Our human lives are certainly complicated and can feel dull and unfulfilling at times. Who among us, in moments of reflection and contemplation, hasn’t wondered, Is this all there is? Why am I here? What is mine to do?
One’s purpose emerges from our core values, from putting what we care about into action to bring greater depth and satisfaction to life. Oftentimes, this happens through serving or collaborating with others. Or it might be glimpsed in reflective moments of self-awareness.
We can spend a lifetime searching for purpose–the elusive reason we are here on planet Earth at this precise moment in time. When we get discouraged or bogged down by the tedium of day-to-day life, when things feel impossible, it can be easy to lose track of the bigger picture: that there is something inherently unique and special about each one of us that only we can bring to the world. If we don’t show up to be that thing, no one else can and no one else will.
Ideally, we would all get our buckets filled through our career and work. But that’s not always the way life goes. So don’t assume you have to find your life’s purpose in the same place you earn your paycheck. You may be skilled and educated in something that pays the bills but doesn’t necessarily leave you feeling fulfilled and accomplished at the end of every day. And that’s okay. There are plenty of other ways to engage with your gifts.
Also don’t assume that you have only one fixed path and purpose to follow throughout your life. You may find your sweet spot as the member of a sports team in youth, running a company in midlife, and rescuing animals in your later years. Or maybe you’re playing with multiple purposes simultaneously–say as a member of city council while also parenting your family. Or serving as a volunteer and creating art. The things that bring depth and meaning to us will absolutely shift over time as our circumstances change and we evolve as human beings.
How do you connect with your purpose?
- It can be easier to see and appreciate someone else’s gifts than to understand our own. If you are unsure about yours, ask someone who knows and appreciates you. Chances are, it will be easy for them to articulate what makes you you and describe your positive impact on the world.
- Increase your sphere of awareness and context. Maybe you have no idea that the thing you will love most in the world even exists! Extend your curiosity to learn more about the universe that surrounds you; see what lights you up and makes your heart surge. You might find things in alignment with special talents or skills you’re already aware you have, but not necessarily. You could discover something brand new that you simply must participate in. So you’ll figure out who you have to meet, what you have to learn, or where you need to go to make it happen.
- Purpose often arrives cloaked in our own pain, suffering, and difficult experiences. Once we’ve found the strength and fortitude to confront our own challenges, we can be of great help to others navigating similar situations and hardships.
- Sometimes it’s the things that fill us with anger or outrage that become our calling. This is how social movements begin: good people are no longer willing to endure intolerable circumstances, systems, or situations, and are moved to speak up or act on behalf of the greater good.
- Other times, the things that make us happiest and bring great joy will call us to our purpose. Caring for children, supporting the arts, protecting the environment, animals, and nature may inspire and motivate us into fulfilling action.
- Faith points some clearly in the direction of purpose. We may believe that we have been put in certain circumstances, or given certain gifts, by the Creator and it is incumbent upon us to use those gifts in service to the world.
Also keep in mind that fulfilling one’s purpose is not exclusively a factor of doing or accomplishing things. Rather, simply showing up and being authentically who you are can be a surefire way to align with purpose. We don’t always have to struggle and effort and try so hard. Sometimes our very presence is enough.