So many people ask themselves “What is my purpose?” and they have no idea how to know. This topic of finding your purpose in life gets all complicated, doesn’t it?
Some of the complications include worrying what others will think, confusion for how it all fits with making a living, or lots of other practical stuff. Sometimes it’s about not being able to feel any callings, and wondering what’s wrong.
Finding your purpose is actually what a good life coach is good at helping someone discern for themselves. I was surprised at how uncomplicated it could be when I went through my coaching training. And surprised by how grounding, energizing, and focusing it was to come away from that training with my own life purpose statement.
Not everyone believes that discovering your purpose is important or possible. I’ll tell you my take on it, and how you might discover your own purpose.
Happiness, Purpose, Meaning… huh?
In an article about ikigai (a Japanese concept about purpose), they describe the secret to happiness as doing what you love, or more specifically what has a sense of meaning and purpose. (There’s that purpose word again.)
On the one hand, they make it seem like a simple equation: Do what makes you happy… in order to be happy. It’s both funny and sad how much we end up in a tangle over that simple equation.
Hints for Finding Your Purpose, or “Ikigai”
The article on ikigai that I mentioned has some good hints and inspiration. “Ikigai” loosely translates as sense of purpose, or following the call of your heart, or a reason for being. I’ll provide some additional tips below too.
A helpful quote on finding your purpose from the ikigai article:
It’s not as easy as that sounds, of course. ‘Modern life estranges us more and more from our true nature, making it very easy for us to lead lives lacking in meaning,’ García and Miralles write. ‘Powerful forces and incentives (money, power, attention, success) distract us on a daily basis; don’t let them take over your life.’Instead, they advise, follow your curiosity and intuition, which are the paths back to ikigai, as is self-awareness. Find the activity you love, surround yourself with people you love, and stay true to that internal compass.”
~ David G. Allen, CNN, in “Ikigai, the Japanese path to live longer, happier”
I know what they’re saying is true. I am following my calling, or purpose, and it feels amazing, and I want that for everyone. I have learned to hear and listen to my inner compass.
But it’s not so simple, is it? “Internal compass,” huh? I’ll explain. That’s one of my favorite topics.
“How do I get one of those Internal Compasses?”
From what I’ve seen up close and personal as a coach, many people have a very hard time understanding what is their internal compass and how to hear it. This is probably dependent on one’s cultural background, but the dominant culture in the U.S. is a tough environment for awareness of one’s inner compass.
All humans have an inner compass that whispers to us daily, if we will listen, telling us what is true to our values and purpose and what will make for a fulfilling life.
I believe my happiness depends on listening to my inner compass, regularly. It points to little everyday things that connect me to a sense of purpose or true self. This is practical stuff I’m trying to explain, but it’s hard to find words for deep inner stuff.
Listening to your inner compass, what I often describe as listening to your true heart, can seem scary for some people. I have found it’s not as scary as you might think.
Your true inner compass, or inner wisdom, doesn’t tell you you’re bad. That’s the inner skeptic. (No point listening to that. It’s a broken record that is wrong.)
An inner compass is a loving encouraging voice. That’s the best clue that it’s a true inner compass.
How do you hear your inner compass and/or your callings?
It usually takes getting some lessons. Maybe from a meditation class or from someone who is living it.
Psychotherapy can help you with a mental health issue like anxiety, depression or trauma, and that’s important. But what about the “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose?” type of questions? That’s not typically what therapy is built for.
By the way, sometimes anxiety and depression are caused by a lack of purpose or following others’ expectations over your own. Which is another way of saying you are not hearing your own inner compass.
Those big life questions are precisely what a good life coach helps with, or at least what I do as a coach — helping you find your inner compass and to trust it. And thereby find your true path and sense of purpose in life.
It’s so rewarding when I help someone get to that Aha moment and they begin building their self-trust, for any decision in life. So much is possible from there.
My Experience with Tuning In Inside
It’s all too easy for me to get lost in to-do lists or worries. Taking time to pause, breathe, and listen inside gets me back to knowing what’s true and needed. I’m reminding myself right now as I write this. It only takes a few minutes most of the time!
And yes I have to face the fear of displeasing others sometimes. That’s part of the challenge.
The reward for that: a happier life, true to my values and purpose. From there, I’m able to spread more love, authentically. People around me eventually catch on, that when I go off to tune in, it’s better for all of us in the long run.
It works, when I slow down to listen.
What Can Help When It Feels Hard to Hear Your Truth
The transition to choosing what feels true can feel like a big hurdle. Turning to self-compassion is necessary. It’s a regular practice for me. The more I practice, the easier and faster it gets.
Support is usually necessary too. Earlier this year I made a commitment to myself to connect with a group that feels like my kindred spirits, even though it meant going way out of my way at first. It has been so worth it. I can see in hindsight what a turning point it was in my year and my ongoing sense of connection. (Introverts and HSPs need connection too.)
I invite you to find your kindred spirits, whether a kindhearted community (groups for introverts and HSPs), a loving friend, or a life purpose coach who believes in you. They can help you see your wonderful true self until you can see it.
Some Simple Steps to Find Your Purpose in Life
I’ve seen how many people struggle with this question of finding purpose, and there’s more to it than this. You’re not broken if you don’t know your purpose yet! It takes a little effort. It won’t just arrive one day.
I want to help more people figure out their purpose, so I created an online course for to walk you through some steps. I also call your purpose, “the best use of you.”