This topic of finding your purpose gets all complicated, doesn’t it? Worrying what others will think, how to find what you love, how it all fits with making a living, and all that practical stuff.
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.
On the one hand, it seems 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.
In this post, I’ll share some hints and inspiration from others and from my own experience.
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.
The article contains some fruitful yet simple questions to ask yourself to help you find your purpose in life. I’ll provide some additional tips below too.
A helpful excerpt from the 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.
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, most people, in Western cultures, have a very hard time understanding what is their internal compass and how to hear it.
We all 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 Pausing to Tune In
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 it’s better for all of us.
It works, when I slow down to listen.
What Can Help When It Feels Hard
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.
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.
I invite you to find your kindred spirits, whether a kindhearted community, a dear friend, or a life coach who believes in you.