I used to believe we had two options – either “work to live” or “live to work”. We could either enjoy spending the fruits of our labor. Or make work the center of our lives.
I opted to “work to live”. My job was a means to pay the bills so that I could focus on other areas of my life.
Then, about 15 years into my corporate career, I discovered another way. One where work and life are equally meaningful.
I met people who found their job fulfilling. Yet they didn’t lose themselves in their career. Instead, their work merged seamlessly into their lives.
These people were pursuing their passion and living their purpose.
I knew I wanted the same. But how do you find your purpose?
Some of the people I met had a vocation from an early age. They wanted to be a doctor or a minister or a teacher. Yet the majority found their life mission by accident.
I had no idea what work I was meant to do. And I wasn’t the sort to wait for my purpose to find me.
I wanted to fast track the process. So, I made it my mission to discover my purpose.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s no simple system to finding your purpose. In fact, for most people, it’s a messy process.
Yet there are some things you can do to get started on a more meaningful path. In this article I share three ways to find your purpose. These are the methods that have helped me, and my clients, do work we love and make an impact in the world.
I’m not promising you’ll get there this week… or even this year. But if you follow these steps you will eventually discover work you’re meant to do and start living your best life.
1. The Systematic Approach To Finding Your Purpose
I love action steps. And while there are dozens of exercises that can help you find your purpose, two I have found most helpful.
The first exercise involves reviewing major events in your life. Jeff Goins wrote about this in his book The Art Of Work. He explains how our past provides clues to the kind of work we’re designed to do.
Write down a list of memorable events in your life. Ask yourself when were you happiest? When did you feel fulfilled? What made you feel accomplished?
These moments point to your special gifts and the type of work you’re meant to do.
The second exercise is to write down 100 lifetime goals.
Why 100? Because it can take a lot of brainstorming to uncover what it is you really want.
These lifetime goals can be big or small. Don’t hold back. Remember, you have your entire life to fulfil them. Here are a few of my lifetime goals.
- Sell 100,000 copies of my books.
- Sell 1 million copies of my books.
- Help 1 million people find work they love.
- Tour through Europe with my husband and two kids.
- Publish a children’s book.
As you write, highlight any ideas that spark excitement and fear. You’re looking for both feelings. That combination of excitement and fear is a clue to your next big goal and your life’s work.
2. The Intuitive Approach To Finding Your Purpose
The second approach assumes some part of you already knows your life purpose. Tim Kelley wrote about this concept in his book True Purpose. He calls it the “direct access method”. Tim says:
“Direct access methods entail communicating directly with your soul and asking it what your purpose is This results in a much clearer picture of your life’s purpose than that achieved by indirect access methods.”
As a writer, I find the best way to tap into my subconscious (or soul) is through journaling. Start by asking yourself questions. Write down each question and then also write down the answer as it occurs to you.
Try and relax as you do this exercise. Record everything that comes up no matter how outlandish it seems. Here’re some questions you can ask:
“What are my natural gifts?”
“Whom am I meant to serve with my gifts?”
“How do I help others with my gifts?”
“What problem in the world am I meant to solve?”
“How will the world, or some part of it, be impacted when I live my purpose?”
“What first steps should I take to start living my purpose?”
When you’re done take a rest. Then read your answers through. As with the previous exercise, look for anything that sparks excitement and fear.
3. The Messy Approach To Finding Your Purpose (That Works!)
So, you’ve completed the above exercises and have a few ideas. Yet you still don’t have one clear life purpose. What should you do now?
This is where the messy approach to finding your purpose comes in. Once you have an idea of what you want to do. A path that lights you up but also scares you. It’s time to act.
Take the first step. Meet with someone who is already doing the work you want to do or sign up for a training course.
As you act on your idea be aware of how it makes you feel. Does the excitement stay with you? Or are you disappointed by the reality?
You may need to course correct a dozen or more times. This is okay – finding your purpose is not a straight-line process.
And remember, when you’re living your purpose the fear never goes away. But this is a good thing. We achieve our biggest goals when we do it scared.
It’s through trying new things that you will discover your purpose. When you put yourself out there, the world will tell you what you are meant to do.
As you move in a meaningful direction, people will respond. And you will wake up to what it means to do fulfilling work and create an impact in the world.
Now, it’s your turn. Go find your purpose and create your best life!
If you need help pursuing your purpose, download my free Passion Challenge workbook below. It will show you the 5 steps to unleash your potential and earn your first $1000 from home.