How to find your life's purpose
Figuring out how to find your life's purpose leads to general contentmentWell-meaning friends, family, and school counselors drum it into your head at an early age: Make sure you have something to fall back on. Sure it sounds like reasonable advice but, unfortunately, this advice often conflicts with finding your life’s purpose and has caused an epidemic of “Plan B” lives.
Channel Your Inner-Child
When you ask a six year old what she wants to be when she grows up, mostly like she lists a plethora of possibilities: princess, veterinarian, teacher, or gymnast. She does not however, stop to consider whether such professions are sensible or have a stellar benefits package. Instead, she speaks from her heart and tells you what would be fun and exciting and rewarding for her to do day in and day out.
By setting aside practicality and listening to your own inner-child, you can start to discover long forgotten dreams that may become the foundation upon which your life’s purpose will be built. This does not mean that you have to disregard practicality entirely, simply that you should allow yourself to give equal weight to what will make you happy and fulfilled as you examine your options and decide on a new direction for your life.
Examine Your “Plan B”
Another way to determine the purpose of your life is to re-examine where things got off course in the first place — pinpoint precisely when you gave up on “Plan A” and decided that “Plan B” was a more realistic alternative.
Often we veer off course when we allow others' good intentions to plant seeds of doubt regarding our goals. Perhaps at a young age you mentioned to a beloved aunt that you liked to write stories and she urged you to consider a career in journalism or advertising rather than as a novelist or poet. (While it is true that there are not a lot of poets whose words have given them a financially comfortable existence, this well-meaning advice can rob individuals of the emotional and spiritual wealth that comes from doing something you love instead of something that merely “pays the bills.”)
The well-meaning words of friends and family provide rich grounds for the seeds of doubt to germinate; the uncertainty of a writer’s life can seem foolhardy and the 401k and health insurance of a more traditional job starts to look appealing ... and Plan A is unceremoniously discarded.
Even if you long ago abandoned your dreams in favor of the security of Plan B, it is worth examining your choices, to recall what you originally envisioned for your life, and to see if your past aspirations still hold any lure … to see if it is time to dust off your Plan A.
Tap Your Talents
Perhaps you have always been told that you have a knack for painting, or cooking, or gardening. It could be that your talent is actually your calling.
It has become somewhat of a rarity that people actually commit their life to what they enjoy doing. Too often a soul’s passion is confined to a “hobby” status while the nine-to-five work day is dedicated to whatever brings in a paycheck. However, when you love what you do it ceases to feel like work.
Make a list of your talents and passions in order to determine how you can make these things the focus of your life instead of confining these interests to your off hours.
Validate Your Values
Another way to narrow down your life’s purpose is to examine the beliefs you hold dear. Maybe you are passionate about the protecting the environment, or curing a disease, or helping the homeless; purpose driven goals such as these may provide insight into possible aspirations for your life. By living a life that is true to your belief system, you may also create lasting change in other lives as well.
Finding your life’s purpose may not happen overnight. It takes time to learn to dream again, to open yourself to the possibilities of life and not just its practicalities, but as Neil Gaiman so wisely wrote in The Graveyard Book, “If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”
The University of the Arts: Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Advice
Psychology Today: Prescriptions for Life