What is living with a purpose?
“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” ~Robin Sharma
When we talk about this idea of ‘living with a purpose’ what comes to mind?
You might feel that’s a huge and daunting question to undertake – and I would agree!
Let’s start by exploring what inner purpose actually means.
The dictionary describes purpose as:
“The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal”
“A fixed design, outcome, or idea that is the object of an action or other effort”
The words that stand out for me are ‘strive’ and ‘fixed’. They conjure up images of purpose being a pre-determined place to be reached, outside of yourself. So in order to experience this purpose, one must go on a ‘quest’ to seek out some hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. But I wonder who designs the map to find it?
This feels to me like a limiting way of looking at purpose and wonder if that might be part of what you struggle with when entertaining this idea. So I’d like to make this concept more palatable and inspiring. To give it a different spin and help you on your own journey towards unlocking and living with inner purpose in your own life.
For me, purpose is best seen as self-generated and ever-evolving. So, rather than it being what you strive for or being fixed, it’s something you consciously create and choose to live by. Your own, unique mission if you like, that you can centre your life around and share with the world.
Moreover, when embraced, I see purpose as a living, breathing full expression of who you are and what you stand for – right now. Not a destination to be reached or project to be completed. It’s inhabiting your dreams and aspirations – every day. The bigger picture providing context for your present moments – giving each of those moments significance and worth. The pressure of focusing on a specific destination fades as the travel itself becomes more meaningful and joyful. No longer are you trying to get somewhere. You are already there.
Ultimately I see purpose as your core theme. A golden thread that runs through you – providing the light to guide your life by. When fully connected to your own – it can be your inner compass – bringing you back to where you need to be – always pointing you in the right direction.
Why choose to live with purpose?
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche
By taking the view of purpose being an ‘inner journey’ – I see that it is you who creates, holds and follows the map. You feel in control of your own destiny – living life on your own terms.
If you’re being guided by an ‘inner compass’, when faced with a difficult decision you can ask: “is this in line with or in conflict with my inner purpose?” – making the decision process far easier. You gain clarity, commitment and productivity, reducing procrastination and any associated stress, guilt or frustration. You’re left with a deeper sense of inner trust which ripples into your self-confidence and resilience.
When your sense of purpose is connected to that which is outside of yourself – it’s likely you’ll feel less in control of your emotions. For instance, you might have your sense of purpose intrinsically linked to being the best parent you can be. So when your children flee the nest, then so does your sense of purpose, and with it your identity and self-esteem – leaving you with an emptiness. If, on the other hand, you see purpose as an inside job – you will be blessed with an endless source of joy, passion, and motivation.
Let’s be clear – I’m not saying don’t strive to be the best parent you can be! But when you view purpose through this new lens – you remain in control of the emotional impact this type of change inevitably has – not at the mercy of it.
Finding the Hidden Inner Treasure
“The intersection of your true values and super powers, backed with relentless passion, is where the magic happens.”
Perhaps you already feel a sense purpose – but are just not fully living it. You might feel you don’t have one at all and are drifting aimlessly. Maybe you suffer from ‘purpose pressure’ – desperately wanting one but left feeling inadequate compared to everyone you perceive as having one. Counterproductive really!
So, what’s the secret? How can you embark on this journey in a more forgiving, gentle way and remove any sense of pressure, or inadequacy?
I invite you to use the ingredients below to start defining and living your own purpose – by exploring that which:
You love (your Passions)
• When have I enjoyed myself most?
• What can I do for hours on end and not get bored with?
• If my life basics were already paid for, what would I do after breakfast?
You’re good at (your Strengths)
• What comes most easily and naturally to me?
• What do people consistently compliment me on and value me for?
• What is it about me that has helped me to excel and achieve?
Matters most to you (your Values)
• What matters most to me above all else?
• What ‘peak experiences’ have I had and what made them so special?
• When have I been most committed, motivated and passionate?
The world needs (your Service)
• What do I need to do in order to feel I’ve made a difference?
• What do I most want to be remembered for?
• For what would I take a very strong stand?
This last part is key. For example, when focussing on yourself you might say: “My purpose is to paint pictures”; and when set in the context of others: “My purpose is to bring joy to others by painting pictures.”
Bringing it all Together
In your notebook write what’s emerging for you. This will evolve over time so no need to worry about getting it ‘right’ or ‘perfect’.
• How am I honouring my passions, strengths, values and service in my life right now?
• What events and experiences allow me to feel them most?
• What does this tell me about my inner purpose right now?
Bringing it into the Now
To make this an ever-evolving, rather than ‘one-off’, static exercise, your purpose needs to be brought to life with daily reflection and action. Each morning ask yourself:
• How will I be honouring my passions, strengths and values in the service of others today?
During those quiet times, notice what’s already there, waiting to be heard. What’s whispering in your ear? Take note, and instead of feeling scattered – as if something’s missing, you’ll be stepping into a place of integrity, authenticity and congruence. A purposeful, peaceful place – where you’re happy and fulfilled.