It started with a simple question.
MiMi, are you using your gifts? It was the third time my pastor had asked me if I was using the gifts God had given in my work.
I was angry with her. Of course, I was using these gifts. I was traveling the world defending companies, CEOs and executives, and making impact in the lives and careers they had worked so hard to build. I was getting paid a lot of money to do it. What’s not to love? Wasn’t that my gift?
1. Personal Reflection
I decided to take a step back. I had confided in my pastor that I wasn’t happy with the direction of my career. I wasn’t really angry with her because of her question. I was angry because I was afraid to face the truth. I knew something was missing. This wasn’t a big surprise. I was unfulfilled, passively unhappy, and felt stuck, but I was committed to doing a great job and being a good employee. I loved my colleagues and all the work experience I was getting. So, why did I feel so empty when I had all these amazing opportunities? I could think of only one thing. I was being ungrateful.
Yes, I had put my desire to become a full-time fashion entrepreneur and life coach on hold. It had been 10 years. What’s another year? There was time. Maybe someday. It never occurred to me that if I knew why I wanted to do these two things, I’d make it happen NOW, instead of someday. My trusty inner critic was always reminding me of what I should or should not be feeling. After all, I should just be grateful that I am healthy, have a job, people who love me and a roof over my head. Any other thoughts would just be plain selfish.
My faith was my personal guide in my process. I prayed about it and shared my thoughts with my former pastor. Surely, he would say something different and justify me staying in my comfort zone. He did not. “You’re going to do what God created you to do and use the gifts he gave you,” he told me. “You’re scared and running away from it now. It’s a big responsibility. Don’t worry. Eventually you’ll be restless enough to stop running. Your whole world will turn upside down, and even that won’t scare you, or keep you away from living your purpose. And by the way, everyone in your life will think you’re crazy.”
2. Fear + My Comfort Zone
To be honest, I was mildly afraid. I pondered his words. Was he prophesying doom? Were his words a promise of something sweet to come? I wasn’t sure. I was safely and securely living in my comfort zone. I wanted no part of anything that would turn my world upside down. Ever.
But, after another restless year, I decided to follow that dream that had haunted me for over 10 years. I would start my fashion business and find a great coach training program.
Well, things did not exactly go as planned. That same day, I learned about a great opportunity to work as a prosecutor for an organization I had dreamed of working for when I was in college. So, I applied, got the job, and moved on. Again, someday I would find time to do the things I believed God had put in my heart. What’s another few years?
I told my pastor my great news, and she asked again whether I was using the gifts God had given me?
I was confused. If this new job wasn’t fate, then what was it? I would be using the experiences I had gained all these years. The best part was that my world had not fallen apart, and now I could be an advocate for women and children in developing countries; something I was really passionate about. I was going to love this. Right?
3. Stirrings of Restlessness
No, and not just because I wasn’t doing the advocacy I had imagined.
I felt emptier inside than I ever had. On the outside, everything looked amazing. Yet, I was living this perfect lie. My life was incongruent with my core values, who I was and what I wanted. I was anxious over aimlessly going nowhere, and kept self-sabotaging myself with the same kind of work in the same field.
I was getting restless.
4. Clarity + Letting Go of Limiting Beliefs
A few months into my new job I got sick, and stayed on bed rest for a few months. Nothing provides the perfect opportunity for reactive reflection than being forced to quietly lie down and look up at ceiling for weeks at a time.
I used the time to discover what my unique purpose was in the world. I was tired of feeling empty and restless. Growing up, I wanted a life that I was hopelessly, passionately and head over heels in love with. Now, I hungered for a purpose that tugged at my heart, was authentic, exhilarating and reflected my talents, skills and strengths.
After a few weeks, I realized it was the same purpose I had identified when I was 8-years-old. I wanted to make colorful, joyful clothing and accessories for women, and empower women and children to joyfully become everything they were created to be. I had been holding that dream in my heart for 30 years.
Yet, somehow, my inner critic and negative self-talk had convinced me that this childish, colorful joy thing was just a pipe dream. What I really needed in real life was a good education, and a solid job that paid me good money, even if the only compelling reason for me showing up everyday was just to pay bills and not get fired.
