By Brooke Campbell – MA, LCAT, Karla Downing – MFT, Margalis Fjelstad – Ph.D., LMFT, Julie Kurtz – LMFT
“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are ultimately to be at peace with themselves. What humans can be, they must be.”
~ Abraham Maslow
I had the opportunity to have a conversation with one of my favorite authors Elizabeth Gilbert, about travel, coffee, and creativity at my local airport before leaving on a family vacation.
As a licensed creative arts therapist, I shared my love for her book Big Magic about using our creativity, where she highlights the importance of following our curiosity over our passion.
Our curiosity can oftentimes evolve into something we may feel passionate about. Allowing our minds to wander and opening our imagination to possibility connects us to our purpose.
When searching for meaning and purpose in our lives, I encourage and invite people to follow their curiosity and their why.
Author, speaker, and thought-leader Simon Sinek has focused his work around starting with the why in our own lives. When we consider the lives of noteworthy leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Fred Rogers, Saint Mother Teresa, and Malala Yousafzai, these extraordinary individuals spoke bravely and acted based on their why.
What is your Why? Why do you care about what you care about? What causes move you? What inspires you and what are you curious about?
A simple place to start is to become self-aware.
Throughout your day to day life, where is your attention going?
Where are you most alive with all of your senses? It could be in nature, listening to music, running, talking with family, cooking, spending time with your children, creating something, exercising etc.
When we are more self-aware, we can begin to chart where our life’s purpose is.
Our job is to quiet the noise of our outer lives to reconnect with the small, still, quiet part of ourselves that always has the answers. We all have a purpose and there is no time and age limit in finding it. There can be several iterations of what lights us up and brings us joy.
We are multifaceted people, with multiple interests.
Move through any areas of feeling stuck. Our own resistance to change may hold us back from acting on our interests, our curiosities, our why, and what brings us joy.
Reconnect with that playful childlike part of yourself to become more aligned and attuned to the signs pointing you in the direction of your purpose.
Brooke Campbell, MA, LCAT – www.creativekinections.com
Discovering your purpose is simply finding the things that make your life worth living. For some it involves making a difference in the world. For others it is finding the things that make them happy and fulfilled.
Here are some things that give people purpose:
- Family. Family gives us roots. Investing ourselves in a healthy marriage, raising our children, helping our elderly parents and maintaining our relationships with our siblings and their families gives us purpose by loving and being loved.
- Faith. Faith provides answers to the questions we have such as “Why am I here?” What comes after this life” and “What are the values I should follow?” Faith gives us purpose in belonging to a group of people who believe the same as us and in directing us to live according to the beliefs we hold.
- Talents. We are all born with things we are naturally good at that get better with practice. Developing these talents gives us self-esteem and an identity. It also gives us goals and directs us to find purpose in meeting and exceeding them.
- Personality. Each of us is born with a temperament that has strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths are the things we do well and easily. When we are utilizing our strengths, we often feel a sense of congruence and purpose in doing what we feel born to do.
- Experiences. Life experiences tweak our personalities. As we experience difficulties, we learn to do things differently. We gain empathy for those going through similar things. People often find solace and purpose by reaching out to help others who are struggling with the same pain.
Here are some things to consider when you are searching for your purpose:
- It doesn’t have to have a fancy title. It has to be something that you want to do.
- It doesn’t have to make other people happy. It has to make you happy.
- It doesn’t have to be the only thing in your life. It can be multiple things.
- It doesn’t have to compete with other people’s purposes. It has to be something that matters to you.
- It doesn’t have to be with people. It can be with animals, the environment, research or anything else that excites you.
- It doesn’t have to exhaust you. It energizes you when it is your passion.
- It doesn’t have to make money. It can be something in addition to your paying job.
- It doesn’t have to be something new. It can be something already in your life.
Karla Downing, MFT – www.changemyrelationship.com
Personally, I do not think that everyone is born with a purpose in life.
Some people see a direction and formulate an intention early in life, but most of us have to search within ourselves to find what is important enough to commit our energy to.
Your direction in life sometimes appears from a powerful, life-changing event, however more often it slowly evolves as you discover what is most important to you.
The path to discovery takes attention and deep honesty within yourself to really learn what you find most valuable and significant, rather than what others around you think you should do.
What are you passionate about?
The first place to start in figuring out your purpose in life is to get in touch with your deepest yearnings and identify what you’re passionate about.
- What do you love to do?
- What do you see needs to be changed in the world?
- What do you find interesting?
- What do you want to learn more about?
- What is it that you can’t stop exploring?
Explore and investigate.
I realized in high school that I was confused about why some families seemed so happy and other families seemed to be in constant chaos. I checked out books on family relationships, watched family sitcoms on television, and even interviewed several family therapists to see what they did and how they decided on that career.
As a freshman in college I began studying family dynamics, psychology, and anthropology. I had a lot of other interests such as dance, music, art, and writing, but the topic I kept coming back to was why do families work the way they do? It was how I found my way to being a psychotherapist.
What are your values?
It’s also important to look at the guiding principles that you want to live by. Do you value helping others, being in charge, making money, being around children, being kind, being strong, enjoying the good things in life, teaching, experiencing, sharing ideas? These are just a few ideas to help you identify what is vital and significant to you.
What do you want?
Values are broad principles, so you will need to narrow down the specifics. Make a list of all the values that are important to you and see if a pattern arises.
If you like being in charge, making money, and helping people, you might be heading in the direction of creating, owning, or directing a business that provides services to others.
Remember it is what you want, not just what your parents, your best friend, or your significant other wants you to do.
