A friend asked me recently what my life purpose is. She asked me glibly, almost as a joke, but I took it seriously. At sixty, I assume I ‘should’ know this. So I went home after that conversation and I did some research and some soul-searching.
I thought of Gary Zukav’s quote:
When we align our thoughts, emotions, and actions with the highest part of ourselves, we are filled with enthusiasm, purpose and meaning.
What Drives Me?
My first question for myself was what drives me, what is truly a driving force behind my actions. I thought of my children of course. My love for them is a driving force in every area of my life. But I drilled deeper, what else is a driver in my life. What gets me excited and passionate. When does my heart race? When am I filled with enthusiasm and meaning?
Write and Explore
I started journaling about it, exploring and drilling down. I wrote about what gets me excited; when do I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to do in this life? And I did some research too. I discovered several good articles about the subject. In Psychology Today, I found a good article, entitled: Five Steps to Finding Your Life Purpose. And a wonderful article in Greater Good called: How to Find Your Purpose in Life. Another helpful site was Jack Canfield’s Finding Life Purpose.
Create a Life Purpose Statement
After identifying a few drivers in my life, then I focused on what I love to do, and also what comes easily for me. I like communicating with people, I like to talk with people about real and meaningful subjects. I read in one article that it was helpful to create a Life Purpose Statement. This statement came eventually after thinking about what I love to do and why I love to do it:
“Inspiring and empowering people to become the best version of themselves, contributing love and joy to the world.”
I want to contribute love and joy to the world, not just by being the best I can be but by inspiring others.
I also deeply feel that true life purpose comes through love and service. So I thought about who I want to serve and how I can best do that. Well, I love to write and to communicate and connect with people, so I write articles and share what I am learning. And I’ve started running workshops online for anyone looking for a bit of inspiration.
Follow Inner Guidance
And I continue to check in on my inner guidance. I make sure I take time every single day to meditate and go inward to ask for guidance.
I ask for clarity on direction, and when I get direction, I follow it. I think of Julia Cameron, she describes this guidance as her Marching Orders. I try to follow my guidance even when I feel awkward or under-confident. I was ‘instructed’ to start the online workshops one day when I was swimming. I had no idea how to do it, and felt embarrassed trying. My negative inner-chatter was rampant. But it felt very clear that this was an important part of my path, so I persevered. Trusting my inner guidance is crucial as I move toward my highest purpose, because my ego and fear can easily steer me off the path.
Cultivate Awe, Gratitude and Altruism
And finally, in my pursuit of life purpose, I do as Greater Good suggests, I cultivate awe, gratitude, and altruism.
“Certain emotions and behaviors that promote health and well-being can also foster a sense of purpose — specifically, awe, gratitude, and altruism. Several studies conducted by the Greater Good Science Center’s Dacher Keltner have shown that the experience of awe makes us feel connected to something larger than ourselves — and so can provide the emotional foundation for a sense of purpose. Of course, awe all by itself won’t give you a purpose in life. It’s not enough to just feel like you’re a small part of something big; you also need to feel driven to make a positive impact on the world. That’s where gratitude and generosity come into play. “It may seem counterintuitive to foster purpose by cultivating a grateful mind-set, but it works,” writes psychologist Kendall Bronk, a leading expert on purpose. As research by William Damon, Robert Emmons, and others has found, children and adults who are able to count their blessings are much more likely to try to “contribute to the world beyond themselves.” This is probably because, if we can see how others make our world a better place, we’ll be more motivated to give something back. Here we arrive at altruism. There’s little question, at this point, that helping others is associated with a meaningful, purposeful life. In one study, for example, Daryl Van Tongeren and colleagues found that people who engage in more altruistic behaviors, like volunteering or donating money, tend to have a greater sense of purpose in their lives.”