Updated: May 4, 2021
For many of us, there is a yearning in our hearts that we can’t quite put our finger on. We search for the answer in our jobs, our relationships, our hobbies and never seem to find it. At some point, with a sense of frustration you ask, “What is my purpose in life? Why am I here?” That my friends, becomes the first step in becoming a self-actualized person. That is someone who fulfils their potential and becomes all that they can be. Finding your unique purpose, your unique gifts and talents, then being able to express them to the world is a critical part of self-actualization.
Your life purpose relates to how you show up in the world; through all the ways you engage with the world. It is the reason behind your existence and it connects to the greater good; something bigger than yourself. It’s bigger than a job or career. It’s bigger than your family, hobby or interests. It’s bigger than your relationships. It involves finding your unique gifts and talents and then sharing them with the world. Your purpose can be to heal, teach, train, help, advise, nurture, love, create, innovate, transform. It is your why and you can fulfil it anywhere and with anyone. Your job, family, and hobbies all are props that help you to fulfil your life purpose.
At this point you might be wondering, what then is the difference between purpose, vision, mission, calling and passion?
Your vision is the end goal. It is what the world that you want to co-create would look like. We will go more into vision tomorrow. Your mission is the expression of your unique genius. It is the method that you are going to use to offer your gifts to the world. It is your how. Your passion is your interests. It’s what excites you. Passions are the things that you have an intense liking and desire for. Unlike your purpose, your passions may change, but they are an integral part of achieving your purpose. We can think of a calling as a unique service we each are passionate to contribute to others. It connects your passions to something in the external world. Calling and career are not the same, however, you can express your calling through your career.
I heard a wonderful metaphor for the difference between passion and calling used recently: All the utensils in your kitchen ultimately serve the same “purpose” – to serve food. Their individual “calling” is unique to each of them. Knives cut food into smaller pieces, spoons stir things up, rolling pins make things flat, measuring cups make sure the right measurements are added into the recipe, etc. All are connected; they are just different layers. Your Purpose is your source; your higher self, your why. Your vision is your dream, your destination, your where. Your mission is the method or vehicle; your how. Your passion is your tools. Your calling lies in what capacity are you going to execute.
An example would be:
Purpose: To heal
Vision: A world where children feel safe and to be able express themselves.
Mission: Develop and execute programmes where children can express themselves through dance.
Calling: Care for children who have suffered trauma.
Going back to the metaphor, your yearnings and unhappiness could be that you have not yet connected how can serve others on the level you would like to serve them and in a capacity that appreciates your unique talents. Do you feel like a wooden spoon expected to carve meat? Or a knife expected to move soup from a pot to a bowl? Perhaps you haven’t yet identified what your unique talents are. Do you feel like that utensil in the drawer that no one ever uses because they aren’t sure what it does? I know I felt like the latter for a long time.
When we don’t understand what our talents are we tend to focus on external factors as a source for happiness. This is usually a recipe for disaster because we project our internal state onto external factors, so that when we are unsure of our talents we don’t fully contribute, because how could we? When we don’t fully contribute, we are not fully appreciated. As a result, we seek evidence for what we are not fully getting and/or a lack of appreciation onto our work environment (i.e. bad boss, harsh conditions, low pay, etc.). When this is our focus, how can we even think about serving others within our role? When we don’t understand our “calling” (our unique talents that enable us to contribute) we disconnect from “purpose”.
Just to be clear…. You can be a very talented artist, but you are selfish and narcissistic. We see it all the time in La La Land, where there are actors/actresses, entertainers who are fully expressing themselves, using their talents at the highest levels and they are not very nice people and even if they are nice, they are deeply unhappy. So, you can have your gifts/talents down pat, but you don’t have your purpose clear.
How do we connect to our Purpose?
You will need a pen, paper and ZERO distraction. That means just you, your computer screen and no connected technology whatsoever. We are going to do the Best Possible Future Self Exercise, by Dr. Laura King. This has been shown to improve overall happiness and reduce goal conflict, plus a host of other benefits too.
So, if you can I want you to sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a deep breath, feel the breath going into your lungs, across your chest, down into your hips, down into your legs, down into your feet. And I want you to visualize your older, wiser self, you are about 109 yrs.
1. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all your life goals. Think of this as the realization of all your life dreams. Now, write about what you imagined
If you can help it. Please just do step one first, now
2. Sit next to you and you ask them the following:
a. What do I need to let go of right now?
b. What do I need to embrace?
c. Who do I need to become?
What would your older self say? Please write down everything (no self-editing, criticism, limitation setting etc).
Finally, take the advice given and create a list of actions points from it. Simply focus on the top three action points every day. That’s it, you’re on your way. Purpose drives action.
What you will see begin to emerge is what gives your life some sense of meaning but, crucially what you have also articulated is a series of ‘today-steps’ that ensure that meaning does not stay in some far off, never attained future.
Purpose is the driving force of your life. We all have the common universal purpose of helping humanity to evolve and thrive. Our individual purpose comes out of that whether it is to heal, teach, train, help, advise, nurture, love, create etc. Find a quiet spot, do the exercise and keep connecting to that inner wisdom. It will give you all the answers you need.