In life, we often feel a pressure to know exactly where we are going, what we are going to do and who we are going to be. Questions about who we will become and what we will do start when we are 5 years old.
When we graduate from high school, its where are you going to college? Do you know what you are majoring in? Graduate from college and everyone wants to know what the next steps are in your future. Get a new job and your employer wants to know how you plan on contributing and making things better. The list goes on.
Some times we have answers, sometimes we don't. I went to law school because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So, I do understand the lost feeling of not having a path or direction to follow. Not knowing can feel like a burden or somehow wrong.
When I decided to stop practicing law, I had some idea of what I wanted to do. Some inkling of a plan, but I also had a lot of fear about whether this was really the right path I was supposed to be on. Or was I just trying to escape something I didn't enjoy.
What if you hate where you are and dont know where you want to be. All you know is that you dont want to be at this job, this city, or have these relationships. What do you do to figure it all out? How do you find a path and direction that makes you excited and fulfilled?
This is where knowing yourself comes in. When you have a clear idea of of who you are the overwhelm and unknown will narrow your choices to ones that have meaning to you. Opportunities that don't align with who you are will fade as you discover more about yourself. So, I'm sure you are wondering, how do I find clarity on who I am?
Start with the basics
Who am I?
Sometimes the answers seems obvious, but inarticulable. Being able to articulate who you are will help you discover what path and direction align with you. Are you an aggressive, loud, reckless, bold, dancer, who loves to cook, make a mess and hates being stuck in doors. Or are you a recluse, bird loving, wine snob who takes pride in your book collection.
Describe yourself from the inner goo to the hard outer shell. Knowing who you are doesn't mean that you know your purpose or true calling, but that you are confident in the attributes that you bring to the table. You know what makes you happy and what doesn't. You also know that while you grow and change you will continue to discover new and amazing attributes about yourself.
I knew while doing legal work that I was unhappy with my work. It didn't fulfill my need for creativity and independence. I knew that while practicing law I was more focused on money than anything else, it was making me devalue important important parts of my life. When I realized that I wasn't at my best doing legal work, I began to ask myself who am I?
What do I value?
This question is often answered easily after someone disappoints you or hurts you. You see what values you have, what characteristics are important to you. When someone lies to me I often am reminded how much I value honest words, even if I don't like what the other person has to say.
Do you value honesty, kindness, creativity, hard work, self-discipline, the ability to self-reflect, openness, emotional strength, a fit body, social etiquettes, family, money, social justice, a great shoe collection, meals with friends and family, quality time, the environment, gifts, verbal affirmations, or positive physical touch? You could value none of that, all those things or hundreds of others. But when you know what you value you can shift your path towards job and people that hold to your values.
What are my strengths and weaknesses?
Yes, similar to when you are asked in a job interview, this is the time to spell them out. Think beyond your 9 to 5 but what happens at home, volunteering, with friends, out and about. You may have creative strengths, or organizational strengths that are only seen in your home. You may have amazing ability to always be on time or maybe you are super messy. Acknowledge your short comings as much as your gifts alike. They make you, you.
What are my goals?
When I ask this question I don't mean goals only like being a best selling author or the CEO of a company. Think about goals you would like to accomplish down the road but also goals like being excited everyday to go to work. Goals about how often you want to be able to travel, go on vacation or take your family out for dinner. Think about what you want out of life.
I knew that I wanted to be creative everyday in my job, being a lawyer did not afford me that feeling, but, blogging does. I am able to create every day, which makes me feel fulfilled. Do you want to feel fulfilled every day? Do you want to be able to sleep in or take long lunches? What do you want to experience everyday?
Now Lets Explore
What do you enjoy doing or better yet, obsess about?
What is it that you actually enjoy doing? If you are graduating and feel that you have no idea what your path is supposed to be, then look back on the classes you have taken and the experiences in school that gave you joy. What about being the president of a club made you excited? Was it that one history class, or art class that moved you and made you always want to stay longer? Think on hobbies that you have given up or just started.
What were or are you willing to loose sleep over. Don't say grades or money. I am talking about something that you enjoy so much that you forget to eat while working on it or stay up late? Our passions are things that we can easily obsess over.
