Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Christal Earle worked with young adults up close and personal. Day in and day out, she would find herself in conversations with angsty seekers about the elusiveness of finding their “purpose”.
They were in a system that put so much pressure on them to discover this elusive thing and at times it was heartbreaking to hear them talk about their anguish at not knowing what it was.
However, the intention behind their question was often missing a key component of actually discovering purpose. In fact, their questions weren’t about living with purpose, they were simply about finding it.
As if it were lost, missing, or simply playing a cruel game of hide and seek with innocent lives.
The idea behind the question seemed like just one more way that there was an invisible running tally of the haves and the have-nots.
(Ugh, I cringe now when I think about the bizarre pressure that gets placed on people from systems and ways of thinking.)
Then life moves on. The perception then seems to become that if we are one of the “lucky ones” we find this elusive purpose and the unlucky ones might still be left looking under the sofa for theirs.
None of us are going to find our “purpose in life” out there floating around, as if it’s a happy virus we are hoping to catch and ingest before it passes us by.
Nor will you find it through frantically seeking out gurus, experts or otherwise.
In fact, it’s a lot less airy-fairy and lot more simple, hard core self-honesty.
The very origin of the word, “purpose” actually means “aim” or “intention”. Does that sound like some gossamer wrapped cloud that you can capture and make your own? Hardly.
However, there is something in each of us that calls us to more meaning and intention in our lives. We can’t help it: we are wired to seek it out.
What would change for you if finding your purpose became less about what you’re seeking – and more about what is seeking you?
First of all, consider changing your way of thinking from finding your purpose to living on purpose.
Seriously, this is a big deal. It’s easy to live on an addiction to events and projects. We want to get in and get out. After all, with projects, we can measure stuff, evaluate the success and have a sense of accomplishment to point back to.
But a purposeful life is not a weekend Pinterest re-do project. It’s your life. There is no re-do.
Everything in us wants to revolt at process and we can dismiss it as not the path for us. Our inner dialogue might be something like, “Who has time for process, dammit? I need to figure my sh*t out so I can catch up with the rest of the world who clearly has it all figured out!”
But wait! There’s a great deal about what you are focused on with your energy and resources that shows the world who you really are. Where you spend your money, time and energy reflects what you value and the purposes you are tapped in to in life – no matter what stage of life you are in.
Uncovering greater purposefulness in your life is not a happy ending where you can finally relax and coast on this new attachment. The uncomfortable truth is that uncovering purpose often leads to deeper convictions, greater actions and stronger commitments.
Are you ready for that?
Second, take the judgment out of the search.
There are no purpose police lurking around on bikes and wearing reflector vests, waiting to catch you missing out on your ultimate life calling. So, please just relax. Seek out ways that make you feel meaningful and stop and ask why.
The measurements of big and small are human constructs, not necessarily a reflection of importance.
- Does giving money make you feel useful? Maybe you can be purposeful about making a heckuva lot more so that you can make a dent on something in the world.
- Does injustice fuel you and give you ideas of ways to curb it or beat it at its own game? Why not explore how to pursue that?
- Are you passionate about learning, mentoring, training or leading others into new spaces and ways of thinking? Do it, over and over again and watch how things get clearer and clearer for you.
- Have you experienced something that altered how you see the world and realize that you can help others through it? Great. Give meaning and purpose to your journey through exploring ways to express it and experience more of it.
Third, purpose is not a life event.
Clinging to this idea is a sure fire way to cause yourself meaningless pain and anguish. Telling yourself you need to have the right circumstances, be around the right people or any other excuse you want to believe won’t help you.
You are right here, right now.
You have already defied the odds. That little egg and sperm beat the system and here you are! So why not live like you appreciate this mind boggling fact and take notice of what lights you up, what you would lose food and sleep for and what you want people to remember you for.
Repeat after me: “My life’s purpose is not on hold.”
Fourth, you don’t need permission to live a life of purpose. Everything you experience can serve as a catalyst for where you want your life to go.
Here’s what I mean: you may connect with things that make you feel alive and light you up. You might have even experienced that feeling and connection while you were with a certain organization, event or type of people.
This happened a lot on the humanitarian experiences I used to lead people on.
The combination of the people, the emotions and the awakening of values and possibilities made for a powerful experience. It was great. However, from the outset of creating the experience, I wanted to be very intentional around helping people understand that this wasn’t an event or group to attach to and depend on for fulfillment. Instead, it could serve as a catalyst for them to wake up to what brought them alive.
To be honest, this was something that was very freeing for me to embrace when I left, 13 years later. I knew that I was going to be okay. I had lived and breathed the vision for a long time. It fuelled me in many ways and I gave up untold things to see it succeed.
But then, when I was done, I was done. As I wrapped up my time there, I didn’t feel loss or directionless; I felt anticipation and confidence that there was a whole big story in my life that I was able to explore.
Read: my purpose wasn’t the organization. My purpose is in staying present to what fuels me and where I can make the most impact.
The same holds true for all of us.
Your purpose is not outside of you trying to breathe life into you; it’s inside of you waiting to be lived out of who you really are.
So go ahead, breathe in and out, and think about what’s bigger than you, what’s truly important to you and what you want to be left behind you.
In the meantime, consider letting part of that purpose be expressed through helping to make the world safer for women and children: