Purpose is an age-old topic that has been pondered throughout history by many philosophers and theologians, and by pretty much all of us at one point or another. In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world where we are being pulled in many directions at once, identifying your purpose is more important than ever.
Life has a way of keeping us distracted and focused only on chores and problem-solving. Day after day and week after week, many people go about their work and their daily lives without much consideration of anything else. They spend their days reacting to situations and being controlled by the events that happen around them instead of being proactive and anchoring their choices and actions to meaning and values. But we are created to do so much more than simply exist and go through the motions; we are designed to thrive and build a life that we love, not just make a living or overcome hurdles.
What is Purpose?
It’s an ultimate goal that you have for your life that’s driven forward by possibility, not fear. You follow this path because it has an intention, it serves a desire, and it helps you live with purpose. This means living up to your highest potential as the extraordinary human being you are.
Purpose is Fluid
Do you ever feel pressured, like you should have a massive and clear plan for your entire life, and you don’t? I have liberating news for you: you don’t need to.
Your purpose is fluid and likely to develop and change shape as you grow and evolve. You may have a significant life experience that pushes you in a different direction than the one you thought you were headed in. Sometimes events will happen outside of your control that can cause you to shift course and make adjustments to your purpose. You might also reach your current destination, which means it’s time to reset your compass. This could mean an extension of your current direction or a new one altogether. It’s okay for your North Star to transform over time. But whatever it is right now, let it guide you. Day after day, we are always headed in one direction or another. As the days add up, it becomes the path, for better or worse, of a person’s life.
A few people seem to have incredibly clear visions and life purpose right from a young age, but most do not. Some people have several North Stars, which is perfectly fine as long as they are aligned and there is no conflict among them. And sometimes a person has a single North Star, one objective, one philosophy, that draws together all the dimensions of his or her life. The beauty of fluidity is that you retain power over your purpose at all times by understanding its dynamic nature and your ability to reframe your purpose whenever you need to.
There is a place in all of us where the nasties hang out - such as your fears, repressed emotions, doubts, limiting beliefs, shame, and regrets. Carl Jung called it “the shadow”, the unconscious side of your personality that you’d rather hide from others.
Many interpretations depict the shadow as negative, but “unfamiliar” is probably a better word. We tend to fear the unknown so it makes sense that the shadow side of ourselves gets unfavourably categorised. However, our dark side holds both our deepest insecurities as well as our unrealised potential. If we allow ourselves to see our shadow as “untapped” we can approach it with curiosity instead of disdain.
The ego, our conscious self that we readily share with the world, has the least to teach us about our purpose because it is carefully constructed and edited to reflect our desired self-image. We tend to seek out relationships that validate what we want people to see. Some people go to great lengths to maintain focus on their public ego, avoid the shadow altogether, and end up completely missing out on the intrinsic capabilities and talents stored there.
Your shadow holds the answers to your purpose. If discovering your purpose is really about a journey of self-discovery, your richest soil for growth is stored in your vulnerable darkness.
Exploring the Emotional Mind
To discover your purpose, you must get comfortable with exploring the emotional mind. You must accept ambiguity and become okay with not having clear-cut answers. You must allow yourself to feel and not try to overpower your feelings with rationalisations. Reasoning your way to a purposeful life usually doesn’t work. This idea is confronting for some people and they don’t choose to explore there, or worse, they don’t think they need to. Which is why some people will live their entire lives never recognising their true purpose.
Listen to Your Heart
No matter what choices you make, ensure that you make them because it is what your heart and soul crave. Your heart, not your head, is the guiding force of your life and only you have the knowledge of your true purpose. Knowledge that you may not always be mindful of, which often occurs when we get caught up in the hamster wheel of life and we disconnect from our heart. We must be diligent to not let life disrupt what our heart truly wants. Nobody has ever dreamed of being a hamster. Listen to your heart and you will find your purpose there.