As my mother will testify, I was creative since the moment I was born.
I would follow along with the arts and crafts segments on children’s programming (like Sesame Street and Mr. Dressup). Even if I didn’t have the right materials, I’d do the best I could with what I had around.
Back then, if you had asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have told you “I want to be a firefighter and an artist”.
I didn’t have just one aspiration – I had two!
My desire to be a hero subsided somewhat as I began learning about the real dangers of the world (I remember being stung by a jellyfish in Malaysia), but indeed, I did grow up to be an artist in a variety of capacities.
When I was a child, I imagined being a visual artist (painter/illustrator) primarily. But in my teens, I got into music, and that brought with it a new set of responsibilities like building websites, blogging, making videos, and more.
Before I knew it, I started plunging into the world of new media (which probably means something different now, but at the time it was video games, podcasting, social media, and composition), and today, most of the work I do falls under that category.
This isn’t to say new passions won’t begin to reveal themselves as I continue to live, explore, grow, and experiment.
But I never had to spend a lot of time figuring out that I wanted to be creative in some capacity. I just was.
My greatest challenge, if anything, was learning to cultivate focus. My creativity found so many expressions, I had no idea which direction to go in!
So, that begs the question:
Does your purpose need to be found?
I would never discount the importance of experimentation as applied to self-discovery.
See, many people are in fact too afraid to try. They say they like to try new things but find themselves watching the same Netflix shows, hanging out at the same coffeehouses, and going to the same sandwich shop for lunch every Friday.
Human beings are creatures of habit, plain and simple. It takes something to break out of our routines.
To some extent, this might be easier to do when you’re younger, simply because people around you can accept the notion that you might still be “figuring yourself out.”
Post 35, a lot of people will start asking accusatory questions like:
“What are you doing with your life?”
Changing a behavior is not done simply or overnight. If something took 20+ years to learn, it’s likely that it will take an equally significant (if not the same) amount of time to “unlearn” or to change that behavior or routine.
Ultimately, though, I don’t think we need to complicate matters.
We just need to set aside some time in our schedules to try things and be deliberate about following through.
You could set aside an hour every Friday. Or you could take advantage of evenings and weekends. Whatever works for you!
If you think calligraphy might be interesting to take up, give it a try (I did).
If you think skateboarding could be your next hobby, give it a try (I did).
If you think wood carving could be a lot of fun, go for it (I did).
By the way, I didn’t stick to any of those things. But they continue to fascinate me, and I still watch videos of people engaged in these activities (when I can't go and watch in real life).
The point is that I followed my instincts and I started to make sense of what worked and what didn't.
Will you follow your instincts?
Pay Attention to Your Instincts
In some ways, this goes back to the question posed earlier (does your purpose need to be found?).
And it also connected to the previous point on experimentation.
I’d like to share a story to illustrate why you should pay attention to your instincts.
About 13 years ago, I went to see a counsellor about my anxiety.
In retrospect, though, I wasn’t just trying to figure out how to heal or cope with a condition. I was also trying to figure out my identity – what I was here to do.
I remember being asked what I wanted to accomplish during one counselling session.
And I didn’t have any articulate, detailed answers. I just said I wanted to inspire people.
What intrigues me about my answer is that today, my mission is to inspire creatives and creators.
13 years later, all that’s really changed is my targeting. And even that hasn’t really changed because I see everyone as a creative.
It’s just that, 13 years ago, I didn’t trust myself or my answer. I thought I was missing something. I assumed that everyone else had a better answer, and I was somehow defective.
Well, maybe I was missing something (the “creative and creator” part). But in essence, I had a good feel for what was on my heart already. My instincts weren’t miles off from the bull’s eye.
We often feel as though we should be toiling to discover our purpose. We assume need to work harder, try harder, think harder.
Maybe our purpose is on the other side of letting go and listening to our souls.
Once you’ve identified your purpose, all other decisions concerning your life, your projects, your next actions become much clearer.
For those who know their purpose, waking up early, staying up late, sacrificing social outings, and other “unusual” behavior all seems normal.
All the while those without a purpose can’t imagine spending a minute more at a job they tolerate.
If you don’t know what your purpose is yet, start there. Once you’re clear on that, you will never feel like you’re sacrificing. You will do whatever it takes to make a difference in the lives of the people you’re serving.
- PsychCentral – Changing Our Routines and Habits, https://psychcentral.com/lib/changing-our-routines-and-habits#1