Your Purpose is Looking for You!
This article appeared in Natural Awakenings. You can download a copy here.
Professional Life and Career Coaches often hear a common fundamental dilemma expressed by new clients: “I just want to find my passion or purpose but have no idea where to start!” That is especially true for individuals 30 years of age and older with a strong desire for achievement, but struggling with engagement in their current positions.
The search for passion and purpose is certainly a worthwhile pursuit. Every person wants to love his or her work, and make a positive impact. Successful entrepreneurs are often heard to say, “If you love what you do, it never feels like work.” That may be a bit of an overstatement, but there is value in that observation. We know that remaining in a job while constantly wishing you were doing something else can take a severe toll physically, mentally and emotionally. We can lose our zeal even for things unrelated to work.
At the same time, it is not uncommon to feel envious of people who have known their life calling, with certainty, at the age of six, and never deviated on the path to their objective. We listen to them recount their early epiphanies and their straight and steady progress while resigning ourselves to the fact that we have not yet had that definite and burning desire to be an X, have a business that sells Y, or to create beautiful Zs for all to enjoy. Conducting a serious search for an “unknown” can be daunting and discouraging. Many of us feel that the need to search is, itself, evidence of a shortcoming. We often crave uninterrupted time to reflect and sort it all out. However, few of us can take a two-month sabbatical from life’s daily demands to contemplate our future in a remote and peaceful environment. So, what can we do?
First of all, we need to simply accept that, if there are people who knew their purpose unequivocally from a young age, we are not one of them and that is more than ok. In fact, for most of us, it is a process, an evolution, and often a spectacular story in the making. It requires our attention, hard work, dedication and trust throughout. Our failures eventually lead us to success and each success, big or small, leads us to an other opportunity or eye-opening revelation. So often what we perceive as rejection or failure is actually a redirection to something better for us. Over time, we learn that it becomes a matter of staying open to all possibilities and taking on new challenges as they present themselves. Many successful people living their purpose have had multiple careers or jobs over several years, each serving as a stepping-stone to finding the joy they experience in their work today.
Second, try to change your approach by not overthinking it. Start engaging in activities that you enjoy. What makes you feel uplifted? What are you good at? What makes you lose track of time? Start doing it. Commit to it on your weekly schedule. Find and spend time with others that do it, too. Do it while keeping your day job. It is amazing what can happen when you make the time and effort to be happy. You gain the 3Cs: clarity, confidence and courage. Your passion, even if you consider it a hobby currently, can often lead you to your purpose in some remarkable, unanticipated way.
Alternatively, many of us may have found our purpose only to have it clouded by circumstances that appear to be integral but are, in fact, things that we can change without abandoning the core of what we love. For example, my client, a nurse, thought seriously about leaving her profession and starting a new venture. After a period of reflection and self-exploration, she was able to remember why it was that she had become a nurse in the first place and to identify, as separate from her purpose, things that she did not like about her position. She loved being a nurse, but disliked her work environment and practice area. She eventually changed her position and revitalized her career. Assess all aspects of your current work situation before determining it is not the right career fit. You may be surprised.
Finally, make a list of all your skills, gifts and talents. Include everything you can think of, such as the positive way you make people feel or your patience in dealing with difficult people or situations. In addition, make a list of areas in which you would like to improve and think about how you can start developing these areas as you work your way toward more prominent changes. Then set out to apply your existing, and your expanding skills wherever an opportunity presents itself. Volunteer in service that aligns with any one of your talents. Ask your manager for a stretch assignment that will highlight your skills and gain you new experience – even if you are not sure that it will advance you in your present position. Sharing your talents with others, and taking on new responsibilities, is a wonderful way to switch gears toward your purpose. Most of all, stay with it and trust the process! Your purpose is looking for you!