6 Ways of Finding your Purpose
A lot if written about living a purposeful life and career. Yet it can be hard sometimes to know how to discover your purpose.
What do I mean by purpose?
It is knowing ‘why’ we are doing something. It may be that what I am doing aligns with my values or what motivates me. Or my work links to how I add value to the people I serve. Or that the work we are doing is part of something greater than us. It’s being able to say why the work I am doing is important to me.
Our purpose may change or adapt over our lifetime. Priorities change, we grow out of things, Covid happens. What works now may not have worked in the past and may not work in the future. Redefining and refining our purpose is part of our journey.
How long does it take?
As a coach I often spend time with people whilst they think through their purpose. Considering next career moves and working out how best to spend their days. For a lucky few, it is really obvious.
For the rest of us – it is a journey of discovery. We look under a rock to see if it is there and get a glimpse of something – but often have to look under a lot of rocks until it becomes clear. I experience it as being something iterative. I get clearer and clearer over time, based on experience, self reflection, feedback from others and seeing what I enjoy. It is based on expressing my strengths and living my values.
A note of caution…
Before I go on – it is important for me to acknowledge that for some or many of us knowing our purpose AND being able to move in that direction may be a luxury. We may have family commitments, personal circumstances or live in situations where this isn’t possible. Most of us have had some stages of our life where it has felt like this. My encouragement is to find small ways to express your purpose. For example, if you feel fulfilled coaching people but cannot afford to become a coach, make time to sit with friends and family and listen deeply.
Here are a few ways to help you reflect on your purpose.
- The 10,000 hours route.
In her Finding your Way in a Wild New World, Martha Beck suggests that we look back at our lives and see what we have chosen (or not) to spend 10,000 hours or more doing. Depending on how old you are, this could mean 6 hours a day for 5 years or 1.5 hours a day for 20 years.
10,000 can show us the things we are drawn to, our hobbies, where we find fulfilment.
For example, I came up with a few – but the most striking one was personal growth. I have worked hard on my own personal growth and this has involved journalling, reading a lot of books on psychology, spirituality and self help. I’ve had therapists and coaches. It’s been a mission to continue to become a better version of myself. When I think about this – there is something in my purpose about helping others to be the best person they can be. I’ve been doing this for others and continue to do this by teaching, coaching and writing. I can’t seem to help myself!
- Ask a friend
Close friends often help us to see things we don’t see ourselves. They hear us talk about what matters to us. They witness our values at play in our lives and they live with us through good times and hard times. Take a friend for coffee asking their help in identifying your purpose. Take a notebook or record the conversation so you don’t forget.
- Keep a Journal
We are our own best guide of our purpose and often the clues are in what we enjoy and where we get our energy. Notice what you are drawn to doing at weekends and note this down. Reflect back on the day and note down when your energy was highest and when it was lowest. When were you in ‘flow’ and when were you struggling to get started? When did you feel aligned with your values, where did you feel misaligned?
If you’ve never journalled before, have a look at my recent blog on journalling.
- Hire a Coach
I guess I would say this…. But this one is from my own experience. I have worked with wonderful coaches over my life who have helped me to distill what was and is important for me, helping me to identify my core purpose at that time.
- Identify your Strengths
I’m not sure that it would be possible for our purpose not to be linked to our strengths. It would be really hard to feel called to do something we weren’t good at! Our strengths are another clue which help put the puzzle together of our purpose. The best tool for identifying strengths is The Strengths Finder.
- Create a Vision Board
I’ve had vision boards for years. Over time they have changed from things I wanted, to being much more about how I want to live my life. They include images and words to stimulate and pull me to towards living my best life. You can create one over time. Notice the themes coming up from your strengths and values, from your journalling and add them as you go. The picture which forms will help you to see what is really important to you.
About the Author
Jean Balfour is Managing Director of Bailey Balfour and Programme Director of our ICF Accredited Coach Training Programmes (ACTP). Jean is passionate about helping people to have good conversations both at work and at home. She believes that coaching is a life skill and that you never regret learning to coach.