How much work are you willing to put in?
Research how long it will take to get the training and experience you will need to reach your goal. Do you need to find a job now to provide for yourself while you get that training?
Try to explore jobs that are related to what you want to do so you can start gaining experience even before you’re fully trained to make the career jump that you’re wanting to pursue.
You may find yourself exploring several paths before you narrow it down to the exact thing that will really feel fulfilling.
One of my daughters taught very young children to swim and to play soccer from the time she was 15. She loved anything active. It didn’t really seem like work to her.
As a freshman, she chose a major in athletic training, but that didn’t encompass her passion for working with children. As a sophomore, she changed her major to elementary education.
Her career now is a hands-on, active learning science teacher. Her love of young children, physiology, and being physically active all came together into a viable profession.
What are your resources?
Your life purpose is going to require resources like time, finances, emotional support, and your own persistence. Above all, the most important resources are your interests, personality, and temperament.
You can’t find your own life purpose by trying to copy someone else.
You are unique, and that’s what makes your purpose so important. No one else can or will do exactly what you can do.
When you have a passion, a direction, and a purpose you will be better able to find the right path, with the right teachers, and with the financial and social support that you’ll need.
Finding your purpose takes keeping focused all along the way on your values, your life goals, and what brings you joy.
And it takes persistence. Persistence is the element that differentiates the people who are successful from those who ultimately fail. There will be twists and turns along the way and times when you can’t see the way forward. But if you keep moving and keep trying, you’ll find your way.
Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT – www.margalistherapy.com
Once the umbilical cord is cut and the baby officially enters the planet earth as an independent being, they lose instant connection to what is the highest form of universal truths and collective soul energy (some call it God, Allah, Buddha, Science, Higher Power or Nature).
We arrive on planet earth as human beings, an independent soul in a body with limitations and ego and for the first time a sense of ‘self’. We immediately disconnect from that highest form of universal truths and collective knowing.
When we disconnect at birth, we begin a new journey. That journey can be a life sentence or an uncovering of our soul purpose!
Scientists state 95% of the time we are operating unconsciously, living each day in a habit without ever being aware of our sensations, feelings, thoughts or our behaviors (also known as unconscious habits).
If we live our lives “unconscious” every day, what does that look like?
Most of us were raised to cast the spotlight of our attention outward on performing, listening, learning about all things that exist outside of our “self”.
We were taught to look outward to our appearance, success, winning, making money, gaining possessions or gaining acceptance or love at all costs.
We spend most of our time scanning what we will do next in the future (anxiety) or fretting over past events (depression).
Most children are not raised to cast the spotlight inward on the universe that lives inside of them…sensations, feelings or thoughts. We are not taught to be present in the moment with ourselves.
Most humans grow up disconnected from their inner world of sensations, feelings and thoughts.
Have you noticed that when we become stressed, anxious or depressed, we make attempts to ‘feel happy’ by altering our appearance, going on crash diets, purchasing material possessions, working too much all in the attempt to find happiness?
We lose ourselves on our journey, leading to a LIFE SENTENCE.
- How do I wake up from this unconscious state and exit the cycle that might become a life sentence?
- How do I wake up and connect back to the universal source of energy from which I came AND uncover my SOUL PURPOSE on this earth?
The truth does not lie in what we think!
Literally, you have to stop thinking. Soul purpose is not achieved by making a list, putting together a strategic plan, setting goals, performing or thinking your way toward it.
Walking this road less travelled means practicing present moment awareness.
How can present moment awareness lead me to my life purpose? When we connect to the present moment, we are able to tune inward and listen to how we feel and what we need.
Tuning inward allows us to pause and listen to the higher truths that live within us.
Every day we are faced with choices to take the low road or the high road. When we keep making unconscious choices based on fear we take the low road.
When we listen to our own inner voice within, we can do two things:
- Make choices that take the highest road of good for self, others and community.
- Make choices that authentically match who we are and our soul’s purpose on planet earth.
“I was born on the planet to help others. I have been that way since I was a little girl. I grew up with a father who was abusive and experienced trauma alongside my mother and three brothers.
I forgot to listen to who I was and to trust my inner voice. I lived in fear.
I developed an eating disorder to have a sense of control over my life when internally I felt out of control.
Emotionally I lived daily in a state of anxiety and fear. I was hijacked by my fear and did not even know it.
I was in the middle of my own scary movie so had no perspective and felt I had no way to escape. I began the journey of healing or listening to my inner voice and the universe that lives inside of me. I learned to identify my feelings and the size of my feelings.
As I became more in touch with my feelings, my sense of empathy for others increased.
I learned present moment awareness and when I had overwhelming emotions, I learned self-regulation strategies to help me get through those hard emotions without hurting myself or others (i.e. breathing techniques, going for walks, journaling). I learned how to identify and express my emotions in a healthy way.
The more I became aware of how I felt and what I needed in the moment, the more I made choices that took me to higher and healthier paths and that were authentic to what my inner voice said I needed, not what I thought others expected or said I should do.
Then something slowly but magical happened.
The more I was present to myself and healed my wounds; the more new and wonderful things came to me that were more in connection to my soul purpose.
Waves of new opportunities and new people entered my life leading me closer to what my heart and soul leaped with joy doing…helping others grow to become not just humans but human(E)!”
Finding your soul purpose happens when you S.T.O.P. and focus on present moment awareness, what do I feel and what do I need, what is the present moment bringing to me now?
The present moment brings whatever you need next on your journey. This STOP tool can help you find your present moment today: