So many of my clients come to me telling me that they are confused. They feel lost. They don’t know what they are supposed to do with their life. They come to me looking for answers and my response is always the same: I offer them a mirror.
We have been taught from a young age that our purpose is the same as our job. What’s the most common thing people ask children?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
As if these kids are supposed to have any idea. What’s more, there is a tremendous amount of pressure and judgment that accompanies that question. If the child says “I want to be a lawyer,” people automatically think wow, the parents must be doing something right, good for them. If the child says, “I want to be a trash collector,” the parents cringe and the audience tries to keep their faces neutral while they smugly think good luck with that one, big dreams there, kiddo, my kid wants to be a doctor, etc. So convoluted.
Your purpose often times has nothing to do with your day-to-day job.
Your purpose should be what gets you out of bed everyday. Your job should be what pay the bills so that you can have time to enjoy your purpose. Sometimes those two things merge but only when they merge organically: when the purpose is pursued with honesty and love. Trying to force your purpose to pay the bills is a good way to ruin that joy your purpose used to give you. Enjoy those things that light you up and see where the path takes you. Don’t contaminate it by trying to make it something it doesn’t have to be (e.g., a formal profession).
This then begs the question, how do you find that purpose? Your purpose is what makes you tick. What makes your heart sing. That is not something anyone else can find for you — hence, the mirror.
When my clients are unsure about their purpose, I offer them an experiment. Years ago, I was struggling with life inside the machine that is a corporate law firm and I just couldn’t put my finger on the problem. I didn’t hate my job but I didn’t love my job. I was feeling blah about the whole thing and I couldn’t figure out why. I was completely unmotivated, just going through the motions.
So, for one month, at the end of every day, I would spend 5 minutes thinking about my day and writing down the things that made me happy that day and the things that got my blood boiling. After doing this for one month, I realized that the things I loved the most about my days were the moments that I was able to spend connecting with the young associates — talking to them about their challenges, their goals, their development. I relished the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with them, to learn about them and their struggles, to offer them support and gentle guidance. That lead to a larger evaluation of myself. I realized that this fit into my disdain for small talk. I hate it and I’m terrible at it. The way I see it, is that if we aren’t going to talk about something deep and meaningful, I would rather not talk at all. Let’s not chit chat about work and the weather. Let’s talk about what moves you, what excites you. So naturally, I love those people who overshare within the first 5 seconds of a conversation. Those people who put it all out there right away for public examination, the good, the bad, the ugly, the inappropriate. I LOVE skipping right over the pleasantries and diving right into real life and getting our hands dirty. I LOVE having deep and meaningful conversations with perfect strangers about their struggles and challenges.
You can see how this realization lead me to where I am today. That woke me up. I realized that those true connections and partnerships were the only part of my job that I was truly loving. So, I switched jobs to enjoy a steadier and less all-consuming career so that I could make space for my purpose. This purpose. I realized what moved me and I made room for it. I have never looked back.
So here’s your challenge . . . For one month, spend 5 minutes every day thinking about what you liked about your day. Were there parts of your day where you felt alive? Where you were excited about something? What parts of your day sapped your energy and left you feeling drained?
Only you can find that for yourself but you won’t find it outside of yourself. Do the work. Spend time within yourself. You will be amazed at what you discover.
Need help finding your path and taking that next step? Sign up for a free coaching session with me and let’s see what we can do together.