That feeling in the pit of your stomach about your job… it is not merely there because your job is soul-sucking or your boss is a miserable person, or you have outgrown what you are there to learn. The Monday morning blues are the whisperings of a calling hidden deep inside you.
Your purpose is not meant to be found in your cubicle.
It can be overwhelming to acknowledge the effort, the time and the money you have invested in a career that has run its course. It opens up a million questions — none of them with definitive answers. Some retreat from this unknown, others ask the wrong people for help — folks that have tasted that fear and determined not to pursue their truth, encouraging you to do the same. “This is how it’s supposed to be,” they say. It is not.
Unleashing your unique and truest potential into the world is the gift that only you can offer. It’s worth following the clues.
“Everything on Earth has a purpose, every disease a herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.” — Mourning Dove, Salish nation.
The immense challenge with purpose is that it comes with risk. Purpose can lead us to dark places — we might be called to deal with real suffering, injustice, violence, hunger or the spoiling of our natural world. Nelson Mandela’s purpose led him to prison.
Purpose can also lead us to fields that don’t translate in huge cash rewards — teaching being the prime example. For most, purpose is not an overnight light bulb realization. It requires patience and cultivation.
The upside: purpose is an inexhaustible fuel. When we operate from fear, anger or frustration, we eventually deplete ourselves and those around us. When driven from a sense of purpose, we are able to fight battles against seemingly insurmountable odds, even with too few resources. This is what entrepreneurs do. It’s what great activists do. It’s what teachers do everyday. Purpose is connected to what we truly love.
Here are three quick actions you can take to focus in on what’s calling to you:
1. Describe a time in your life you felt truly connected to what you were put on this Earth to do.
Share this story in detail with someone or write it down. It could have been a moment, a week or even six months when you woke up everyday with a sense of peace, flow, and engagement with what you put your mind to. What was it?
2. Design three one-hour moments to explore this experience again.
Perhaps you remembered this feeling occurred when you were painting four years ago. Carve out three separate sessions to do that again. Perhaps you were helping two friends for months after they lost a relative. Designate three sessions to coffee with friends that are going through a difficult time.
3. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.
On the left side, jot down all the other moments that you felt in-tune with this similar sense of purpose. Below those, add the actions, and activities that were part of those experiences. On the right, describe the moments when you feel most disconnected. What patterns emerge?
These activities will put you in a better position to listen to your calling, but they are only a first step. In our programs we dive deep into this exploration. We do a visualization exercise on our ‘impending death’ where we walk through a scenario that involves receiving horrible news at the doctor’s office, attending our own funeral, and being given our life back. Doing so helps us realize the great gift that is life. It helps all the noise and distractions of the unimportant fall away.
We don’t figure out our purpose, we discover it.
It calls us, even as we seek it. If we listen well, there are seeds of your purpose to be found everywhere.
Purpose, Demystified is inspired by the important work of Robert Gass