This article was written for the Huffington Post.
I remember how it felt, not knowing my purpose.
Work, friends and day to day life usually kept me distracted. But in the gaps between those distractions, like in the moments before I fell asleep, my heart would race and panic would set in.
What am I doing with my life?
What is my purpose?
I couldn’t answer those questions, and it made me uncomfortable. I tried to ignore them, but the weight of not knowing what my purpose was, or what my life was for, was still there. I felt unfulfilled, like something was missing. I felt lost. Frustrated. And I felt guilty — I had a home, I had a good job, and that should have been enough.
Eventually, I realized it wasn’t about it being enough; it was about it feeling right. And it definitely didn’t feel right.
To spark a change, I tried to follow the path of ‘find what you love and do that’.
While it was a whole lot of fun, it didn’t really work out. I love lots of different things. It took a few dead ends for me to realize not every passion is meant to be followed. So I tried again. I read books. I talked to strangers. I jumped into new adventures. But nothing got me closer to figuring out what on earth I was meant to do.
It wasn’t until I turned inward that things changed.
I forgot about what everyone else thought. I ignored everything I had read. I stopped listening to everyone who had an opinion on what I should do.
And instead, I asked myself what I already knew.
Not what I knew from others, or what I had read, but what I knew to be true; about myself, about life, about the world.
I listened closely. I paid attention to that feeling I would get below my ribs; the flutter that buzzed outward. I let that feeling guide every idea, thought and experience. If I felt it, I knew I was on the right track. How? I don’t know. I just knew.
The more I followed that feeling, the more I discovered about life and purpose.
I began to realize that my passions were not my purpose. My passions represented ways I could bring my purpose to life, but they were not the purpose itself. This was a huge realization for me — I finally understood why the whole ‘follow your passions’ thing had never worked. I was passionate, yes, but my purpose was still missing.
I realized that every single one of us has a purpose. And we may find it, or we may not — either way, it’s there.
I also realised there are many different ways we can bring our purpose to life. Your purpose is not limited to a particular job; nor do you have to leave a particular job to live your purpose.
And finally, I realized our purpose is often something we’ve known deep down — perhaps for years. When you find your purpose, your past suddenly clicks into place; every little thing you were interested in and drawn to makes perfect sense.
My purpose in life is to help others find theirs. The message I’m putting out to the world – through blogs and articles, in books, interviews and speeches, and one on one – is this:
You have a purpose. You have something you are meant to do.
And I want to help you find it and bring it to life. Although it’s a personal journey, most people find having a blueprint or a guide is a huge help — so I’m going to give you the brief version of the guide I use to help people each day. If you’d like to explore any of this further, you can jump over to my site and pick up the Purpose Toolkit (it’s free) to get started.
A brief guide to finding your purpose:
To start, you need to know yourself. Who you inherently are; your personality, your interests, your values and how you truly like to feel in life. Write down your interests, values and how you like to feel, and narrow the list down to three to five for each. What you have written is your guide. Every decision, new opportunity and plan should be considered with what you’ve written. Ask yourself; does this align with my values? Will this make me feel ______? Is this something I’m truly interested in?
Next, you need to know what your purpose isn’t. It’s not your job. And it’s not your passions. Your job and your passions may be how you bring your purpose to life, but they are not the purpose itself. Your purpose is deeper than that.
Your purpose is often something you already know; deep down. It’s likely to sound vague. It may not be immediately clear how you’ll live it, and that’s a good thing. Why? Because it gives you options. It lets you bring it to life in a way that suits you, your life, your family and where you live. You have one purpose, but a hundred ways you can bring it to life. So don’t worry – it will happen.
Ok, I know I just said it will happen, but what I really mean is: you will make it happen. This is your life’s work. This is your legacy, it’s your impact on the world. It doesn’t matter how big or small your purpose is — it’s important. Whether your purpose sees you growing organic veggies, or as the founder of a social company dedicated to helping impoverished kids – it has a huge impact on the world. You living your purpose inspires others to live theirs. Create a plan and do it.
So here’s what you can do.
1. Stop worrying. Yes, you have a purpose. And yes, you are going to find it.
2. Take some advice from Socrates, and know thyself. Spend some time alone and understand who you truly are; strengths, weaknesses, quirks everything. You don’t need to take a trip to the mountains in a far away land; you can figure this out just as easily from your couch (although the view might not be as good!).
3. Open your mind, your heart and your soul to what your purpose is. Every single person I’ve ever worked with on this knew deep down what it was, but had a hard time saying it aloud. Give this process some time. And know that whatever it is, it’s enough. It’s ok if your purpose is simple. You don’t have to save the world. Just do what you are called to do.
4. Make a plan to bring it to life. This is just as important as finding your purpose. Take into account your skills, your responsibilities, your interests, and your partner and family. Work out the best way for you to bring your purpose to life with everything you have going on. It’s ok if this changes as the years go by — it’s almost expected, really.
If wondering about your purpose in life has been playing on your mind — good. If you’re still reading this article — good. It means you know there’s something you’re meant to do, and you want to know what it is. And when you find it, that weight will lift. You’ll have clarity. You’ll have direction. And you’ll make the impact on the world you are meant to.
So, take action.
Find your purpose. Design your life. And inspire others to do the same.