Experts in emotional intelligence agree that one of the most significant things that separates emotionally successful people from those who struggle is having a purpose. Without a purpose, we fall prey to worry, fear, disengagement and depression. With a purpose, we can overcome any obstacle that stands in our way.
The first step in finding your purpose is to find what isn’t your purpose. It is frequently a lot easier to know what you don’t want than what you do want. If you’ve ever had a job you hate, you know what I mean. There’s nothing like working in drudgery every day to make you crystal clear on how you DO want to spend your days. It may take more than one miserable experience to get clear on what you do NOT want and finesse the details of what you DO want, but each time something disappointing happens, make sure to take a moment and feel a pang of gratitude for knowing what isn’t your purpose. Over time, the list of things you don’t want will become so long that when you look at the reasons each thing didn’t work, your purpose will become obvious.
The second way to find your purpose is to pay attention to what delights you. Notice I didn’t say what you like, or what you’re good at doing, or what your mother thought you should do. I said, what delights you. We really are terrible at having the self-awareness necessary to know what delights us. If you’re like me, you probably weren’t supported in finding your heart’s desire. This means that we have lived our lives doing things out of fear, obligation, or just plain routine.
When we are doing what delights us, time stands still. We would do it whether we got paid or not. We are in our zone of genius, and we look forward to getting up every morning. Doing what delights us keeps us from feeling guilty that we haven’t done enough in a day. We feel like we’re contributing something valuable to every project, and we allow the creativity and innovation to flow freely.
Frequently, the thing that keeps us from doing what delights us is a feeling of unworthiness. It’s fairly rare for us to get messages in our culture that tell us we deserve the best and that we are completely qualified to be, do, or have whatever we want. Quite the contrary, the authority figures in our lives try to shield us from disappointment by reminding us that we can’t always get what we want. We have to be our own advocates, reminding ourselves on a regular basis that we are in control of our outcomes and that we deserve to share our gifts with the world.
Finally, finding your purpose takes curiosity. It’s easy to approach the world with preconceived notions and ready-made ideas about whether what we want to do has value. We have ideas about how much money we’re supposed to make, the kind of career we’re supposed to have, the hours we want to work, the people we want as colleagues. When we approach the world as if we already know everything, we lose the opportunity to learn. We shut down some of the very best stuff we want before it ever has a chance to come to us.
When we are curious, we look at things with a sincere desire to understand. We are willing to let go of our own opinions and be open to doing things differently. We open ourselves to new lifestyles, vocations, and careers that we may never have thought of. When we meet people who live a life we never imagined, if we approach them with curiosity we can find out how they achieved their goals. If we aren’t curious, we just judge their experience as different from ours. They may have a similar purpose to ours, and their experience may hold the key to helping us live our purpose more fully. We can only find out if we ask sincere questions and then listen.
Finding your purpose is definitely a process and it won’t happen overnight. But since purpose is the reason you were put on Earth, it’s not only possible to do, but it is the most exciting thing you can do.