If you struggle with this and can't think of when you were last obsessed with anything, think about the last time you experienced joy. What were you doing? Break down the experience to get to the essence of where the joy came from. Don't downplay or dismiss any situation because it isn't something you think you can do as a profession or actually make a living off of. The point is to find what brings you joy and so you can build a life with joy. Finding your path comes in time, but you can choose to experience joy every day.
What qualities do you enjoy expressing most to the world?
For the recluse who wants to hide away this may be challenging. But think about what you would be proud to show the world. What work of art, voice, program, playing skills, or organizational skills are proud to show people. Do you love making people laugh and brightening peoples days? Do you feel moved when you were able to teach someone?
How do you help, make laugh, cheer up, teach, acknowledge, or listen to others, in a way that brings you joy and is satisfying to you?
What is your inner voice telling you?
We all hear the whispers inside of us telling us that we have a passion or a calling. Sometimes we are lucky enough to listen to it, without shame. Some times we are not, and we push that voice aside to follow expectations, and or a path that has less risk.
I have silenced that voice many times in life. I thought creative endevours would be frivolous wastes of time and I needed to get a “real” job and make money. But, that path led to an unhappy place. So, sit down and have a little coffee chat with that inner voice. What have you been missing out on, running away from or to scared to take the leap into?
What are you willing to sacrifice?
In order to create a life that fulfills our needs and wants with we often must sacrifice to create it. Many times it is the same set of things that will be sacrificed, time, money, and relationships. But, there are times when independence, your voice, or creativity might be sacrificed. So, think about what you are willing to sacrifice and what you are not.
Let's DO IT
Now that you have brain stormed a bit, it is time to take action.
How will you take action?
You are going to have to try and possibly try again and again to discover what your “true calling” is. Purpose doesn’t find you, you find it and usually find it with persistence and hard work. So, if your inner voice is whispering that you should try writing again, or start training to do a race again, do it! You never know what will come of it or where it will lead you.
You may have never set foot on a stage but have a pull towards it, take an acting class and, go for it! Nothing has to be a permanent choice and as you learn and discover what you truly have a passion for, your focus will narrow. Sometimes, it takes time for passion to develop into purpose. So discover what makes you happy, challenged, and fulfilled along the way.
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Break Up "the ONE" thing?
I have often thought that there is just one thing that I should be doing. One purpose, one goal. But, I always had lists of goals, and things I wanted to do, try, conquer. Never was it narrowed down to just one. Guess what, that’s okay. You may have a path that leads you into many different fields, to serve in many different ways.
Not every person is called for just one purpose. If you feel that you are, that is alway awesome and just as amazing as when you aren’t. The point is to find joy and fulfillment in what you do. To be able to serve others with your best and unique attributes.
Here is a great TED talk on people who struggle with finding just one purpose and path for life.
What are you going to do to push boundaries?
Finding your purpose may be scary. You may have to take a step out of your bubble. You may have to continue to push boundaries and take leaps into the unknown. Because your purpose and path may lay half way across the world, or right back in your home town.
When I took the leap to start blogging I didn't have a large amount of savings or really a defined plan of how I was going to be successful at it. I was scared that I would be judged, and looked down upon for changing from and “ideal” career path as an attorney, with an income to one as a blogger, without an income. But, I knew I wanted to actually enjoy what I was doing, so I took the leap. I urge you to take leaps as well. It may not be quitting your 9 to 5, but, starting a new hobby or a taking a class to explore an opportunity.
I hope that you will discover new opportunities for joy and challenge.
How to proceed?
If the answers don't come easily to these questions write on them daily. I still journal weekly on the basics, just to make sure I am doing what I want and still find it fulfilling.
Finding your purpose and creating a future you want takes time. There isn't a need to rush or compare yourself. Your journey is your own. It may lead you where you never thought you would go. Be open and have courage. You will find your direction and path.
This is a series so I will be discussing more ways to discover your path and find direction in upcoming posts. Until then, let me know what you are doing to find purpose and direction in your life.
Continue to read the Finding Purpose Series.