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

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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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Is Passion a Dirty Word?

If it is now, it never used to be. I think passion was a buzzword until it burnout from overuse.

Nowadays some cringe when they hear it. They believe passion prevents us from getting things done. It can be stifling. If we’re not living up to our passion, maybe our lives are useless. And do we even need passion anyway? There are tons of people who are filthy rich and successful doing things they are not passionate about right?

How Important is Passion?

To answer this question, we must first look at what passion is. According to Joan Borysenko in Fried: Why You Burn Out,

“Passion is pure energy-vitality-which is exactly what dies in burnout.”

It is the inner spark, that internal enthusiasm that makes you stay up at night following a dream, what you can’t stop talking about, what drives you despite setbacks, obstacles or fear. It is flow. It is bliss. It is the sense that you could do whatever it is you’re doing regardless if you were getting paid for it. Passion is not deterred by change. It is enlivened by it. Sometimes we lose our passion because we are burnt out, we are afraid or get so caught up in the day to day tasks of our lives that we forget. But it is still within us.

Passion isn’t a luxury, it is our necessity. Following our passion allows us to express the very essence of who we are.

I sometimes think people say, “passion shmassion” (or maybe they don’t literally say that) because they are afraid of pursuing their dreams. It takes courage and faith to not just follow what thrills us, but to find it. Borysenko says it requires two things: listening for external cues and having faith in the unknown.

Maybe people get caught up into believing the following:

Passion = ? (doctor, lawyer, artist, teacher, etc.)

They get bogged down in the erroneous belief that passion requires a specific role or occupation that needs to be filled. Instead The Book of Awakening author Mark Nepo says, “This is not about being a poet or a florist or a doctor or a lawyer or an architect. It is about the true vitality that waits beneath all occupations for us to tap into, if we can discover what we love.”

And passion isn’t just a byproduct of a middle class economy, it is our god given right to pursue it. Nepo beautifully adds that the joy received when we follow our passion is “not an added feature; it is a sign of deep health.”

Remember that the next time someone calls you “selfish” for following your dreams!


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