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How to Find Your Purpose

Photo by Shannon
There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we give to our life. ~Anais Nin

What is MY purpose?

This is the recurring question I would ask myself over and over: searching, seeking, arm-wrestling with each day, in a quest to find where my place was in this grand universe.

I would look around and feel a bit left behind; others seemed to be intensely purposeful, wholeheartedly embracing a career, a path . . . why couldn’t I? What is my path?

I have read dozens of books over the years, complete with countless worksheets and self-development exercises to expand my sense of belonging in the world.

And, in the course of my pursuit, I’ve found a custom blend of practical tips + faith that has guided me to discover who I am and feel comfortable with my own authenticity.

Here are 6 tips I’ve found helpful in discovering my purpose:

1. Zoom In on Core Values

With time, as we evolve into more responsibility, commitments, different social circles and professional networks, it becomes increasingly important to know your specific values.

As your day-to-day decisions will ultimately shape your life, it’s important to know where you’re going and which values are guiding you in a specific direction.

In the past, I’ve only scratched the surface on assessing my values. The Core Values Assessment [Download] has been a helpful guide in identifying values at a deeper level.

When completing the assessment, here are a few tips:

  • Take your time with it: it’s perfectly okay to start it and come back to it later. This worksheet doesn’t have to be done in one sitting. In fact, you may find more truth and meaningful values will stem from allowing yourself patience to complete it.
  • Be honest: connect with the true essence of who you are.
  • Sometimes it is easier to think about the opposite to arrive at your values. For example, what is a trait that irritates you? Or, in other words, what is a trait that would instantly rub you the wrong way when meeting a person for the first time? For me, it’s ego. So, the opposite of this is humility. One of my values, therefore, is humility.
  • Reference the bottom of page three of The Core Values Assessment for a list of values to assist with the questions.

2. Understand Your Personality Type

We each have strengths, quirks, and weaknesses that sum us up to the amazing, unique person we individually are. When we know who we are, we can be comfortable in our own skin to discover what we are meant to do.

This 72-question Carl Jung and Briggs Myers personality test will assess your character and recommend careers based on your personality strengths.

At any point, if you struggle with the questions (as the answer choice is a simple “yes” or “no”), you may find it helpful to think back to a time when you were a child or teenager to answer the question most honestly.

(Side Note: Tina and I are both INFJs, what’s your type? Let us know in the comment section below.)

3. Reflect

Taking some alone time—whether a walk in the park, coffee on the porch, or lunch by yourself at a diner—is essential to understanding who you are and finding clarity within.

Solitude in a noise-free environment—TV off, iTunes off, children in bed, husband in a separate room—is important when we’re growing. Give yourself a chance to hear yourself think.

4. Hold Space for Not Knowing

I spent a week in the Bay Area last year attending a remarkable conference. Soren—the founder and host of the conference— started out the day brilliantly and in-touch by asking the participants to: “Hold space for not knowing”.

Sometimes we’re not meant to understand our circumstance at this precise moment. Life isn’t black and white, and often the answers we search for are not either. In the process of discovery, this is when we evolve in character, grow in depth, and open up to a colorful world.

Within the unknown, ask yourself questions. This is a practice I continually return to when there really is not a “right” or “wrong” answer. You may be surprised that the advice you’re seeking, the answers you’re searching for already exist within you.

5. Flow

Life happens rhythmically when we allow it to unfold, effortlessly, with genuine intention. Self-induced pressures limit our ability to see the grander picture. When we pull wool over our eyes by creating a sense of urgency that doesn’t need to be there, we can no longer appreciate what the universe has in store for us.

Move away from allowing yourself to “think” your way into a rut. Instead, move towards allowing the “flow” of faith to guide you.

There is no hard and fast rule to live life. There is not a box. Flow with it and see what happens…you may be humbly surprised at the success (however you choose to define it) you find along the way.

6. Love Yourself First

Often times we are our biggest obstacles. In hindsight, reflecting on my journey, the challenges I’ve faced were created by me—I stood in my own way.

The way we see one another and the world is a mirror reflection of the way we perceive ourselves. In order to find our authentic place in the world, we have to first find love for ourselves. We cannot serve the world with our definite purpose, wholly, unless we first serve ourselves.

And, remember, to savor each stepping stone–it’s what makes the purpose you’re so diligently seeking worth the journey in the first place.

Parting Thoughts on Purpose

At the Wisdom 2.0 conference, I met an accomplished author who described my many titles as a “Portfolio Career”. This meant that I was able to live, work, and experience fulfillment through a collection of dynamic skill sets I had created through the years.

