I think we all go through different phases and initiations in life. One phase for most of us is wondering or exploring what our individual purpose is in this lifetime.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver
For much of my teens and through my late twenties this was something I found both intriguing and perplexing. I would notice people who seemed to have it figured out. From a young age they had a primary passion. Or they had one or two things they were super good at.
It was confusing for me to think about doing just one thing for a living. How could I possibly commit to just one thing? I loved science and math, but noway could I do research all day (learned that by the age of 25, sorry 3M!). I also was extremely intuitive and creative. Yoga and spirituality were a big part of my life. So was nature.
I can’t say I’ve totally got my purpose figured out. But I’m able to confidently navigate this matter and really it’s something that I continues to unfold. For me, I know that my strengths are connecting ideas and people. I also know that I’m wildly creative and innovative. In addition, I love encouraging people and supporting people on their paths.
Something a Buddhist Teacher Mark Nunberg said to me is that our work is the confluence of what we love doing, what the universe wants from us, and what people need.
I’ve totally embraced this as an ongoing exploration—not something that has a destination or an endpoint, but a continuous conversation between my heart, the universe (or god), and the needs of people (or the Earth and its critters).
I’ve gotta say through all the years of exploring purpose I’ve learned some things that can shave years of worry and doubt off of your path.
Here are some suggestions for you if you’re in the zone of exploring purpose:
Lighten up. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be this or that, we don’t need added pressure when it comes to sharing ourselves with the world. Let it be playful and a fun exploration rather than some serious project.
Your curiosities and passions will lead you home (usually). Looking at my life and all of the things that are totally meaningful to me now started as curiosities….a book, a conversation, a conference, a workshop. One of my teachers explains it as following breadcrumbs. Just follow one breadcrumb at a time and see what happens. Sometimes it is a slow process (pro tip: wanting doesn’t make seeds grow any faster).
Practice loving the journey. This is the most difficult one for me. I see something…I take a class…then I want to be famous for teaching it. Fall in love with the journey (even the tough parts) and you’ll feel much happier and freer. Plus when you master this it won’t matter as much where you end up, because you had fun the whole time (well, most of it anyway).
Stop trying to make it look a certain way. This is subtle and it’s easy to miss. So many times in my life I wanted my path to look like someone else’s. For years I wanted to be a pro yoga teacher and teach 10 classes a week and lead yoga teacher trainings. Five years into teaching I realized I’m not wired to teach more than a couple classes a week. I also learned I like to create deeper experiences and weave together more than one modality. I fought this for a long time, now I give myself full permission to teach how and what I want to and it’s been super freeing.
You (probably) don’t need to change your job. I heard Liz Gilbert explain this once: There is your occupation and there is your vocation. Your occupation is what you do to earn a living or how you contribute to your family/community. Your vocation is how your gifts, strengths, and brilliance are expressed in any occupation or situation—whether you’re a mother, teacher, scientist, or cashier. Your brilliance will come through no matter what you do. So for example, if your brilliance is making people laugh that can come through whether you are a nanny or professional comedian. Now, some jobs it will come through with more ease, delight and/or abundance, so I’m not going to say that jobs don’t matter. However, understanding that we don’t need to do something else to share our gifts with the world takes some pressure off. Whew. We don’t need to obsess over finding just the right job, because our light is able to shine through not matter the work we do.
Which suggestion do you find most helpful?! Share in the comments!