How to Discover Your Purpose

Confession: I never discovered my purpose. Change the perspective you've always had about how to find your purpose, and get to the heart of what it really means to find your calling in your business, and where you should start looking first.  Confession:  I never discovered my purpose.

I never did a workshop to find my purpose. I never read a book about my purpose. I didn’t even know I had a purpose.

I discovered my purpose by entering my purpose. And I had no idea at the time.

It happened one morning when I was crammed in a car of the Metro Orange Line on my way to my cubicle job.  As I clutched the bar above my head and bumped into the tired people wobbling around me, I silently uttered a prayer. It went like this:

“You have GOT to be kidding me if you think I’m gonna do this for the rest of my life.”

If you haven’t found your purpose, it may be hiding out in an unlikely place. This article will change the ideas you’ve had all along about finding your calling and life’s work, and this illuminating change in perspective is what can get that pesky purpose to come out of hiding.

Yeah. I know. Not much of a prayer.  But if God was hanging out in that subway car, he seemed to understand me just fine.

Does that mean I woke up the next morning to UPS delivering me a box containing my shiny new purpose, complete with treasure map, golden key and parchment scroll of commandments?

Um, no.

It went more like this…

The next week, I wandered into a small bookstore where I found and bought an unlikely book that became kind of a catalyst for me through the coming years.

When I got promoted at my cubicle job the next month, I found the strength to quit.

Months after that, I moved away from the expensive city to a small town where the rent was crazy cheap.

Unlikely mentors found me, offered me help, and pointed me in the right (and yes, sometimes wrong) direction.

You get the idea.

My prayer was answered by an on-going series of nudges, rejections, half-open doors, and ideas. Plus, an odd mix of experts and gurus.  My job was to simply begin listening and taking courageous steps that sometimes seemed foolish.  (And sometimes were.)

So, these days, when someone asks me the age-old question “How do I discover my purpose?” I start by giving them my top three arguments against DISCOVERING your purpose:

1 – Discovering is a “big deal.”

Big deals don’t require any action on your part. That’s because when something’s a big deal, you’ll never have the right tools and you’ll never be ready.  This is exactly why your ego loves big deals.  It’s a convenient way to keep you from taking even the first imperfect action step. (Your ego hates imperfection.)

2 – Discovering your purpose implies that your purpose is outside of you.

It’s not.  Your purpose is here now. It’s already within you.

3 – Discovering is an event.

The idea of “discovering” your purpose makes it a one-time “TA-DAH!” kind of thing. Fully equipped with all the perfect mystical special effects and lighting.

Your purpose is NOT an event.  Your purpose is an unfolding.  As you continue to move forward, your purpose becomes bigger and more impactful.  (Besides, when you start out, you’re probably not ready to know the full extent of your purpose. It would only send you back to bed. WAY too much information.)

How to Discover your Purpose by Entering Your Purpose

Once I have convinced people to stop trying to discover their purpose, I give them the steps for entering their purpose.  They often glaze over because these steps are way too simple. I tell them to do them anyway.

1 – Settle for nothing.

Wanna hit the purpose fast-track?

The first place to start is to notice where you settle for stuff in your life.

Why?

Because purpose doesn’t “settle.”  Purpose isn’t about “Oh well, I guess I’ll just get this crappy job because hey, it’s a bad economy.”  Purpose is the opposite of settling.  Each time I probe a little deeper in conversations with people who tell me they can’t find their purpose, I often discover that they have spent so many years “settling” that they’ve lost touch with even their smallest desires.

If this sounds like you, then begin by moving anything unlike purpose out of the way.

It’s almost impossible to recognize your own purpose when the bulk of your life is about settling for things.

2 – Notice what lights you up.

While you are cleaning up your world-view and no longer settling for stuff, begin noticing:

“What do I kinda like to do?”

Don’t start with discovering your purpose.  Start instead with language that feels more playful.

What makes me happy? What delights me?

Why start with these kinds of questions?  Because discovering your purpose is too high pressure.

If you haven’t been clear or if you’ve settled for many things in your life for many years – and suddenly you start demanding that you DISCOVER YOUR PURPOSE, you will want to hide in a dark corner.  It’s too much pressure.

Start with delight.  Begin with fun. Or “what makes me smile?”  Give yourself that treat.  And give yourself permission for the answer to be anything.

3 – Fire your ego.

What comes after you begin noticing what you love?

The ego, of course!

Nothing kills purpose faster than the statement “Yeah, but you’ll never be able to make money at it.”  (The ego likes to bring up money first!)

My theory is that many people can’t ‘discover their purpose’ because no sooner have they discovered something they love than the ego speaks up.   This voice works 24/7 – and its job is to have a job. It will work hard to convince you that you have no purpose. It’s much safer that way.

Face it.  For every idea that “can’t make money,” there’s someone out there who proved that it can.

4 – Take the very next step.

The opposite of a “big deal” is a simple action step.   Simple action steps create discoveries and big deals when you add them up.  But for now, all you need to do is this:

Start each day by asking yourself, “What is the very next step I will take today?”

And then take it.  This is the ultimate path to entering your purpose.

