We hear a lot of talk about purpose: How you need to find your purpose, be on purpose, work and live with purpose.
And I’m one of those people who talks about. Because it matters. It matters deeply.
But so many people walk through their lives with a greyness about them—no color, like ghosts living in the machine of their life.
They may have given up on their purpose, discarded it in the trash one evening, thrown out with the dinner scraps. Or maybe, as is the case for so many, they never actually had it to begin with.
How do you find it? And what does it look and feel like when you do?
This is what it looks like:
I woke up the other morning with a burning desire to get to my desk to write and work. As I lay in bed for 10 minutes, daydreaming, and thinking about my day (as I do every morning while my son is in the shower), I was alive with possibilities for a new program that I’m developing. An answer to a question I’d been pondering popped into my head a few minutes after I woke, as often happens, another piece of the puzzle slotting into place.
As I got up, I felt so excited about the day ahead. And yes, I tweeted about it: "Perfect day planned: beach walk, green juice, write a chapter, devise leadership program, do PhD research, create some magic #awesomeday."
I went for my walk, got my green juice, and rushed home to start writing. I was working on my new book, my mind filled with thoughts on conviction, commitment, purpose and passion, on helping people become the leaders they want to be and creating better lives for themselves.
This work is almost involuntary, and my need to do it so strong, I have absolute clarity on who I am and what I am called here to do.
So how does it feel? Energizing. Electrifying. Like there are butterflies in my stomach and a warm glow in my chest at the same time. Like my brain is buzzing with concepts and business plans. Like I can’t get enough knowledge into my head through books or from talking to people who know what I want to know.
Have you ever found yourself searching desperately for your purpose—or avoiding what you just know is your true calling? Here are some strategies that work with my clients:
Run toward the resistance.
Ask yourself, What am I running away from? We have this mystical view that if we are called to do something, we will magically run toward it with open arms. that it will be effortless, and that there will, of course, be rainbows and butterflies.
It doesn’t always happen like that. In fact, it rarely does. Often we hear the call, but resist it, because it’s inconvenient, demanding, or will force us to make major changes and step out of our cushy comfort zone.
This was my story.
For years I played around the edges of what I knew I was called to do. I didn’t want to leave my big, important job with the big, important paycheck. I didn’t know who I would be in the world without my title. More fundamentally, I didn’t know if I was cut out to succeed on my own terms. I just wasn’t sure I could answer this calling.
So it’s not always convenient. And it’s not always easy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. If you are feeling great resistance, run toward it, not away from it.
Take one step.
You may also be thinking that you need to have it all figured out before you take your first step, that you need to know what the endgame looks like.
You don’t. You just need to start.
Want to be a thought leader? Pick your area of expertise. Read something. Learn something new. Then go tell someone.
Want to be a writer? Do you know that you are called to share your stories with the world? People always ask me how to become a writer. They think it’s complicated. It’s not. Sit down and write. Then keep writing, each day, so you get better.
Want to completely change careers and need to re-skill? What is one thing you can do today that will move you a step further on that path? Go do that.
When we move toward our calling instead of away from it, the energy shifts, and synchronicity has the chance to flow. The right people show up. Opportunities appear. Time becomes available.
That job that you hate showing up to everyday when you really want to be an artist? The boss walks in and tells you that you’re no longer required. Devastating? Perhaps. Challenging in terms of how to put food on the table? Probably. Completely freeing so you can look at new options and opportunities to walk a new path and create the life of your dreams? Absolutely.
Honor your vision.
Often our calling is triggered by a vision of what something could look like, how it could be different, or the difference we could make. It can come from a frustration that something is just not right, and that we could make it so much better.
You have the vision. You feel the need to make change. And you sense that this is your work to do in the world. This is the voice you need to listen to, but it will surely be accompanied by another voice that tells you all the reasons why you can’t do it, which can sound something like this:
Seriously? Who do you think you are to say you can go do that? Who are you kidding? Don’t quit your day job! You aren’t cut out for writing, leading, or changing the world. Calm down, get back in your corner and keep going through the motions. You don’t have any brilliance to offer, and even if you did, the world doesn’t need or want it. It’s all been said and done before anyway. Get over yourself. Loser.
Sound familiar? This is our self-talk at it’s worst, and it can be brutal. We’ve all heard this voice when we've expressed our deepest dreams and desires, either out loud to someone else, or just quietly and secretly to ourselves.
And the closer we get to our calling, the more we want to do something, change something, or make a difference, the louder the noise can get.
Don’t listen to that voice. That is your ego talking, your smaller self, yelling at you because it’s resistant to change. It's fearful of what may come. Pay attention to the other voice, the voice of truth and longing. And trust and honor your vision.
Our callings shape us. They grow us into the people we were born to be. And it is already destined. The things you need will appear on your path in divine timing. The skills, relationships, resources, and opportunities will show up when you do. Trust that you will get what you need, when you need it.
You’ve been called. It’s time to listen.