Updated: May 1
What is Your Life’s Purpose?
You know those people who knew what they wanted to be when they were 10? The ones who were hyper focused on their purpose in life and made it all look so easy? If you are anything like me, that is NOT what happened on your life's journey. Most people live the life that found them instead of the one that filled them with a sense of purpose.
Now, there is nothing wrong with working for the sake of a pay cheque so you can pay the mortgage and pay for your kid’s hockey or dance class. Your purpose isn’t always in your paying work. However, for those of you, like me, who want one purposeful life instead of a work / life balance, finding a way to make money while fulfilling your purpose is the holy grail.
What is Purpose?
The dictionary says purpose is the reason something exists. According to the University of Minnesota, purpose can guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning. Other definitions I found are, a goal or intention, a plan to do something, the things we strive for, and determination. My favourite definition, purpose is the reason we do something.
Simon Sinek wrote a whole book on finding our “Why,” He says our, “WHY is the purpose, cause or belief that drives every one of us.” He helps people understand why they get up, go to work, and find passion in their daily lives to help organizations move forward. His popularity is a sign that people are seeking a reason for living by knowing what they do matters.
How can you know what your purpose is?
You feel Jealous
Have you ever cringed with discomfort and envy when someone told you what they did for a living or how they were changing the world? Do you wish you were? Whenever I met someone who was a writer, I’d have a gut wrenching physical reaction. Yet, I would push the idea away and continue to live the life I had, not the one I needed.
Is it a Hobby?
Do you spend your free time on the fringes of your purpose? For years, I would put my toe in the waters of storytelling through photography, scrapbooking, and working in sales. My interests and jobs help me develop storytelling skills so when I was finally willing to embrace my purpose, I had the talent and skills to succeed.
Do You Feel Joy?
When we feel joy, we are living within our purpose. For eighteen years, my purpose was to be a mother and I loved every minute with my kids. I felt joy every day. Then they grew up, became independent, and moved out of the house. Suddenly, I needed a new purpose to fill those long weeks between visits. Finding my reason for living was not easy. I had to reflect back to my younger years to remember what else in life brought me joy.
Do you Lose time?
When you are engaged in doing something, do you lose track of time and become so focused on what you are doing, you forget to eat and push until you fall asleep? When I’m writing, I lose time and I forget everything around me because I am getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper. There has been more than one meal missed and a pile of toothpicks keeping my eyes open.
.What did you do as a Kid?
Think back to when you were a kid, spending time on your own, what did you do?
I spent a lot of time alone as a kid because of where we lived and my personality. When I think back to how I entertained myself, the ribbon woven throughout my childhood is story. I was always telling myself stories to keep my mind busy. I loved reading and would imagine the stories playing out in different ways than the author had written. I wrote stories and made little books using binding techniques I'd learned in school. When I was in University, I played around with the idea of writing my generations story, like Hemingway did for the lost generation, then I graduated and the realities of life got in the way.
Scared to Fail
Is there something you wish you could do, or you want to do, but you don’t because let’s face it, if you fail then that’s the end of a dream? Sometimes having the dream keeps us safe from ever having to do it because we can always say, “I could have been a <insert your purpose> if I’d really wanted to.” The saddest story is the one we never experience.
By doing nothing, we can blame others and circumstances for never embracing our purpose instead of trying and finding out we never had what it took to be a <insert your purpose>.
For years, I hid from my purpose because I was scared others were right and I wasn’t good enough to be a writer. Yes, people told me I wasn’t good enough and I believed them. I allowed knee jerk comments and uninformed assumptions of other people to hold me back from living my purpose. I admit it. Can you?
If you aren’t living your purpose because you are scared you will fail, be embarrassed, or lose something – you’ve already lost. I know I’m a writer because I keep writing and putting it out there into the most judgemental and cruel of places - the Internet. I can’t stop. I am compelled to keep trying. This is how I know I am doing what I was meant to do.
What Happens when you Hit a Wall?
Everything we do has problems that need to be fixed and sacrifices which need to be made. If the sacrifices and problems you face are draining you and leaving you rolled up in a ball hiding in the closet from them, then it isn’t your purpose. When you are doing what you are meant to do problems and obstacles will challenge you to dig deeper not drag you down.
Make an Impact
You are on this earth for a short period of time, yet your choices will leave a big impact on future generations. Is there something you are passionate about and want to change in the world? Is there something you want to leave for your children or grandchildren?
I have always loved history and the story of humanity. When I was in London UK, I saw a wall built a thousand years ago and whoever built it made an impact on this world. They built something that I could touch a millennium later. The wall is proof of their existence, though I don’t know their names or their stories -- They mattered. They did something to move humanity forward and to remind us they lived.
A purpose can impact one person, a small group of people, or the whole world. Whatever your purpose is, it is evidence that your life matters.
When in Doubt, Try.
You don’t know until you try. Go out and do different things until you find the thing you like to do. Today, you have the internet to find groups, classes, and ideas.
If you always wanted to be a dancer but you never took a dance class, how do you know that is truly what you want to do? Take some classes and see what happens. You may not become a Prima Ballerina, that takes dedication, youth, natural talent, and super-human focus. However, there are other ways to fulfill a purpose as a dancer.
I applied for writing jobs. I tried to get the gatekeepers, agents, and hiring managers to see my purpose. They didn’t. Many said I wasn’t good enough, but I kept going and then one idea led to another one, which led to someone who believed in me. Now I’m publishing APeeling and creating magazines for professionals who have a brand story to tell the world. Sure, I didn’t become my generation’s version of Hemingway, but I still can say I’m a writer and have a purpose.
When I Retire
What are you waiting for retirement to try? There is no guarantee you’ll make it to retirement and the way the world is going many of us will never be able to retire, unless we want to live in abject poverty. So, why wait?
Remember, you don’t have to make a living from your purpose. Lots of people work to earn a living so they can live their purpose on weekends.
When We don’t Live our Purpose.
When things fall apart or you continue to come up against brick wall after brick wall no matter what you do, life might be telling you something. When my life was in transition and I didn’t know my purpose, I felt like the ball in a pinball machine being thrown from one thing to the other and never getting anywhere.
I was meant to be a writer. I am supposed to be telling stories. Even though others were not willing to hire me as a writer, I am still doing it. I found a way where I did not need the approval of gatekeepers or hiring managers.
We all need a reason for living, a purpose, a why. The thing which gives our lives meaning and makes an impact on the world. Figuring out what will bring meaning to your life is a process. It can take time for the stars to align and life to open the door of opportunity. Until then, know your existence matters and you have a purpose for being here.
Shannon Peel is the talent behind the MarketAPeel brand.