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Trying to find your purpose can be intimidating and is a common topic.  I was having dinner with a friend the other night and we got to talking about finding your purpose or finding your passion.

There’s a lot of talk and maybe even pressure about “finding your purpose…” like if you don’t find it, then you’ll never be “fulfilled.”  I’ve talked about the happiness horizon (you know, when you say I’ll be happy when…) in another Crush It Mondays that I’ve linked in the show notes.   First, putting off contentment or feeling fulfilled when you find your purpose is not a good way to go and frankly, it’s a myth.  I’m incredibly fortunate to have worked my way into a career that allows me to do things I’m passionate about. I would say I have found my purpose and work towards it every day, but I still have the same feelings like everyone else, struggling with “I’ll be happy when…” or trying to feel content or feeling like what I am doing is still not enough.  We also search for the feeling of arrival, and while there may be fleeting moments of it, it’s not a permanent feeling.

Finding your purpose is not the same as contentment or fulfillment.

I will say that it certainly helps and I’m thankful I get to put energy into the projects of my choosing, but I think that this societal pressure of searching for your big purpose and that you should be doing that all the time or doing it for your work has been blown way out of context.

What do you do if you feel like you don’t know your purpose?

What should you search for instead of trying to find this huge purpose?  My interpretation of the obsession with purpose is that we want to live a life that has meaning to us.  But having meaning can be really simple and you don’t have to find your why with your work. I do think it is good to find elements of your work that bring you joy. Yes!  Even if we aren’t talking about work, we feel good when we can find joy, concentration without distraction, and feel like we did our best at something.  Maybe even helping someone or having a human connection associated with what you’re doing is part of it.  For me, I feel content when I look at those elements instead of this huge undertaking of living my purpose.  Maybe your purpose is how you live your life and living by your values.

Yes!  Maybe we can redefine this conversation.  I think it’s good to think big picture with what you want to do in your life and have a direction to go, but you don’t have to define the exact details of that direction. Chances are they will change over time anyway.

One Thing You Can Do To Find Your Purpose

How about doing one thing each day that makes you feel good or do one thing each day that you are proud of?  I can tell you that if you slow down enough to do that and then reflect back on your day asking yourself, “What was the best thing I did today?” It’ll help you feel more content.

Another point I want to make is that the things you’re doing that bring purpose, why, contentment, or meaning probably will shift over time. You will change and the things that make you feel good might change too.  Another thing is that it doesn’t have to be externally focused.  Maybe your purpose today, this week, this year, or this decade is getting to know yourself better.  There is nothing wrong with it or selfish about that.  Maybe your purpose is to be the best athlete you can be or the most helpful person on your team at work.  What does doing your best mean to you? When do you feel your best?

Purpose and fulfillment can be tied to the question of whether you have any regrets.  Or if you were on your death bed, is there something you wish you did?  The great thing is you can get started doing things that mean something to you now.

For some, trying to find your why can paralyze you from doing anything at all.  Thoughts like, “well what if this isn’t my purpose and I don’t feel good?” or “What if I spend time, money and/or energy and change my mind?”  I say try it, prioritize it, and see what happens. If it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, it is frustrating but you won’t regret trying. Don’t let imposter syndrome stand in your way of getting started either.  It also takes grit and patience if you’re trying to build something.

Another question to ask yourself is what are your expectations of what life will be like if you do find your big purpose?  I can tell you that you won’t suddenly just feel fulfilled, everything won’t suddenly fall into place, and you won’t feel like you are done because you’ve found this thing.  You’ll get to a point you dreamt of, but then it won’t feel like enough.  I’ve seen this with myself and countless other people.  You’ll say, “I want to make an impact!”  But then you’ll say, “I want to impact MORE people! What I’m doing isn’t enough!”  Or as I mentioned, when your needs are met, you’ll redirect and maybe even find a new purpose.  Again, break it back down to doing something big or small today that you are proud of and do that every day.

If you’re thinking, “that’s all well and good… but I’m uninspired in my life and I just want to do SOMETHING different.  I just don’t know what! I don’t even know what general direction to take!”  It’s okay to feel stuck not to know, but I think it’s also important to keep revisiting that feeling with questions.  There are a couple that Mark Manson has written about that I liked.  He talks about how we shouldn’t think about what we are passionate about, but think about what we are willing to be in pain for- to be inconvenienced by, because that’s what it’s really like to work for something you’ve always wanted. The passion of it can take over your life. And the passion of it can also make it not as fun anymore when it becomes your everything.  The questions are: what are you willing to struggle for? what pain do you want to sustain?  “what makes you forget to eat and poop?”

If the answer is still, “I don’t know,” that’s okay.  But try something.  If you have an idea, try it because that’s the only way you’ll know how you feel. And that idea does not have to be business or sport-related. It can be anything and it can be small, but take action- take one small step.  As MLK says, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  It is never too late to start.

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