It is not a coincidence that we all have a time in life where we feel like there is something more, some sense of greater purpose than the day to day that we have been living or the path we've been on. It shows up in different ways and times for each of us, this stirring feeling that is the human nature inside of us seeking its highest potential, seeking to grow, to evolve, to expand.
For many of us, there seem to be two prevalent triggers.
The first is age and stability, or the age which we start to feel stable.
This is often in our late twenties or early thirties when we realize we've done what we're "supposed to do" on the conventional path, but maybe we are bored, still trying to make it to "happy" or perhaps we now have space to notice more exciting things around us and wonder what could be. This could be the first time that the next step isn't spelled out for us. " Now what?" "So now I just work until I retire or die?"
If you think the adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is deadly. -- Pablo Coelho
There seems to be a second wave of this too now, for the generations that grew up as a product of the Great Depression and were taught to work, work, work and save, save, save. As "retirement" sets in there is a sense of having had a full career and not feeling fulfilled or that the first long term career was wonderful, but there is still something more to do or the space to do "what I've really wanted to do". Maybe death feels closer and you consider what kind of life you want to have had at the end.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -- Mark Twain
The second common trigger is some kind of trauma, disaster, death or break-up. Something unexpected and devastating brings up thoughts and emotions around the impermanence of everything. Our awareness is drawn to what we have, what we don't have, who we are, how we got to this point. Loss, disease, endings...these things make us ask what is really important and compel us to make meaningful decisions around what we can control as we try to deal with letting go of what we cannot.
Many go through life "happy enough". Many don't ever get past anger and resentment and blaming others...which we are seeing a lot of right now. Many live a life of worry and fear. Some discover their purpose early in life and are supported in that...they will encounter a different version of this where they will still be confronted with soul-searching questions and triggers, perhaps how to grow it and expand or how to reinvent themselves.
This dance consistently shows up in our lives and the stories we tell because it is human nature to be compelled to live a meaningful life, a life with purpose. What is this all for? What am I here for? What kind of life do I want to live? What would that look like? Where do I find it? How do I find it?
I get these questions a lot and this article is about the answer. How does one go find their purpose?
This feeling and these questions are the exact thing that triggered me to go on a journey to answer them. I had been in my career for nine years and had just crossed the threshold into my thirties. Life was great in many ways and yet I wanted something more. A deeper part of me was not satisfied. I wanted to find my passions and a way to be of service with them.
I tell my story here in a quick read on elephantjournal.com.
This is what I found, which now seems so obvious and simple that I hesitate to share it. There is still that voice in me that asks...am I the only one who didn't get this? One thing I have learned on this journey though, is that we often feel similar things (in millions of unique ways) because they are fundamental to what it means to be human.
And so I will share. I did find my purpose, my calling and this is what I learned:
Your purpose is within. It is already there. Every which way your path goes in life is contributing to you finding and living your purpose. We hear this a lot, but it remains cliche if we don't take it further to consider what that actually means. To say "your purpose is within" is therefore only useful when we dig deeper to discover the keys to how to find it in this most obvious place.
The answer is to go within before you go outside of yourself and to go within as you continue to go seeking outside of yourself. We want to find our purpose, but often treat it as something "out there" to find, when really a journey of self-discovery needs to start with the Self. It can actually seem easier to go out hunting for it than it can to face ourselves in raw truth first.
We need to really know ourselves, what has shaped us in the past and what drives us forward. We need to have knowledge, awareness and tools for how to be healthy and balanced emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. I like to add culturally and socially to this as well. We need to do the work to discover what our value system is, what our beliefs are...and which ones are solid and true and which ones are dated, destructive and ready to be released.
This is empowering. We now get to sort through what has been pushed onto us from the outside versus what we actually have chosen for ourselves, what we want to keep and nurture and what we want to let go of. It is also work. Now that we have the pull to purpose and self-awareness, we have to continually choose to learn more, dig deeper and operate intentionally from that place. This is the the place we need to find within in order to go on the journey without.
We find our purpose by being and becoming the person who knows what to look for, who knows how to notice what shows up, who is self-aware and has practices and support systems to process the discoveries along the way. We need to become the person who will recognize our purpose when we see it and feel it. This has to be learned and nurtured.
Finding your purpose does happen by going out and exploring, by creating new things, by flirting with the edges of your comfort zone and diving into the unknown. That part is absolutely necessary too. This is what I thought and what I fully embraced in my journey. Even though your purpose is within, you have to go on an adventure, a journey, to have the "otherness" around you tease it out of you.
AND. And what I learned is that the most important thing before and during that journey is the person going through it. Knowing and being that person starts within.
There are millions of resources; books, podcasts, articles, teachers, coaches, healers and such out there that are skilled at helping us navigate this very thing. It is an internal journey, but not one we have to go on alone. In fact, the more of us doing this together, the more we can support each other in finding and living our purpose.
The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. -- Mark Twain