Of all self-actualization concepts, purpose is one of the most loaded and most crucial.
Finding and acknowledging our unique purpose is powerful because, once identified, it ultimately drives us, with clear, articulated direction, to accomplish everything we do in life.
Professionally, it can serve as an invaluable internal compass - a gravity-strength commitment to core values facilitating our choices, intensifying our victories, and guiding us in difficult conversations and in times of deep stress. It can help us refocus, stay consistent, and be effective team leaders, entrepreneurs and corporate executives.
Purpose Is Intrinsic
Our authentic purpose, the fuel for our fire, exists deep inside of us, whether it's dormant or dominant. Even people who have explored the concept extensively often have a limited definition of purpose, mistakenly tethering it to a job, organization, vocation, or title.
Purpose far transcends our day-to-day work. Purpose is a soul print, a core layer of the true self, like fossils below or stars above: existent regardless of discovery, but always ready to be found and fulfilled. Purpose realized can permeate every arena of life, which can lead to a super-powered work/life integration that feels easy, fun, and flows, uninterrupted, from one aspect of existence to another.
Plenty of successful people in the world possess a natural intuition that keeps them on track and connected to their "reason for being." These individuals may not need to articulate their purpose because they live it without naming or seeking it. Most of us, however, need to intentionally identify our purpose and, upon doing so, will experience a wellspring of passion and inspiration that forever enlightens both our personal and professional lives.
For some, identifying purpose is surprisingly easy; for others, it is understandably difficult. While our brains certainly contribute to the process, we can't find our true purpose without stepping out of our analytical minds and connecting to what viscerally expands us and inspires us to take action.
As you begin to seek your own purpose, be kind to yourself and know that it's a process you can iterate on as often as you choose. You'll know when you land on it: you will brim with excitement, possibility, and intention, not unlike a child plopping down in a very large, spectacular sandbox.
Enlisting a close friend or coach to help keep you non-judgmental during this process is helpful. We all have strong, protective egos that will do whatever they can to stop us from claiming something big about ourselves. Envisioning oneself in a bold and expansive frame can be scary; smallness feels much safer. That's where a coach comes in. She or he can assist you in seeing your very best self, preconceptions be damned.
It's also important to understand you will not be judged or graded on your purpose statement. It's not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The thing that sparks and ignites each of us is as distinct as our DNA. It doesn't matter if someone else's statement feels "bigger" than yours - thinking that way indicates that your ego is running the show. Your heart needs to lead when pursuing your purpose statement. Working with a friend who's unattached to the outcome means someone can address your ego when it tries to hinder your heart. Overruling your ego in this way can be the difference between a life spent chasing artificial ambition, and paving the path to your true purpose.
Below are two questions to start the process. Take no more than 15 minutes to reflect and answer the questions, understanding that there are no wrong answers. Your responses, however, may help you consider yourself from a different perspective.
1. What do you share at the mountain top?
You've just arrived at the peak of a mountain, and millions of people from all over the world are there to listen to you. You can share ONE word or phrase with them. ONE drawing, or ONE photo. What do you share?
2. What are people showing you gratitude for?
You are 120 years old. You are in your home exactly where you want it to be. People from all times of your life are approaching you and thanking you. What are they thanking you for?
Did your answers surprise you? Are you confused or intimidated by their grandiosity, or annoyed by their simplicity? Are you second-guessing a response that came quickly and naturally?
Take some time living life through the lens(es) this exercise revealed. As your heart and mind take turns zeroing in on your purpose, you will get closer to translating it into words, which will become the powerful tool I call your purpose statement. If ever your sense of purpose wanes, your purpose statement can be a lingual touchstone in times of tranquility and turmoil, and everything in between.
Technically, a purpose statement should be concise and profound, but can take many forms. Here are three examples to start feeling out your own best statement structure. The italicized words are placeholders for the metaphor and description that best fits your most expanded and inspired self:
I am the sun that brightens the lives of all those in my path.
I am the mountain that brings strength to all those who see me.
I am here to bring light and transformation to heal suffering hearts.
The statements above make no reference to job, title or vocation; they can apply to an athlete, doctor, teacher, lawyer, janitor, carpenter, executive, clergy, parent, artist, politician...the list is endless. Finding the statement that drives you internally is what's important. As you go through your day, let this statement be the backdrop for whatever you do.
This is only a small prompt for a pivotal, soulful discovery, so don't be frustrated if you aren't there in a day, week or month. The quest is well worthwhile, so stay the course. Your work, your life, and your work life will thank you.