The Pursuit of Purpose, A Calling, Meaningful Work

I recently had a conversation about the pursuit of purpose, where the guy I was talking to mentioned all that you read and hear that starts with, "Well, first just find your purpose."
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

I recently had a conversation about the pursuit of purpose, where the guy I was talking to mentioned all that you read and hear that starts with, "Well, first just find your purpose." "Just" find your passion, easy peasy. But how? What does that look like?

What is your "calling"? Do we each have a purpose, specific to just us?

I believe the "thing" we call our calling, purpose or vocation is the thing that only a single soul can do because only they will ever have the exact mix of experiences, passions, values, desires, relationships and skills that they have and continue to collect throughout life. So there is a way for each of us to contribute, express ourselves and serve from that unique place that no one else can.

With this comes responsibility and opportunity. It brings much relief to think that there is this place for us that no one else can touch, but also a place from which we can thrive. It also introduces the greatest challenge, as it involves a certain amount of belief in this idea and trust that it is possible. Pursuing this involves risk, courage and vulnerability at the deepest level. It involves a tremendous amount of self-love and willingness to explore, fail, learn, try again and repeat.

It is not all that different than looking for a soul mate and the good news is that there is not just one right solution out there, just as there are a number of partners that could be just right for us. There are a number of ways we can express and give from our unique, true nature if we choose to not settle, if we choose to nurture that thing inside of us that would cause the biggest heartbreak if we did not succeed and the greatest triumph if we keep trying until we do.

It is a journey, a process that continues to evolve. The journey will take as many forms as there are those of us going on it. It is not a straight path forward, to pursue a calling and yet we are all on that path in some way.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs includes "self-actualization" as a need we have as humans, to pursue our highest potential. Carl Jung, a notable grandfather of depth psychology, calls it individuation. Individuation is the process, the path, the life journey of evolving your unique self. It is the accumulation of everything that makes you, you. In this sense, we are all individuating all of the time just by being alive.

The opportunity lies where we can individuate with intention. This is where the pursuit of a calling is available to everyone and is a choice. We will all change, but to choose to change with intention is to transform and to be fully alive, actively living...not just along for the ride.

I set out on a journey specifically to find my calling. I did this by intentionally leaving everything that I know behind to immerse in unknowns, get out of my comfort zone and see what stirred inside of me. I had an idea or hope of what it might feel like when I found it...a deep knowing, a compulsion towards something with every part of my being. I knew that to get there it would be hard...that the challenges and obstacles would inform my path as much as the discoveries and peak experiences.
I did eventually find it, but it was not how I imagined it would be. It slowly revealed itself to me, in the patterns I found within the people I met, in my journals where I would write everyday, in the moments where I felt the most alive and noticed what brought me to that state. It took the journey over several years to not only discover it, but also to release all of the old, conventional ideas, beliefs, structures and pressures that it was hiding behind.

There was not one "aha!" moment. I actually didn't realize it was my calling until it felt too difficult to pursue once named. How would I make that happen? Could I possibly do it? And then I realized that now that I felt the embodied sense of what it was, there was no way I couldn't pursue it. I realized that at some point it didn't feel as much like a choice anymore, instead it was a magnetic force that couldn't be denied.

We often hear stories of people who pursued their calling again and again until they were eventually living it. Success! When we hear those stories, there is mention of the hard times and all the work, the failures and then the lucky breaks to get there. It makes a great story and equally great motivation when we know that it all worked out and was worth it.

Every journey towards purpose will have its point where we truly do not know if it will work out and it most definitely feels like it won't. That is the point where I am at and what I write about. I have discovered my calling and now am figuring out how I express it and live it, bringing it to full form. I've learned that surrendering to this part of the journey and moving through it will be essential to teaching me what I need to know and do to come out on the other side, to be another success story.

This part is very real. Very scary. I feel very tested. This is how you know you have found your cannot help but to choose to keep trying. I would like to declare it is worth it because I can and must believe that it is. It is a much harder story to tell when you don't know that it ends happily ever after.

"Maybe it's called your purpose because you don't do it on accident, you respond to that feeling that tells you what you have to do." ~100 Days of Transformative Adventure

**Some of the insights I have gained along the way are captured in my book along with photographs of the journey. I invite you to follow along as I continue to go through the challenges and also to share your stories with me.