Tens, if not hundreds of books have been written about this subject. Blog posts abound on the internet. And coaches deal with this questions as much as, if not more than “How do I get him to love me?” The subject is: How To Find Your Purpose. Everyone is searching for that one, elusive activity, that one job or career choice that will make them happy. If only I can find my purpose, they think, all my problems will go away.
And we Law of Attraction teachers don’t help. We tell you that you can make as much money as you want. Just find what you’re passionate about and the money will come on its own. But how do you go about finding this elusive purpose of yours? And what is your purpose exactly? Is it like a contract you made, before you were born? Is life like a quest to find your purpose, with the reward being happiness, and the punishment for failure being a life of mediocrity at best and misery at worst?
There’s no freaking contract
First of all, I’d like to put one little misconception to rest: You have no obligation to do anything while you’re here. There’s nothing you HAVE TO do, there’s nothing you must take care of and there’s no one (including you) waiting to judge your ability to do this thing and therefore reward or punish you. You have complete and total free will. You’re so free that you can actually choose to live in misery. You may have set an intention before you got here, which would have shaped some of your earliest experiences. But notice that the word intention is not the same as obligation.
For example, I clearly set an intention to be a teacher. Some of my earliest memories are of me, holding court over my stuffed animals and dolls. I even asked my mom to put a chalkboard on the back of my bedroom door. I’d stand there for hours, “teaching” my little pupils all about the ABC’s, or whatever I was learning in school at the time. Once I found out what it’s actually like to be a teacher, I changed my mind. I didn’t want to enter the public school system. But I continued to teach in other ways. I was a training manager for a restaurant company. I always ended up giving seminars and leading courses, in whatever job I had. I naturally mentored people. And now, I do this. My intention always came through. It’s like having a natural talent for something. Teaching is easy for me. I enjoy it immensely. But if I couldn’t teach, or if teaching became uncomfortable for me somehow, I’d do something else. Because I have no obligation to do this, not for my own happiness or for anyone else’s (if I stop, somebody else will take over in my place.)
Our Purpose – Big Picture
Our purpose is to have whatever we want, whenever we want it. Our purpose is to be happy and have as much fun as we possibly can. That’s it, from a big picture point of view.
There really isn’t any ONE activity that you have to find that will make you happy. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that’s not how it works. If you haven’t, let me give you the quick and dirty rundown:
There is nothing that you can acquire or do that will make you happy. But, if you become happy, all the things and activities that match that feeling will start streaming into your reality.
There are, however, activities that are more aligned with who you really are than others. And that’s what this post is really about. When we’re searching for our “purpose”, what we’re generally really looking for is a way for us to express our true selves, who we really are. We want to be authentic, and we want our lives to reflect that. But of course, just as there’s no activity that will bring you happiness, there’s no activity that will make you authentic. Becoming authentic will allow you to find the activities that will help you to express that.
You already know…
I’m convinced that pretty much everyone already knows what their “purpose” is. They’ve always known. When people say they can’t find their purpose or passion, what they mean is, “I won’t give myself permission to go do what I really want.” They always have some excuse as to why they CAN’T go and express who they really are. Perhaps their family won’t approve, or they don’t think they have the skill, or they need more money than they think they can earn in order to realize this dream. Or, they don’t think that they can earn a living by doing what they love. All bullshit reasons. There’s always a way to make things happen if you’re willing to open your mind to the possibilities.
The lottery question
Everyone, at some point in their lives, has been asked the lottery question. “If you won 10 million dollars in the lottery, what would you do with your life?” Forget the answers you might give to appease others (like vowing to give it all to charity, etc.) and focus on what you’d really do. That’s your passion, or at least a form of it. A lot of people say they would travel more. When I point out that they can travel more now, they invariably tell me they can’t afford it, don’t have the time, can’t do it because they have kids, etc. And yet, tons of people travel the world on a fraction of the budget they use when they’re at home, many with kids. They have the adventure of their lives. And tons of people have travel related jobs. Thanks to the internet, such “unconventional” careers are now easy to research. What about being a Dive Instructor and working your way around the world? Or teaching English? Want more money? Launch an online business and work from a hammock anywhere in the world? Think this is a fantasy? Google it.
For more ideas, read The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. It’s the best book I’ve ever found on how to step out of the rat race and finance any kind of life you want. It not only gives practical advice, but it will open your eyes to what’s possible.
Focus on the essence
Whatever your answer to the lottery question, the essence of what you truly want is in there. Just dig a little deeper. Why do you want to travel, for example? Perhaps you want to learn different languages, explore other cultures, or volunteer with underprivileged kids. You can do all of those things right here, right now, without disrupting your life. Take a class and start learning a language. Join a club where you can meet people from a different culture. Go volunteer with kids in your own neighborhood. And use your vacations to travel and check out destinations.
Remember that there’s no obligation here. It’s not an all or nothing deal. If your purpose is to help people, you don’t have to quit your job and move to Calcutta. You can help your neighbor and anyone you meet. You don’t have to take a vow of poverty and dedicate your life to nothing but this activity. You’re the one who gets to decide. You’re the one who gets to make the rules.
Oh and consider this: You may well have more than one purpose or passion. So if you dedicate 100% of your time to only one thing, what happens to the others?
Do what you love and the opportunities will come
If who you really are is one who helps others, go help others and more opportunities to do so will pop up.
If who you really are is a teacher, start teaching those who come to you to learn, and more and more of them will show up.
If who you really are is a musician, start making music now and express yourself through that medium. More opportunities to make music will come along.
Start small and start today. You don’t have to quit your job. You can spend a few hours a week doing what you love. You’ll be shifting your energy by doing this and more ideas and opportunities that support that new energy will come along. And as long as you keep allowing those opportunities in, the day may well come when you’re able to move into your purpose full time. Just because you can’t see HOW that might happen THIS VERY MOMENT, doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
Don’t limit your search for your purpose by what you think you can make a lot of money doing. Keep in mind that your view is probably incredibly limited. I guarantee you that there are people in the world, right now, who are making money doing what you’d love to do.
Don’t limit yourself based on your qualifications or lack of skills. You can always learn what you need to know. You’re not too old and you’re not too busy. When we study something we’re really interested in, the learning comes naturally and quickly and doesn’t feel like hard work.
Stop dismissing your passion
Chances are, you already know exactly what your passion is, but you’ve dismissed it a thousand times, based on some arbitrary excuse. Stop doing that. Take a good look at this purpose, look at its essence, and start being who you really are today. Start small, by all means, but start. You deserve it.
Update: I scheduled this post a while ago, but came across Andrew Olson’s beautifully written post How to Find Your Passion yesterday. I discovered Andrew’s brand new blog a couple of weeks ago, and think it’s a real gem. If you’d like to read more about this subject, I urge you to check out this post and the rest of his blog.