5. Faith + Works + Affirmation
Then it happened. Six years later, my personal life turned completely upside down. My whole world felt like it was crashing down on me, and I couldn’t breathe. In the middle of everything falling apart around me, I felt the most powerful awakening and call to seek greater alignment between who I am and how I live my life.
As the walls came crashing down, I took a mental and emotional break. Overwhelmed, broken and numb, I spent some beautiful quiet time praying and meditating on how I could reflect God’s beauty in the world. Once I figured it out, I was ready to move toward my purpose.
My former pastor affirmed my decision. “This is the biggest step of faith you’re ever going to take,” he said. “In the natural it seems like everything is going wrong in your life. But your purpose is not tied to what you can do or see in this particular moment. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with how you’re going to use your experiences and gifts to make a difference in the world. And don’t give any thought to anyone who thinks you’ve lost your mind. You’re finally going to put some works behind that faith you say you have” I forgot to tell him I really didn’t give a damn what anyone thought.
The next day I quit my job, stepped out in faith and uncovered my possiblities.
I had found my raison d’être. I discovered my WHY.
I made a commitment to show up fully in every area of my life.
I shared the good news with my pastor. “I knew you would do what God put in your heart to do. I am so happy for you on this new journey,” she said. I’m so happy that you’re going to use up all the gifts God has given you.”
Somehow, I knew she would feel that way. I felt better than I ever had in 40 years.
6. Vision + Purpose + Mission + Goals + Strategic Action = Be, Do and Create Joy
The next day I hired a transformational life coach, and used my vision, purpose and mission to identify goals and create a strategic plan aligned with my passion and dreams. My life purpose is JOY.
Today, I am far from perfect and I know there is no such thing or place to be, but I know for sure that the experiences that transformed my life were amazing gifts. Gifts wrapped in painful sandpaper that prepared me for my work and play. My big WHY guides my vision for every area of my life; as a mum, a fashion designer and entrepreneur, a life + relationship coach, and all my personal and business relationships.
As a transformational life coach, I am inspired, blessed and humbled everyday by the opportunity to see people discovering, accepting, loving, and most importantly, embracing their WHY, and being everything they were created to be in their personal lives, work or business.
7. Your Turn
What about you? What matters to you?
What special qualities and gifts shape how you look at the world, how you show up, and what you offer?
What drives you in your personal life, work or business? What role does the amount of money you make play in keeping you where you are?
What roles in life have you chosen to play? Which ones have you being pushed into by the way you were raised, or by being who others want you to be?
What do you see possible for yourself if you carve out time to proactively reflect on who you want to be for rest of your life?
What is your WHY?
1. the things you are passionate about;
2. the activities that you can engage in for hours and happily lose track of time;
3. the people, places or things that inspire you;
4. the things you frequently get complimented on;
5. whose pain you feel, and why it challenges you to make a difference;
6. what needs in the lives of people around you are not being met;
7. what difference you want to make in the world;
8. what has been the most meaningful experience in your life;
9. what you dreamed of the most when you were a kid; and
10. what you want your legacy to be when you look back on your life.
Why does this self-reflection matter?
What if knowing your purpose not only helps you identify the obstacles keeping you stuck, but also gives you the confidence and clarity to makes decisions, and to determine how you spend each day for the rest of your life.
Your life purpose gives you your WHY. It gives you a compelling reason for creating and living the life you choose.
It gives you the courage to act on your goals, on the things that once scared you, on the things you thought you did not have it in you to do.
I have learned four important lessons about purpose.
1. There is no right or wrong way to discover one’s purpose.
2. Your purpose has nothing to do with you – It is a gift to the world.
3. You may be restless, stuck, bored, empty or unfulfilled until you discover and live your purpose.
4. You may experience some pain before you get to your purpose.
Wherever you are on your journey, discovering your purpose is something to look forward to. Your life purpose does not have to be deep or profound. Keep an open mind to learn what really matters to you. The who and how work themselves out.
Where else other than in life can you be everything you were created to be? It is never too late to discover your life purpose. Sometimes we convince ourselves that life is too busy to live fully. And sometimes we even believe it. We all have the option to live our purpose now or take it with us. There is no right or wrong. Just a choice.
At the end of it all, when work, play and life is done, can you look back and say, I truly lived?
Want to share your experience? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.