12 Tips for Finding Your Purpose in Life

listen to whispersSome people are fortunate enough to know from an early age exactly what resonates in their heart and soul and “gleefully” go through school doing everything to get them there.

I find this extremely annoying.

But deep down I am happy for them;)

For the rest of us, however, it’s just not that simple. So often there are the things that we think we SHOULD do and we spend a lot of our time, effort, and money going down a path that ends up being a job and just a paycheck.

The biggest problem with that is we can end up spending our entire lives following that paycheck and feeling hollow inside. This leads to all sorts of issues: depression, lack of self-esteem, chronic illness…sometimes even death. Crazy to think how powerful following one’s dream really is in our mental and physical well-being, right?!

It doesn’t mean that those of us who do follow our passions go through life with no challenges, woes, or misfortunes. Finding our purpose does give us something special… a huge gift… a purpose for living… a purpose for engaging with the world around us on a daily basis. Imagine waking up every day feeling excited about what you get to experience that day. Pretty cool, eh?

In The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, he very straightforwardly points out that if every person on the planet found their purpose and followed their passions, there would be no need for therapists let alone medical doctors. And probably coaches too, right?!

We’ve all read stories about the person diagnosed with a terminal illness who quit their job and followed their life-long dreams only to fully recover and go on to live a long fulfilled life.

If, instead, we were taught to follow our hearts and our passions from childhood, perhaps we could live in the utopia described by Steven Pressfield. But that’s not usually what happens, and we are taught to conform and learn how to be successful following American standards for the definition of success. Most of us go off in a different, less fulfilling path and we lose sight of what fills our hearts and souls.

If you are one of the millions who hasn’t a clue about your purpose or how to live in that heart-filling manner, read on for 12 tips on how to explore your unique path and all the possibilities to find and fuel that passion in your life!

12 Tips for Finding Your Purpose in Life

1. Write down 5 things you loved as a child. What made you happy? Even if it doesn’t seem significant, you might find something in it. A client of mine did this recently and remembered her favorite Christmas present ever…it was a cigar box her mother had painted making it into a school-supply box, filled with pencils, erasers, tape, etc. She loved that box. Remembering that box made her also remember just how much she loves academics and learning. It doesn’t mean she needs or wants to be a professor to be happy…just that she loves life-long learning, and that as long as she is learning something new, she is happy!

2. Chat with your amigas. When you are talking with your friends, what gets you really excited? Sometimes our resistance gets in the way of even knowing that answer. So…ask your friends to tell you what they see as a topic that really gets you going. Maybe even ask them to suggest what they see as your life’s purpose. They quite possibly can see something you are missing.

3. Meditate. I know some of you get pissed off when I mention meditation, but hey – the shit works. Clear your mind and sit in stillness. If sitting still doing nothing with your body is hard, try a breathing practice like Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing, to really clear your mind and help you focus. The more you can sit in stillness, the more you are able to open yourself up to receive messages from your soul. Learn to pay attention to those messages and write them down so you can explore them more once they’ve had time to expand in your consciousness.

4. Walk in nature and let it fill you up. Whether it’s the woods, mountains, or a sandy beach that does it for you, go there. Spend time filling your senses with all the sights, sounds, smells, and feels… and even the tastes of the air. This helps to ground you and to open your heart to your intuitions and dreams.

5. Journal. It is amazing how much more likely we are to figure something out and then actually do it if we write it all down. Putting it into writing makes it far more real and tangible. It gives us fodder for exploration and definitions for further discussions. Spend five minutes and free-write…that means don’t sensor your thoughts and check for grammar and spelling or if you sound cool enough…just write whatever it is that comes to mind.

6. Track your dreams. Keep another little journal by your bed. Every morning, first thing, jot down any of your dreams and look for consistent themes. Pay attention to what might be causing you anxiety too. Eliminating those things can help clear the path to connecting with your passions. You can even set the intention before falling asleep that your dreams will give you insight into your passions.

7. Volunteer. Get out into the world and experience it firsthand. There’s no better way to find out what really fuels you than by doing it. It’s also a great way to eliminate those things that you thought sounded good in your head, but in reality it’s just not what you imagined. It’s also a great way to connect with like-minded people and to explore an organization. Another client of mine went from a class volunteer, to board member, to executive director of one of her passions…therapeutic horseback riding. She also eliminated the desire to become a counseling psychologist by volunteering in an eating-and-weight disorder clinic…and quickly realized that was NOT her cup of tea! Good to know, right? Way better than wondering, “What if?”

8. Visit a nursing home. It’s a great way to hear the successes and failures of longevity. Get inspired by what they did or did not do. It’s a cool opportunity to make someone’s day AND learn from someone’s else’s experiences. We really don’t have to learn everything by our own hand and something might click inside that you’d never even considered.

9. Take the Clifton Strengths Finder.  If your passions are so buried inside, and they often are, one great way to start clearing the clutter and identifying your heart’s passion is to identify some of your strengths. This can be a valuable tool in your journey to self-fulfillment.

10. Call your mom. Moms, dads, sisters, brothers…our family members often see things in us that we have covered up well and can’t find. Ask them questions about the lights they see in you and the possible causes behind the rays that brighten your being. Similar to asking your friends, but often our family knows you in ways that no one else does. Caveat: Sometimes, what they want to bring to light aren’t necessarily the good things…if that’s your scenario, skip this step!

11. Listen to the whispers of your heart. We’ve been taught to follow success, prestige, power, or status…even the all-mighty dollar, and it’s often not until we are facing our own mortality in some way, whether it’s through having children, an illness, etc., that we start to realize that maybe there really is something more. Your heart will guide you and give you clues. Now you just need to start listening. You voice of truth is often still, quiet, and peaceful. A quiet knowing. It usually doesn’t have an aggressive or negative vibe. It takes practice to hear, for sure!

12. Work with a coach. It can be difficult to change – and even more challenging to rid ourselves of – the blocks we have to living a life full of purpose. One great way to help with that is to work with a great life or career coach. It doesn’t have to be someone with a fancy degree, just someone who is willing to call you on your shit and support you in a kind, loving way through the minefield of your self-doubt. Also, look for someone who walks their talk. No sense in seeking guidance from a coach that isn’t living a life that you respect and admire.

We unfortunately don’t live in a culture that values spiritual individuality and life purpose. We live in a world that focuses on the dollar-definition of success, and we are bombarded with constant reminders that it’s all about how much money we make. The latest Cadillac commercial blatantly (and embarrassingly) tells the world just how materialistic we American are and how our focus should be on working, working, working so we, too, can drive a sleek Caddy. What they aren’t showing us are the statistics showing how many top executives suffer from depression, chronic illness, unfulfilling relationships, etc.

This is changing…and you are a part of that movement.

A couple of other tips I have to add in before I go:

Remember that your passions don’t have to be your career. If they are, then I’m doing happy dance for you! But remember that we are to LIVE our passions – not necessarily have them as part of our careers. If you can find a career that gives you more time to live your passion, then fantastic!

Lastly, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s a lovely story full of adventures, and a reminder of the beauty in following our true life’s purpose. I like to read it with a friend or lover.

By no means is finding your passion easy – but it is possible. When you feel like giving up, remember this quote from one of my favorite rebels, Albert Einstein:

“You never fail until you stop trying.”

Have you found your life passion? Awesome! And if you haven’t found it yet…what are your best guesses?