And how to find it.
By Tara Van Dam, Integrative Life Coach at Wholistic Joy Wellness
I walk out of studio 2, after just teaching a sweaty, exhilarating yoga class. It’s a great feeling; connecting with people through movement, breath, and the communication of concepts that I hope will inspire change where change is needed.
As my students begin to filter back into the lobby, one of them stops. “Thanks for a great class”, she says. “You’re welcome,” I reply. “How do you feel?”. 9 times out of 10, that’s where the conversation ends. On the 10th, however, something magical unfolds out of this exchange of simple pleasantries. Instead of “enjoy the rest of your day”, we move onto a real conversation. A conversation that speaks from heart to heart, not just words to words.
It is in these moments that I feel the most authentically connected to me. Something shifts. There’s an ease, a flow, which is accompanied by a profound sense of fulfilment. Having the opportunity to connect with another human on a level that touches at the real in their life, creates a heart held memory that will be added to the ornate vase of heart held memories like it.
There are other places I feel this deep fulfilment and flow as well. One such place is when I am walking in nature alone. Although a completely different activity, they are bound together. In these times of solitude, where I feel a primal connection with Mother Earth and myself in relation to her, is where I am best able to tap into the light of my being – my true self. And, in these incomparable moments, I formulate the insights and understanding that will serve to enhance my next real and intimate conversation.
As I look back over my life, the moments that stand out as having left me feeling fulfilled, peaceful, and content are all moments that either have involved a real, deep connection with another person, or they have been times where I have gained insight into the struggle and inspiration of being human.
This was true as a child and it is true now.
Through the veil of ignorance, I did not realize what these moments were trying to communicate to me: that behind the joy I experienced lay the clues to my life purpose. I just did not know I was supposed to be looking for it.
What is a life purpose?
When we begin to think about our purpose, we tend to put a practical quality to it; my purpose is something I should be doing.
But a purpose is not about the doing. It is about the why behind the doing. If our purpose was just about doing that one thing we are meant to do, then the possibility of missing the mark becomes far too great.
No, your purpose is not about doing something. It is about what that doing thing is expressing.
I was connected to my purpose in every meaningful conversation that I had ever had – whether that conversation was in a boardroom or on a surfboard. Whether I was the main talker or the listener. My purpose was also being expressed every time I was able to find enough stillness to dive into the philosophical nature of being alive. Likewise, my purpose is being expressed right now as I find a way to communicate these concepts in a meaningful way to you.
If my purpose was simply about doing the one thing I am meant to be doing, then which is it? Which of all these examples, is the best?
No, there is not one specific thing that you are meant to be doing. But there is one purpose that you are meant to be expressing through everything that you choose to do.
Put another way, your purpose is your “I am”. How you express that “I am” in your life, that is your mission.
Your mission will change, depending on circumstances, the season of life you are in etc. But your purpose will stay the same forever.
How do you know if you are living according to your purpose?
It’s a feeling. If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed, unhappy, unfulfilled, then chances are you are not expressing your purpose in your day-to-day life. Something needs to change.
But you cannot change what you aren’t aware of, so the first step is to do the work to discover what your purpose is. From that point, you will be able to ask yourself “how can I make the necessary changes so that I am living according to my purpose? So that my mission is an expression of my ‘I am’?”
My purpose is this: I am a communicator of light.
Now this might not make a whole lot of sense to you, and it doesn’t need to. Your purpose is just that; it’s yours.
To me, the word “light” represents being both a guide and a source of hope, as well as a depiction of my true self and the true self that lies within you. The word “communicator” is important for me to include because communicating the insights and concepts that lead to this light shining brighter in the lives of others is an essential part of who I am. There is so much in these words that I chose that I couldn’t possibly explain, but they make sense to me, just as yours (when you’ve found it) will make sense to you.
Once I uncovered my purpose, the question of what should I be doing with my life (on a big, professional scale and in my day-to-day interactions and choices) became very simple to answer. Does this align with my purpose? Does this communicate light? If not, make a different choice?
How do you find you purpose?
Putting down steps feels a little inauthentic, because the process doesn’t necessarily happen in a consecutive way. It’s more of a web. However, seeing as I don’t have the privilege of working one on one with you, this is the next best option.
Below are a series of questions that you can use to start to uncover your life purpose. Answer them now as best you can (perhaps with a journal) and then let them sit within you. See how they inform your day and how your day informs your answers to them.
This process may take you a few hours, or it could take a year. Trust this though, that nothing you learn from this experience will be pointless. You never know what you might discover about yourself that up until this moment, had been hidden from view. We all know knowledge is power. The same applies to knowledge about you and your life.
- What brings me joy?
Think about all the things in your life that bring you joy, in the present time of your life and when you were younger. Try and separate joy that comes from fulfilling the expectations of others versus joy that comes when something within you has been fulfilled.
Joy, in this context, is not meant to be something fleeting or outcome-attached. Rather, this joy is a happiness and contentment that lies deeper and lives longer.
As you formulate your list, ask yourself what these examples have in common. What is the thread, or the theme that connects them? There might be several to start, but as you look more closely, there will be one thing that they all share.
2. What has always been true about me?
Again, look back over your life and find things that have always been true. Your answer can be informed by how others describe you, as well as what you intuitively know about yourself.
Again, what commonalities can you find? What thread or theme connects them?
Which of these characteristics speak to you the most?
3. What is important to you?
What are your values? Values are things that guide how you interact with the world around you. They are your moral compass, your guiding principles, your true north.
Make a list and then investigate each item further. For example, you might put down “family” as something that you value. Look at this and contemplate what it is about family that you truly value? Is it the deep connections? Is it the unconditional love? Is it the unwavering support? What are the characteristics of your family that you value?
Another way to discover what your values are, is to look at situations that trigger you. Oftentimes, when we are triggered, it is because one of our values has been threatened. For example, you might feel offended when someone has left you waiting. What might lie within that reaction that speaks to a value of yours? Perhaps you value mutual respect?
There can be as many items on your value list as you like. Some may be more significant than others, depending on your current season of life.
4. Visualize your shape
If you had to pick any shape or image that represents who you are, what would you choose? Let it be an instinctual answer, rather than something thought through in detail.
Once you’ve chosen your shape or image, then start to reflect on the characteristics of this shape. What is inherently true about it? What does it represent to you? What inferences can you draw from it? Get creative. Think outside the box.
You chose this shape as a representation of who you are. How does it relate to you? This could be in how you currently are or perhaps there are elements of the shape/image that represent who you are striving to become?
5. What is my purpose?
You have looked at your joys, your values, the things that have always been true about you, and given yourself a visual representation. Within all of this, lies your “I am”.
At this point, it may have jumped off the metaphorical page, or maybe it’s still a mystery. That’s ok. Stay with it. Your mind has been infused with self-knowledge and the desire to discover. Trust in that and your purpose will reveal itself to you.
6. Last points
I said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Your purpose and the words you choose, do not have to make sense to anyone but you.
You will know you’ve landed on the right words when they come to you. It will feel different.
As a guide, your “I am” needn’t be any longer than about 5-9 words.
Living according to your purpose is a life changer. Those feelings of “what am I meant to be doing with my life? Am I on the right track? Surely there should be so much more to life?” will finally have a place to rest. From the foundation of your purpose, you will be able to design your life the way you deserve to and the world will be able to benefit from you shining your light in the way you were always meant to.
The world is a better place when you are living out your purpose. It is worth taking the time to uncover it.
Tara is an integrative life coach and owner of Wholistic Joy Wellness. If you would like to work with her, click here.