“I need to find my purpose. I feel like I’m dying inside!”
Esther’s eyes welled up with tears as she blurted out these words in our first coaching session.
I almost forgot to drink my latte as she described her situation.
She had moved to a new town and was feeling lonely in the long process of meeting people and making new friends.
Adjusting to her new family situation had been more stressful and time-consuming than she realized, so she hadn’t gone job hunting yet. Her work credentials didn’t qualify her to work in the same field so she might have to choose a whole new career. Though she adored her family, she was bored, directionless and feeling vulnerable to triggers from her past.
When she asked to meet, I thought we were going to be focusing on finding or creating her new dream job. But as I listened to her, I began to wonder.
I leaned in. “If you could only choose to find your purpose one way right now, which path would you choose:
Finding a job you love?
Finding a fulfilling way you can help others?
Or finding a new way to explore or express your potential — like a passion or creativity?”
She thought a moment.
“Well, I guess I’m okay financially right now. I’d like to be able to contribute to my family. But if I had to choose, I just want to help people.”
That moment was an enlightening start for her as we dove into her purpose journey of the next few months.
It was also an enlightening moment for me as I reflected on conversations I’d had with people about their mission to discover and fulfill their purpose. While the essence of the search for meaning and fulfillment in life is similar, the journey and approach are different for each person. Not only that, because it’s a journey, the stages look different for each person.
Most of the people I spoke with who felt they were living their purpose didn’t even think about that at age 20. They saw threads linked as they reflected in hindsight.
Destiny is a stay-at-home mom who feels her purpose is to raise kids who love God. She feels called to be hands-on in the experience, and though motherhood doesn’t feel natural or enjoyable at times, she takes it seriously.
Anna’s a business coach and mentor for female entrepreneurs who started out feeling her purpose is to shine Jesus’ light and love in whatever she does. And she does that subtly and elegantly. Years into her career shift from therapist to coaching entrepreneur, as her influence grew by thousands in one year, she’s exploring a new level in her purpose.
Emma’s a high-end brand designer for thought-leaders. She started out with a mission to find purpose within the church and to climb the corporate ladder, only to realize she hated it. “I had this feeling that I was meant for more, that I was going to do something big one day. Only I didn’t know what it was,” she told me. She discovered her creativity when she stumbled into photography. Through exploring her creativity and landing a few unexpected clients, so realized her greatest joy and purpose is helping people find and express confidence. She thrives when she does this through her brand design and sees how she’s able to give back.
There’s no right way to discover your purpose or calling.
It’ll take some Doing and Being. It’s going to take trying new things, reflecting, looking for patterns or significant moments.
You might recognize your purpose in
…the hunt for your dream job
…in the mundane tasks of your day job
…redesigning your life in a major way
…building a business
…navigating a painful experience
…trying one thing after another to reveal what lights you up and what drains you
…asking those close to you what you’re good at — because maybe it’s so familiar and natural you don’t even realize it.
It begins with an openness to walk through doors of opportunity. And that just might mean redefining opportunity.
One thing leads to another.
In exploring the topic of how to discover one’s calling, Jeff Goins comments on this dance between the next best step and reflection: “Discovering what you were meant to do will require action and reflection, and this is how awareness of our calling is grown.”
“The soul which has no fixed purpose in life is lost; to be everywhere, is to be nowhere.” ―Michel de Montaigne
So what if you need to feel alive with purpose again?
Let’s relieve a little pressure on yourself by narrowing where you need purpose and meaning the most. If you could live meaningfully in only one area, which would you choose?
- In work (whether a job, career or vocation) you love?
- A fulfilling way you can help others?
- A new way to explore or express your potential – like in art, a passion or creativity?
The biggest thing to notice in your journey is that living your purpose happens when you shift your focus off yourself. Your purpose isn’t FOR you. Your value isn’t for your purpose. Your value is just because you were created and loved by God, and you do have a gift to offer the world. And from that sense of value, you express your purpose by creating something, being useful and offering hope to someone.
We’re often not ready for the whole revelation, even when we think we are.
An opportunity calls to us.
It invites us in, gives us a task or a mission.
It sees how we respond, feels us out, checks us out to see if we can be trusted with something sacred. If so, it beckons us to the next thing.
What is Purpose asking of you today?