We’ve been taught that having purpose in life centers on achieving things like getting good grades in school, finding a life partner, having a family, earning a certain amount of money or attaining status in the business world. Are these markers really what give our lives purpose and meaning and once we’ve achieved these goals, what then? I ask the question because I’ve seen too many people feeling confused once they’ve achieved what they thought would give their life purpose and they’re asking the question, what now?
According to one analysis on the subject of purpose by The New York Times, about 25% of American adults admit to having a clear sense of purpose about what makes their life meaningful, while 40% claim neutrality on the subject, or acknowledge that they don’t feel aligned with a purpose at all.
In my view, having purpose is simply a way of framing our day, so that we look forward to either sharing our gifts with others or being of service in some way. Perhaps it’s that it feels like such a big subject that people shy away because they overthink it. I think we all want to feel that we have meaning in our lives and that may have little or nothing to do with what’s in our bank account or what we do to earn money. It’s about what makes our day worthwhile and that can imply different things at different stages of our lives.
When we’re young, we’re in foundation building mode, figuring out how we’re going to shape our lives. It’s followed by raising a family if that’s the choice we make; then helping our children find their way as young adults. This is often where it gets challenging for many people because purpose and meaning take on a different flavor when our nest is empty. That’s the time to get curious again because we have accrued experience, hopefully we’re a little wiser than we were when we were young and we can choose again how we want to shape the next chapter.
“I believe the second half of one’s life is meant to be better than the first half. The first half is finding out how you do it. And the second half is enjoying it.” – Frances Lear
Having purpose is not necessarily connected to our goals; rather it’s how we have ongoing impact on the world around us with our gifts. It’s about knowing our “why” at every stage of life. Our “why” is our calling, our conviction; you could say it’s our mission statement. Knowing what our purpose is at any stage of life gives us stability and a sense of direction. Before you jump to the conclusion that your purpose has to be something grand I’m here to say that having purpose doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to feel right to you. We’re not talking about the purpose of life; we’re talking about your purpose in life which can change, depending on where you are on your life adventure.Your purpose is as unique as you are. Remember we all have distinct talents, experiences, skill sets and interests that fire us up and there are always new ideas to uncover.
Which brings me to connecting with purpose; I’m often asked how we connect with it; is there a formula for finding it? While these are good questions, there are no easy answers. Often we look outside of ourselves, thinking that there must be someone who knows what our purpose is. Could it be an elder, a partner, a teacher or a friend? While feedback about our skills and talents from others can be helpful, in truth we are the only ones who truly know what purpose means to us. So it’s best not to chase it; rather allow it to emerge by asking yourself a few important questions, such as: What are my gifts? What do I stand for? What are my values? The answers to these questions hold clues for us and will help point us in the direction of our purpose.
“When it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day.” – Marty Buccella
If your gift is that you’re a good listener or a nurturer, allow those qualities to guide you. If you stand for safety for children, pets or older people, those are clues for you and if family is among your values, you can tease out ways to express your values, your gifts and your principles in your every-day life. You could be the best Grandmother or Grandfather; you could be a fantastic friend who really listens to those you cherish. You could align yourself with an organization that rescues or protects animals, a group that advocates for children or older people. You could do intentional acts of kindness for your neighbours; the possibilities are limitless.
“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” – Albert Einstein
Be careful around FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real because fear is a trickster; it can convince us to stay small; not to step outside of our comfort zone. However stepping out is the only way we can create space for our purpose to emerge. Remember there’s no one way to get there, just as we are all unique our exploration will be unique as well. Keep in mind too that we are all creative beings regardless of our talents and it is never too late to connect with activities and communities that will make your heart sing.
While you’re investigating your purpose, here are a few tips to help you on your quest:
– Be open hearted and open minded.
– Think about what you’re good at.
– Look for ways to be of service to others.
– Ask people who know you what they think your talents and skills are.
While reshaping our sense of purpose in life can feel challenging please don’t feel pressure to find it; rather let it find you because it’s already in you. The world needs you at every stage of life to share your skills, knowledge and your wisdom. This is ageless living.
Footnote: How are you doing with your intention for 2022?