3 Big Myths About Finding Your Purpose
Where does your mind go? What feelings come up?
For so many of us, the phrase ‘finding your purpose’ might cause a tightening in the chest. It might tip you into a downward spiral of self-criticism. Others may have already resigned themselves to the confusion and pressure – they just shrug and move on.
The concept of finding your purpose cuts deep. It might start with career and livelihood, but beneath that is a measure of self-worth and meaning in our lives. Either way, it’s big. And there is a great deal of ‘information’ out in the world about what we should do about it.
In our modern culture, there are some seriously harmful myths about finding your purpose. Some of these might be so ingrained in you, that they seem more like truth than the construction that they are. Interrogating these socially accepted ideas is a great starting place to working out what it all means to you.
MYTH 1: ONCE YOU’VE FOUND YOUR PURPOSE, YOU’RE SET FOR LIFE (MIC DROP)
There is a terrible, terrible idea in circulation that once you have ‘found’ your purpose – then that’s it. You have decided your life calling is to work in state government, so that’s where you will stay. Forever. It’s who you are.
Each move you make from there is a logical, well-thought out, smooth (some may say perfect) step in the direction of your career/purpose. The promotions and opportunities link so nicely together. Accordingly, your resume will be beautiful. So flowing. So well managed.
And heavens, if you started in this direction and realised you didn’t like it – what would people think of you? What would those prospective employers be smugly giggling to themselves as they read your job application?
Oh wow, she did a degree in politics, worked in local government for 2 years – wait, woah – and then went back to school to become a pastry chef?? Hahaha, that obviously didn’t work out – look at this, then she worked in admin for 3 years! And now she wants a job in project management. Who is she kidding?…
Yes, that’s right. Once you’ve worked out what your true calling is (at the age of 15) then it’s best you stick with it. You are more than welcome to climb that ladder, expand, amplify your success in state government to dizzying heights. But exploration and adventure are over. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
But think of it this way, you’ll never need to think about what you want ever again!
MYTH 2: ‘YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT IT IS BY NOW’
Society, film, television and advertising tell us that if you’re 30 and you haven’t figured out your purpose yet – you’re not doing it right. It really becomes pointy at this stage in our lives, because we have completed our education and taken a reasonable dabble in the world. We start to think, ‘Hmmmm, why haven’t I found it yet? How many more years will it take?”
This myth rests on the core belief that your purpose is a definable ‘thing’. That there will be a moment in time when you will find it. There are indicators, milestones even, that will let you know when it’s happened. This is where purpose and career become conflated.
From our mid teen years, the focus is squarely on career. Choose your pathway subjects >> get good grades in those subjects >> gain entry to the right university degree >> start working in your chosen field >> diversify and enrichen your resume with accolades >> attend conferences, network your arse off >> build a career.
But when do you know you’ve made it?
Because, for most of us – we don’t leave university and fall into our dream job. So we keep pushing, jostling, positioning so that we can eventually get there.
But where is ‘there’? And is that also where we will finally find happiness too?
MYTH 3: PEOPLE WITH A ‘LIFE PURPOSE’ ARE BETTER THAN YOU
If you have made it to this point, and you don’t know what your one purpose is – get your comparison cargo pants on, because we’re going into the jungle.
Myth number 3 is a ubiquitous, crushing sense that everyone you know has it, except you. And why, why, why? You have hustled, really hard. You’ve taken up every opportunity that’s come your way. You’ve gritted, worked weekends, applied yourself diligently to furthering your skills, and yet you’re still unhappy. Really unhappy. You have stopped caring for yourself and your people the way you used to. You have definitely stopped prioritising fun.
Everyone around you seems to be on a lifetime high. They have a beautiful family, home, buzzing career filled with promotion and opportunities. They are always happy (and always baking delicious food with their organic produce from the garden!). You start to believe a whole string of ‘stories’ …
- some people are lucky
- some have it easier than others
- you’re not one of the lucky ones
- you drew the short straw
There a couple of well-worn paths that you could take at this point. We might resign ourselves to these beliefs and stay in a fairly miserable humdrum existence, where it’s safe. Or (and this is much worse) we might start to tear other people down for their perceived success and joy.
UNPACKING THE MYTHS
There’s two things to clear up straight away.