His words shifted my perception greatly.

Sometimes acceptance to grow and evolve is all we need to give us the courage to pursue our passion.

For me, I accepted that my corporate career has given me the resources to lead with my heart: it has translated into a wonderful home at TSN to pursue the joy I find in writing, without needing to monetize my passion.

While writing is only part-time, it has been my full-time fulfillment to connect with each of you.

Perhaps these 6 tips will help guide you. Or perhaps acceptance to grow and evolve into the purposeful you is all that is needed to gain courage to explore within.

Or perhaps, you just need a simple, honest reminder–that on this path to find purpose–it is okay to be you and to hold space of not knowing is also okay, too.

Reflect and become self-aware; give yourself some wiggle room to be in the flow of discovery on your unique journey.

Take some time to get to know you. Be comfy in your own skin. Live out loud with your authenticity. Embrace you. Love you. Accept you.

You will find your purpose within.

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About the author

Cat is a recent corporate escapee, now practicing as a full-time Zen Student. Her home, for the next year or so, is on various meditation cushions in the world.

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10 thoughts on How to Find Your Purpose

  1. Good post for a Monday!

    I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test a few times and my scores have changed throughout the years. I hover between the ENFJ or ENTP. I recently took a personality test on OWN, which was more to the point, and actually agreed with the results.

    I agree that you WE can be the biggest obstacle on our life’s journey. Lighten up and enjoy the ride. You’re not being graded, at least I don’t think you are, on your life. Be who are, be authentic. Love yourself first and love will always find you.

  2. Thank you for great article. I just want to ad:
    Forgive yourself. Learn from your mistakes and go forward. Use this affirmation, “I forgive myself for judging myself for __________ (fill in the blank i.e.: for getting sick, for acting out, for not doing your best.)

  3. Temperance

    Wonderful article! I agree with everything you said.

    I’m an INFJ as well and already know my purpose in life (for the most part), but I still plan on doing the assessment to solidify my values.

    The most important point you made, in my opinion, is “love yourself first.” I’m currently in a transitional period of my life and focusing on ME, my physical and mental health. I need to be clear and strong if I want to help people in the future!

  4. Well-written and very much needed advice! I value purpose over passion when it comes to trying to succeed. Purpose is what keeps everything meaningful and worthwhile, whereas passion may fade with time. Great article!

  5. Cat,

    This is simply one of the best articles Ive read on a blog this year. Well done.

    All of the points are well made and very useful. The one that really stands out is getting in touch with your core values. I think many (most?) people operate on values that are placed on them by society, not internally generated core values. Living according to society’s values when they differ from your own is living without integrity, and there are psychic responses to that: depression, anxiety, personality disorders, addictions…. or just generally being unhappy and unsatisfied.

    Getting down to the root of who you are, and becoming that person is the purpose of life in my opinion. And it starts with identifying and living the values that are at the core of your being.

    Oh! And its the journey to becoming who you are that matters most, because who you are is always evolving.

    Thanks for such a thought provoking post.

    Chris

  6. I think I was meant to read this today.

    So much wisdom in this post… things I needed to read, words I need to let marinate.

    Thank you writing this.

  7. I’m an INFP, and my core values are:

    Acceptance (tolerance & openness)

    Trustworthy (loyal)

    Positive Attitude (patient, humble, confident)

    I feel like the values hold smaller values behind it. I’m curious what your core values are!

  8. Jack

    Good article, but I am in a place where I am going to have to be very patient for an extended period of time before I realise my deepest desires. I want to have a small dog rescue operation which I cannot do where I live right now. I will have to wait until I leave here with my wife and we retire in a place where I can have a couple of acres and the space to make it happen. In the meantime, I cling to my desire with a death grip.

  9. Thanks for this very well written and informative post. I found your six steps to be very helpful as I work through developing a purpose that fits with my values, personality, and passions. Thanks again!

  10. Mary Ann Muller

    Cat,
    Thank you for your excellent post. In Faith M. Davis’ book, “Letting Go Get in the Flow” she addresses some of your points. Finding purpose is a journey to enlightenment. Faith writes about our dual nature – our soul and our ego. When you can recognize the ego for what it is and release the control it has over you, that you begin to experience enlightenment. It is when your foundation is based on the knowledge and insight of your soul. True enlightenment is when that inner being is so strong that it coexists with the ego, but doesn’t allow it to consume you. May each of us grow into the best people we can be.

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