“All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why. ”
- James Thurber
Lately, I've been really honing in on what I'm meant to do... Each of us has a purpose - not just in a philosophical way but in a true and practical way – and we have a duty to seek it out. Many people know there is something they should be doing, usually by that nagging empty space inside them, but they subconsciously or intentionally ignore it. Maybe they don’t want to put forth the effort of exacting what their purpose is or maybe they'd rather not have the responsibility of carrying it out. I agree with the quote at the top of this post. We are all running towards something or from something – or both, and we should certainly find out what those somethings are and why we're moving in our chosen direction.
Our lives are incredibly more fulfilling and enjoyable when we know where we're going. Or, if we don’t know exactly where, we should at least know what we're doing and why. With knowledge, however, comes responsibility and a call to action. Knowing our life’s purpose means either actually having to do it or living with the knowledge that we aren't. I know people who intentionally avoid learning information because, "Then what? What will I have to do with that knowledge?" They are fundamentally saying that It's better not to know so that I absolve myself of any responsibility or sense of duty. There is a saying in the legal world, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." Just because you didn’t know the speed limit was 65, doesn’t meant you won't get a ticket for going 80. You are always held accountable for those things you knew or should have known.
There is some part of you that knows your purpose and some part of you that is afraid to actualize it. There are several ways to find your purpose and/or get out of your own way in accepting it! I’ve been reading a book, True Purpose by Tim Kelley, and it gives strategies for “discovering the difference you are meant to make.” I’ll give you the quick and dirty...
To tap into the part of you that knows what you’re meant to do, recount very specific instances where you felt incredibly passionate, totally fulfilled and grateful that you are making a difference. The times where you felt completely aligned... Write down these moments. Notice similarities in the situations or actions that caused those feelings.
To identify the fears you have, the things that keep you from finding or living your purpose, write down all the reasons it would be a problem to find out your purpose RIGHT NOW. Like, if I told you that I know exactly what you’re supposed to do with your life, what are all of the things that would scare you about finding out? The reasons you wouldn’t want me to tell you just yet?
This is a great starting point, keep digging deeper into what the essence of those fears are. Go to the "worst case scenario", if this then that, etc. For example, one of my fears is that I won’t make as much money. Then I keep going... If I don’t make money, I’ll have to move out of my expensive apartment and won’t be able to buy all the things I like and I would lose the independence, security and opportunities that money affords me. And then if that happens… I’ll just be living my purpose without much money instead of putting off living my purpose so I can “be free” sitting at my desk wondering when I’ll get the opportunity to live my purpose....! It’s funny because when you keep following your fears to the worst case scenario, you’ll usually come full circle – your fear will become absurd or will be resolved when you finish analyzing what happens if your fears come true.
Okay, one more thing! Another great tool given in this book addresses the issue of essence – that thing about you that no one else possesses and that you yourself may not be aware of because you have always been around yourself. You don’t recognize the impact you have because you’ve never not been around yourself. So, to get a clue as to what your essence is, ask 10 people in your life, "What happens when I come into the room? What shows up when I show up?” This will give you an idea about the impact your presence has on people without you even doing anything at all. I haven't done this yet but I can't wait, it sounds like a lot of fun to me:)
Your purpose changes with time; it grows, evolves and reconstructs. Try not to expect your life to be an inclined plane; it doesn’t have to be continuously ascending (bigger and better). The only thing we are guaranteed is that our lives will change. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse (both subjective concepts), but change is what we should expect and accept. Living our lives deliberately, with meaning and with self-awareness are things we should all strive for, that's a direction we're all meant to take.