Purpose is very unique, a phenomenon that’s so individual that I believe only you can actually know it or figure it out, though others can certainly help provide input and guidance.
Before we get into a deeper discussion of this, I want to encourage you to release and let go of any pressure you might be feeling around the topic. Connecting with and living your purpose is a beautiful journey that typically unfolds in mysterious and surprising ways. It’s not something to be forced, or something to actively worry about “having to” find. I like to think of it as a treasure hunt, a perfectly paced adventure with your eyes and heart wide open.
All you have to do is decide to be open to this area of your life, and be willing to take whatever steps or inspiration call to you. I’m convinced that if you do that, you can’t go wrong, and you won’t “miss it”. Be curious. Enjoy the process. Marvel at life and its richness as you go along.
I smile indulgently now when I think of myself “way back when”...though really it was just a decade ago. I used to lie on the couch and read my favourite books by inspirational authors such as Wayne Dyer (I went through a huge Wayne Dyer phase!). These authors talked all the time about purpose, about everybody having one.
I was so frustrated that it felt physically painful. Though I found hope and inspiration in the writers’ lofty words, and something about this concept of purpose connected very deeply with me (I couldn’t stop reading about it), I was filled with fear that somehow I was that rare human being who didn’t have a purpose.
I was used to life disappointing me and somehow thought that I would be disappointed by this, too - that I’d somehow be left out of the loop, kept out of life’s inner circle.
Today I am continually amazed by the opportunities presented to me, worldwide, to help others live more fulfilling lives. Given what I do now for a living, do you see how hilariously ironic it is that I once despaired at having no purpose?
So, no matter what your thoughts and beliefs are around this concept, or what your thoughts and beliefs are around yourself and the value of you and your life, prepare for life to have some delicious, marvelous surprises in store for you in this area.
“Seek, and you shall find,” as the proverb goes.
Your purpose doesn’t at all have to be something BIG, either. The value of your impact on others and on the world has nothing to do with its scale.
There’s a saying I learned while living in Mexico: “Hay gente para todo.”
This means “there are people for everything”, and refers to the fact that in order for our world to function, we need people living and contributing at all kinds of different levels. If we each could find and inhabit the sphere where we’re supposed to be, and contribute what we were made to contribute, what a beautiful world it would be!
There is a lot of distraction out there that can cause people to miss the purpose of their life, and my goal is to help you see past the noise.
Not only are there the typical day-to-day distractions out there (the pressure to buy stuff; mind-numbing entertainment; addictions to food and other habits; chronic busy-ness that doesn’t give us time to think and reflect and live purposefully) but there are also distractions that come in the form of other people’s expectations and preconceived ideas about what a worthwhile purpose or contribution looks like.
Our society has very specific ideas about which callings are worthy and appropriate, which can confuse and distract. For example, when I first started telling people that I wanted to be a health and wellness educator and a dancer instead of working as a regular doctor, people would respond with guilt-provoking criticism.
“How can you quit medicine?” they would say, shaking their heads. “There are so many people who need good doctors, especially female doctors.” One person even accused me of stealing government funding that had contributed to my education!
I still use my medical education to benefit people, many more people than I ever could have helped by working in a clinic, yet the way I am doing this in the world doesn’t fit most people’s understanding of what doctors do and how they contribute to the world.
So how can you identify your purpose?
It may not be obvious and may be something that gradually emerges and takes form over years...you may even have several layers or aspects to what you are here for.
Here are some thoughts that may help connect you:
1) What do you love to do, that you would do even if you don’t get paid for it?
My true career or vocation is directly tied to my purpose, though the way you make your living does not necessarily have to have anything to do with why you are here. What is so you that you would just have to do it, no matter what?
2) What do other people say you’re really good at?
Be careful of going in a direction just because others think you should. That said, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the way others compliment you. Is there anything that you’re particular good at that people tell you that you should do professionally, or do more of?
People often tell me that they feel better, uplifted and energized, after spending time talking with me. Not too surprising then, that I now spend my life and even earn my living encouraging others and helping them improve their lives.
3) What is the one thing you want to experience, or do, or accomplish, before you die, so that on your last day on earth you feel satisfied and have no regrets in that area?
I often ask this of coaching clients, and the answers are always interesting and revealing. For me it would have been writing a book, and becoming a dancer (but really the book is the one big thing). The fact that this contribution in writing is so important to me helps confirm what is my greatest purpose.
Sure, I do lots of things such as speaking, coaching and media work, but I know in my heart that the writing is the core. It is the one thing that no matter what, I need to keep on doing.
What is that thing, for you? Don't worry if you don't have an answer yet. Keep asking the question, and keep your eyes open for clues that will come your way. Because the answer will show up, in perfect time. I promise you that.
(The above musings are excerpted from the Establishing & Living Your Life Purpose module of my 12 month curriculum for my private Live a Life You Love Club for Women. I will be starting and personally leading a handful of new Club groups in January of each year, with members from around the world growing and blooming together; for more information and to get on next year's wait-list click here)
Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. is a medical doctor, health and happiness expert, life and health coach, professional speaker, flamenco dancer, and the author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You, dedicated to helping people worldwide get healthy, find happiness and enjoy more meaningful lives that they love. Dr. Biali has been featured as an expert on the Today Show and the Ricki Lake Show as well as many other major media outlets, and is available for keynote presentations, workshops/retreats, media commentary, and private life and health coaching.
Copyright Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. 2013