What is My Purpose In Life? The 3 Stages of Finding Your Purpose

{Etsy stamp from MountainsideCrafts}

{Etsy stamp from MountainsideCrafts}

I’ve spent about a decade trying to answer that question. I looked for it in books, from gurus, school counselors, life coaches and even psychics. But it only took revisiting my childhood passion to figure out what I always knew:

wish list for a typewriter + hours of making up stories + writing poems when I was 10 + obsessive reading & journal writing =  writer

It took remembering what brought me joy that helped me to find my purpose in life.

Through my own struggles, I’ve learned that there are several stages to the path of finding your purpose.

Stage 1: Actively Looking

You might be in high school or college or have years of work experience behind you, but feel like you missed the boat when it comes to living the life of your dreams. If that sounds like you, you’re in stage 1. This is when you’re most actively searching. Like me you might be taking career quizzes, searching the internet, talking with friends, family and a career counselor or a life coach, or reading a book to help you get clear.

Stage 2: Soul Searching

I’d call stage 1 more of a superficial search. You need to get to that point in order to start getting serious about what you want to do with your life. But to really find out what you want and who you are, you need to reach in deep. To bring out my passion for writing, I had to explore who I was as a child, what mattered most to me, and what brought me the most joy. It’s seems easy, but recalling who you are at your very core takes a bit of courage. There’s a reason why you’re not doing what you love right now. Someone told you a) that you couldn’t do it or b) that you shouldn’t do it so you buried that passion way in deep.

Stage 3: Trusting Your Instincts

Bestselling author of The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren says, “Your purpose is not about you.” It’s less about what you want, then about how you can use your innate gifts in service to others. How do we determine what those gifts are? When we learn to not just accept our flaws, but to think of them as strengths we can finally uncover our unique gifts. For example, since I was 7-years-old I would hound my mom with questions. I’ve always been this way annoying new acquaintances and old friends by my curiosity and need to know attitude. I realized after many years that this so-called flaw has enabled me to ask the right questions when it came to interviewing subjects for my writing.

Somewhere deep inside you already know who you are and what you’re meant to do with your life. The answers have been left like breadcrumbs on your path toward your purpose. You’ve just been too afraid, unsure or distracted to notice. All you need to do is to stop the outside noise (your family, your friends, the media that tells you what you should do) and listen to the gift that wants to direct your life.

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I Don’t Know What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

{photo by The Inspiring Bee}

If you found yourself revisiting this question as a grown up, you know how frustrating the process of self-discovery can be. Perhaps, you took the first job you got after college or you simply fell into the career you have now. But it doesn’t fulfill you anymore. It pays the bills, but doesn’t make your heart soar.

If you find yourself asking, “Is that all there is?”, don’t despair. No matter how old you are, you always have a second chance to grow up again.

Speaking from someone who’s had over ten jobs in the last ten years, I don’t only know it’s possible, I’ve lived it.

The problem is most people are too scared to venture out into the unknown. We develop a false sense of control, and a weak web of security. But it’s enough to keep us away from the edge. Much better to live a safe life than to risk BIG.

At the same time, we drool over full-time bloggers, successful authors and entrepreneurs. “Lucky,” we think, never believing we can do it too. Yet, it’s only our minds that limit us and our ego that keeps us from venturing out of our shells.

The Truth About Taking a Leap

It is scary and it can feel risky and dangerous. But if anyone ever told you that staying where you are is safer than taking a risk, they’re mistaken. It’s NOT moving and resisting change that’s most risky. This is especially true right now when employers are looking for people who have multiple experiences and can juggle and manage a lot of different things.

Here’s what I know.

If we have just this one life and we were all born with a purpose, then not following the voice that tells us “this isn’t what I should be doing,” not only hurts us, but it hurts the world.

In all the years I’ve been exploring my life purpose, I’ve realized that I already knew what it was all along. I didn’t need career tests, books or webinars to tell it to me. All I needed to do was revisit my childhood, listen to my inner voice and trust in that. I’ve spent more than a decade trying to find my dream job and ended up doing what I wanted to do as a kid-write.

I spent my free time as a child creating a portfolio filled with mock ups of commercials, ad campaigns, and copy for faux products. I watched Bewitched on TV and Full House and wanted to work for an ad agency like Darrin Stevens and Jesse and Joey respectively. In high school, I did a project researching copywriting because it’s something I wanted to do.

And then college came and I heard things like: “You need to get a job that makes money. There’s not much jobs like those here.” I got confused and got lost in the tediousness of accounting and marketing classes and gave up. I did end up graduating with a BA in English. But I let go of my dream of being a copywriter. It seemed too hard and an impossible endeavor.

After graduation, my career went on a crazy course from research assistant to private investigator. It gave me good fodder to write about. But it also took me that much longer to finally recover and find the destination of my childhood dreams.

So I say to you now, the you who has been unhappy with your current job, the you who knows you deserve something more, although finding your dream job is worth the wait, you don’t have to wait to find it.

  • Think about what you loved to do when you were young.
  • Revisit the past-times you couldn’t live without.
  • Recall the jobs you dreamed about doing when you were a kid.

Follow the crumb left by your childhood self and you’ll eventually get there. Your adult self will finally catch up to your little kid.

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