Things have changed over the past few generations. Conversation has turned from making a living to living a meaningful life. Consciousness experts like Deepak Chopra, Jean Houston, and Martha Beck have all noted that more than ever before people are waking up.
Waking up to a higher level of living where life’s greatest questions are:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
Despite this awakening, most people have occasional moments of wondering or even actively searching for their purpose yet the majority of us never spend specific time focused on discovering purpose.
For many, the search for purpose starts like this:
- You recognize something is wrong but you can’t quite put a finger on it
- You identify that you want more (but don’t always know more of what?)
- You crave making a difference and living a life of impact
- You get hints about what that would be like, sparks of inspiration & recognition
- You become paralyzed and don’t act out of fear
We were taught to make a living but not about making a life. People ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and we begin at a young age to equate purpose with a job. But purpose isn’t about how you pay the bills. It’s about passion.
It can seem that everyone is passionate about something and either yours is missing, hidden or you have piled it beneath a to-do list that might keep it buried for good.
Or perhaps you are surrounded by people who don’t dream, don’t follow their passion and who try to keep you from going after yours. this can lead you to a state positive psychologists call purpose anxiety.
Purpose anxiety happens when looking for your purpose actually increases anxiety. Research says up to age 23 looking for a purpose is fun but older than that it actually causes unhappiness and depression. This means many people looking for their purpose are looking from a negative place.
Carin Rockland, purpose researcher, gives this advice:
- Purpose is not a noun.
- Purpose is a verb
- Starts with the word to_____________. (as in to write, to teach, to inspire)
- Goals, Meaning, Passion are not purpose. You will have many goals on the way to purpose but these goals are not the purpose. Meaning is the comprehension of the world around us. This is not the same. Meaning is greater context purpose is an active life aim. Passions change. Passion is a strong inclination toward something. Passion is a clue to purpose but isn’t the same as purpose.
Three aspects of purpose
Some people are naturally lucky. They know what their purpose is from a young age. Social modeling can influence children or a trauma happens that sparks a realization. Spirituality plays a role for some. But what about those of us who don’t?
- Replace the word find with the word uncover. Let’s not imply that our purpose is lost.
- Have more positive emotions. They help us see connections that we might not otherwise see. You have to be in a positive mindset before you begin.
- Be curious.
- What are your strengths and when have you used them in a way that felt like you made a difference.
- Tell people about your joy. Sharing our joy increases joy. When you share a story about a happy or joyful experience it has far greater benefits than just remembering it or writing it down for ourselves.
Purpose can hit you over the head like a sledgehammer or it can land on your shoulder like a butterfly. My personal experience was like bringing a camera into focus. I had the picture right there in the frame but it took awhile to decide where the focus should be and what was in the background.
Do you have a purpose? I’d love to know how old you were when you discovered it and what it is.