Welcome to life! Most of us believe that we are here for a purpose. One of the biggest questions in life is, “Why am I here?” Much of life, I dare say most of it, is spent doing mundane, trivial and unimportant things. But there are other things that life challenges us to do, important things, that give meaning and purpose to our lives
Most of us started questioning our existence as teenagers. I don’t know if it’s teenage angst or the drugs, but the question, “Why am I here?” often starts to torture us as teenagers. Most of us keep asking it our whole lives.
Steve Jobs described a full life in one of his many commencement speeches. He said standing in front of the mirror every morning; a question would be asked. “If this were the last day of my life, would I feel good about what I’m doing today?” This is a great question and a great principle to live by. Abraham Lincoln said something similar. “When I do well, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad, and that’s my religion.” It stands to reason that the better we take care of ourselves, the better prepared we are to fulfill our purpose.
We all have occasional days we’re not proud of, but too many days together is a problem. Here are three things you can do to start your journey to discovering why you are here.
First, find something you enjoy doing. The path to purpose begins with work that brings you joy. Philosophers have said that meaning is the key to lasting joy, so it stands to reason that joy can also be the path to meaning. Look at a woman who likes to be a mother to her child, or a craftsman who likes to build things while he works. Hundreds of years ago a man was walking through a city in Italy and saw two men working. He approached the first and said, “What are you doing?” The man scowled at him and said, “I’m breaking my back is what I’m doing! I don’t know why they had to get the hardest stone in the world for this job. I’ve broken my tools and I’m going to die before that starts to take shape.” The man walked around the area and found another man working. He did the same thing as the first one. “What are you doing,” he asked. The man looked up, smile on his face, eyes bright. “I am building a beautiful cathedral. Hundreds of years from now, people will come to this cathedral and admire its beauty. They will worship God here, baptize their children here, marry here and be buried here. It must be magnificent , and I will build it.” Doesn’t it bother you that it doesn’t end alive?” asked the traveler. The man laughed. “Only God can do miracles. When my son is old enough, I will teach him this craft, and he will teach it to his son. My great-grandson will baptize my great-grandson in the church that built his Nonno, Bisnonno and Trisnonno , and he’ll be proud. That’s greatness.” The traveler left finally understanding the meaning of work.
Second, find something you’re good at or talented at. Each person has gifts and talents. When we use our talents to make a lasting impact, we are moving toward fulfilling our purpose. Unfortunately, we can be blind to our talents and abilities. Our insides never look as perfect as the outside others present to the world.
Doubt is a terrible thing. A big part of my job as a coach is to silence doubt so that my clients can discover how great they are. My job is to believe in them until they can believe in themselves. Any of us can do it for another. In an ideal world, our families would nurture our belief in ourselves. Sometimes it happens, but many people grow into adulthood without ever having someone believe in them. The belief that coaches, mentors, advisors, and our chosen family have in us can dramatically impact our lives.
Finally, find something that others value. Like many young people, I often felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. My family moved around a lot, and I never learned to master the art of being the new kid. By the time I got to high school, I had given up being one of the cool kids. I was glad I had the friends I had, even though the cool kids thought we smart kids were weird. I valued knowledge, but it wasn’t until later in life that I learned how the world values intelligence. Having the ability to find out what others value is like a superpower
Finding your purpose in life becomes important once your basic needs are met. Someone trying to find food is not so much concerned with self-actualization as with starving. No matter how noble my purpose, it ceases to matter if someone or something threatens my safety.
While some find it difficult to find their passion, others struggle because they have too many passions. One leads to depression, the other can make us become a dilettante. We bounce from one shiny thing to another, never committing to anything long enough to be good at it. Maybe you still struggle to find your purpose in life, but it doesn’t bother you so much because there are so many interesting things in the world. If you’re a “renaissance soul,” you might find that you’re here for more than one thing. You can take many paths to find the meaning of your life in various places.
Not enough passions as a result of a boring life. Motivating ourselves to take action can be difficult and a lack of action leaves us feeling empty and depressed. We cannot sit in our armchair and wait for our passion to find us. We must take action to discover what feeds our soul. My father used to say, “Do something, even if it’s wrong!” To be part of the journey of life we must act.
We have to ask a lot of questions often, especially when we feel frustrated or empty. A hint, “Why”, although a full sentence is not a great question. Here are some questions that can help you on your journey of discovery.
What do I need to be doing?
What do I want to be doing?
What should I do next?
What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? (One of my favorite questions). Fear of failure is one of the most common reasons people don’t stretch. Every significant undertaking carries with it the possibility of failure. To achieve greatness, we must risk failure.
Even after you build a life you love, there will be times when it sucks. Deciding how much suction you can tolerate is critical. Several presidents have described the concept of hard times.
“If you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Harry S. Truman
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
Carolyn Myss tells Spiritual Madness that our purpose is not always grand. We may have a burning desire to cure cancer, but our purpose on earth might be to be a light to the people living on our cul-de-sac. This was a huge disappointment and a huge relief for me. Now I find that when people tell me that I have impacted their lives, I just remember that I felt like I was just offering support and comfort.
What is your tolerance level for unpleasantness? I encourage kids trying to choose a career to think about what they would do even if they weren’t getting paid. If you give up your life to do something, it’s better to give yourself more than money.
What were you passionate about when you were 8? If you’ve lost your passion, it can be valuable to check in with your past self. Thinking about your past can help you reconnect with the passion you lost long ago. Was there anything you gave up because you weren’t good at it? Is it possible that you weren’t good because you never gave yourself a chance to be good?
What do you enjoy doing so much that you forget to eat? What do you stay up too late doing? When my son was four years old, I bought him a baseball tee. His first word was ball, so I knew it would be a hit. When he got home that afternoon, he saw T and ran into the backyard. I remember eating his dinner while standing on the T, hitting baseballs for hours. It is this kind of passion to know that your life’s purpose is moving within you. What is your obsession? What are your dream things? That you like?
Here are two of my favorite quotes about passion and purpose.
“Ask yourself what makes you come alive and do it because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
The saying “Don’t wait for your boat to come in, swim to find it,” urges us to take action. Action is important if you want to find your passion. If you wait until you feel passionate about doing things, you’ll be waiting a long time. Passion is the result of action, not the cause. Many actions can arouse passion. Volunteering to help people less fortunate than yourself is a good start. Our area has many programs that would love to have someone willing to teach a child to read, build a house for someone, or feed the poor. When you decide what you want to do, find people who want what you want and join forces. Living your life’s purpose doesn’t require you to be alone.
As you begin your journey toward purpose, remember that the wind in the sail of purpose is gratitude. You will thrive if you take the time to appreciate your successes and failures. You will be successful if you take the time to appreciate your challenges and blessings. You will find peace if you take the time to appreciate those you love and those you don’t like very much.
“Remember that every journey is a success if you enjoy the journey.” path
Cami Miller is a business coach and works with executives, entrepreneurs and family businesses to develop strategies for success. You can contact her at email@example.com