I’ve been spending less time on my blog this summer. I guess you could say that I’ve been away on a long journey. Not the kind that requires a passport, but a long journey just the same.
Most of the journey was spent finishing my master’s degree, researching and writing the massive paper required for my final thesis. I knew it would be a big, time-consuming project as I mentioned in this article about Climbing Your Own Mount Everest. What I didn’t realize was how much of my focus and energy it would take. As a result, I took a little break from blogging and other social activities. You could say, I was a bit of a hermit.
After successfully completing my thesis and graduating, I felt an overwhelming sense of, “Now what?” Maybe you’ve experienced the same feeling in your own life – after completing a large project, when your child started or finished school, when you left a job, or some other major transition.
I had thought once I completed my master’s degree and thesis, that my journey would be complete and I’d jump back into my “regular routines.” What I failed to consider was that completing that goal would begin yet another journey. I began to question whether I wanted to continue this blog, continue my healthcare consulting work and taking coaching clients, or perhaps, take a new direction instead. I spent a lot of time re-evaluating my own purpose in life, and even reevaluating what “purpose” means in the first place. It was a great period of self reflection as I enjoyed what was left of summer, and visited with friends and family at our home.
I realized some really great lessons about purpose that want to share with you. Here they are, in no particular order:
1.) Know Your Why
The only consistent thing in life is change. There are endings, new beginnings, and all kinds of things in between. Your why isn’t tied to any one job or role that you play. Your why remains relatively consistent throughout your life, even though your role or the expression of your why may change.
For example, if your why is to, “Inspire others so that they can make the world a better place,” there are many careers that would allow you to fulfill your why.
2.) Complete Clarity Does Not Always Exist
Your purpose may not always be as crystal clear as you’d like it to be. Sometimes it’s fuzzy. Many times, the only thing you know for sure is the next step you need to take. And that’s ok. If you only see the next step, take it. Don’t wait until everything is perfectly clear. In fact, you may need to take a lot of steps before you have clarity of purpose.
As Martin Luther Kind so eloquently stated, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
3.) Notice and Examine Resistance
If you have a strong resistance to something, dig deeper. Find out why you have an aversion to something, especially if it’s a strong aversion. This can often be a clue about your purpose. Shakespeare understood this concept in the 1600’s when he wrote, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” This means, when someone has a strong negative aversion to something, it’s because they are trying to convince themselves or others of something that isn’t authentic or accurate. Or maybe it’s just an indication that they care deeply about the subject.
I’ve found this to be true in my own life. I keep returning to healthcare leadership positions. Each time, however, I convince myself after awhile that I despise working in healthcare. The system is broken and I want to work anywhere but healthcare. When I stopped protesting so much, I realized that I have a strong belief in providing access to healthcare services for everyone. I still dislike the broken system, but instead of fighting and protesting, I’m working with others to help create a new effective system through my current work in healthcare innovation.
4.) The Answer is Within You
You can take all of the assessments and questionnaires out there that promise to help you find your purpose. These tools can provide some wonderful insights about yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs. However, the only place you will ever find the answer is by looking inside yourself.
Listening to your inner voice and how your body responds to different situations and opportunities is what will help you identify your purpose. As Simon Sinek says, “look for a visceral response.” If doing something makes you really happy and you get excited just thinking about it, that is a clue.
5.) Purpose is in Service to Others
As research has shown, we are happiest when we are serving others. That’s just how we’re wired as humans. We all have the innate need to help our fellow humans in some way. This is why pursuing money or success alone only results in emptiness and the feeling that something is missing. The secret to finding your purpose is to ask yourself this question: How can I serve or how can I help?
That’s it! I’ve had a great summer, learning more about my purpose and getting reenergized for the next journey in my life. What has been effective for you in uncovering your purpose? Share your own experience in the comments below.