Let me be clear.  Living with purpose IS a big deal. It’s a high-power choice to make and phenomenal path to follow.  And you are meant to follow this path now.  Allowing yourself to begin is the most important piece.  The rest will unfold.  Your job is to enter.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?  In the comments below, share with us…  Do you feel like you’re living your purpose?  Do you ALWAYS feel that way?  How do you know you are or are not?

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Comments

  1. says

    Love this Christine. I have clients who are VERY focused on finding their purpose. The pressure they put on themselves is intense! And honestly, I did this to myself for a long time. What I found is that taking a step away from all that spinning around in my head and focusing on what felt good really helped me take the next step forward..and the next..and before long it all became clear :). Sure, there are days when I muddle around, but at least I know what the path looks like and how to find my way back if I get off track.

  2. says

    Awesome article, Christine! I feel like I’m beginning to finally LIVE in my purpose. I think it’s been the same over the years however it has changed it’s “outfit”, so to speak, as my life circumstances have changed. UYL really helped me to create some clarity around it and now I’m SUPER excited for UYB so I can REALLY start living the way I want to!

  3. vivi says

    Thank you Christine for the beautifully written article.
    Last November in the mist of a horrible work day, I had an “aha” moment of not wanting to do this crappy job and live my crappy life any more. Since then my contract had expired, I traveled, wrote my preliminary business proposal, hired a local business coach,and on the way to build my dream business (I told you about that a few years ago during our UYL – but the timing was not ripe). And yes by focusing on my nick name that very much embody me – the vision become clear and clearer.
    Thank you so much, you rock.

  4. says

    I love this perspective Christine! And in many ways it’s exactly like my story. I was working in marketing when I started feeling like while I enjoyed what I was doing, there was something missing and it wasn’t what I was meant to be doing for my entire career. To keep a long story short, “finding” my purpose involved being open to possibility, really connecting with a scene in a movie (A Walk to Remember) on my second viewing of it, talking about the type of work I wanted to do, hearing “You can be a life coach!” through Divine Providence from someone I hadn’t met before and haven’t seen since, being let go from jobs 3 times when I veered away from coaching (including the time after which I decided to start Heart and Soul Living) and more. The path has been a bit “twisty” but I feel like it’s careful directed by G-d to be exactly what I need when I need it, even when in the moment I get frustrated and let my own self-doubt start clouding my mind.

    Love the article! Thank you Christine!

  5. says

    One of my favorite articles you’ve written, Christine.

    My work is loving the world.
    Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
    equal seekers of sweetness.
    Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
    Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

    Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
    Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
    keep my mind on what matters,
    which is my work,

    which is mostly standing still and learning to be
    astonished.
    The phoebe, the delphinium.
    The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
    Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

    which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
    and these body-clothes,
    a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
    to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
    telling them all, over and over, how it is
    that we live forever.

    Mary Oliver

    • says

      Thank you Christine. I still struggle daily (hourly) with the desire to leave real estate NOW this minute. I still have no clear path to income although I have had a few successes with painting sales recently. I already told my broker I would be out by the end of the year but I don’t think I can wait that long. Real estate is so distracting that it is hard to take any consistent steps
      to build my art business.

  6. says

    Love the poem Michelle. Thanks for sharing.
    It’s true, sometimes the faster we run after our purpose, or happiness, the more we distance ourselves from it. I was just given “permission” to not have to make any money, but instead do what I love and am good at and see where it leads. My belief is that even though I’m not seeking to make money, primarily, that it will come as I keep moving forward with the things I’m prompted to do and as I stay true to my purpose. Obviously, UYB is going to help me understand how to put it all together and I’m grateful. Great article Christine, thank you!

  7. says

    Thanks for this, it’s awesome. I am an entrepreneur, and I love it. Being an entrepreneur is (service) to others as it provides income for families and service to the community and provides me an avenue to utilize my talents and skills to help myself and others that in itself gives me a feeling of purpose and accomplishment. Thanks Christine.

  8. says

    So true, and so beautifully stated, Christine!

    I also found that the direction of one’s purpose can change over time. For many years, I felt that my purpose was to help people. So when I found a way to do that, very directly, by helping people get out of pain, I did that for over 2 decades. But I’ve learned in the last few years that other facets of my purpose wanted to come forward. I’ve been following them, and it led me into doing voice-over work, singing, and composing! Music and singing had always been part of my life, but I had never thought I could make it a career (the old ego getting in the way, perhaps, or maybe just being discouraged by well-meaning parents and others who suggested it was a tough path to take). But I learned that I can make a career of doing voice-over, and also singing, and composing. It’s taken years to have it all come together, and it still is a work-in-progress (and always will be, I think). But I’m feeling so much happier and like I’m fulfilling my purpose, in a whole new way! Helping people still, but through my voice and my creative output. I love it!

  9. says

    Did you write this for me/with me in mind? ;) So needed to hear this. I’ve made it way too big. Now I’ve changed course, stopped focusing on making money at all and started listening to what feels right.I know I’ll figure it out soon and enjoy watching myself bloom in the meantime. Thank you.

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