First – you know this already – comparison is the thief of joy. Everyone’s journey is their journey, and we have no idea how happy anyone else is, or what has taken place in their life up to this moment.
And as we will discover, this whole ‘purpose thing’ is an inside job – so how could we know what is really going on for somebody else?
Second, your career may be a place you can live into your purpose. But none of this means anything until we get clear on what our true purpose really is (HAHA you scream, isn’t that what this whole thing is about?!)
Everyone has a purpose. The problem is, we live in a society that says it’s outside of us. That we will know it when we achieve certain milestones. When particular boxes are ticked. The pursuit of ticking those boxes and attempting to find it somewhere in the world can cause us a great deal of pain. On this path, we can find ourselves embedded in a life that doesn’t feel right. There’s lots of little signs… strained relationships, reactive behaviour, going along with things that don’t feel good, feeling empty, feeling stuck in the rat race. Expectation, comparison and perfectionism are at the steering wheel.
But right when this feels completely unbearable, you might just notice a tiny nudge that won’t go away. It whispers to you in the silence,
“You are brilliant and divine. There is more for you.”
I have called it a ‘spark’. My yoga teacher today called it a ‘glimpse’. A time when you have seen your true self, your best self, your full potential played out in full glory (can you see the fireworks?) Nothing is held back in this glimpse. The beautiful song of who you are plays loud and clear through the airwaves, you are standing in your greatness, and you are free.
Whether this is from a moment in your past, or a flash of imagination is unimportant. You have seen a version of the life that you want and know is somewhere inside you. This must be true; otherwise why would you be searching for something? Why would you be trying to find your purpose?
The ultimate truth is that what you are searching for is inside you.
Your one true purpose in this life is to be your truthful self.
In other words – the search to connect with your purpose is one of knowing, trusting and expressing your true self.
I’m not saying this means it’s easy to connect with yourself on that deep level – we have been conditioned to go outwards, not inwards – so it requires focus to deepen our conscious awareness of ourselves and the world around us. And it absolutely takes courage to delve in and allow what you find there to unfold.
Rather, this is an encouragement that you can stop searching out in the world. Don’t hinge your happiness on your CV. Don’t pin your lifelong joy on the dream house. Your purpose is much more to do with how you feel when your head hits the pillow at the end of the night (whether that’s on a 1000 thread count pillowcase in your seaside home in Manley, or an IKEA mattress that you got from gumtree). It’s right there in the silence.
This is where we are able to connect with ourselves, in the quiet. Away from distraction, pressure and constructed ideas about what we should be doing.
It’s from this place – knowing, trusting and expressing your true self – that all other things fall into place. Because here, you can be in the world without internal pushing and pulling. You can develop a trust with yourself that means that – in the silence – you are safe, loved, peaceful. Here, you are not so deeply affected by the highs and lows. You are not painfully diminished by the things people say or think about you, or what you think they are saying or thinking about you. You can react less, respond more.
You are free to grow and evolve in whatever way you feel called to. You are safe to tackle your limiting beliefs, to create your life as you want… to play, to fall, to explore, to adventure, to love and be loved, to go after the girl, to quit, to stay, to climb to the pinnacle.
To be in the world without hanging onto the perfect outcomes for dear life. To exist without worrying about what comes next.
All of this is to say, you are free to be truly present.
If the answers lie inside us, then we must go inwards.
It’s probably going to be scary, and the silence can be deafening at first. But nothing else can lead you there. Not a degree in Chemical Engineering. Not a paid off mortgage. Not a husband or a wife.
There’s no guarantee of what you will find, and yes – it might mean you have to make big changes in your life. But seriously think about this, what is the alternative?
Get to know yourself. Get quiet enough to hear your inner desires, to remember just how brilliant you are.
That’s all there is.
If you are ready to start going inwards, go and do it. And if you want some help, I have a reflective activity to help you get started.
Grab a diary, your essential oils and a quiet safe space (or none of that) and spend time connecting with yourself. Ask yourself about the WHY underneath all the stress and struggle to achieve. I’ll guide you through it, you can start here.
Don’t forget, if the prospect of all of this brings more struggle than ease, please, remember: you are always enough. Love on your beautiful brilliant self-right now by gazing upon mother nature (or picturing her in your mind) and taking 5 deep, nourishing breaths. Actually do it!
Love & magic,