I was speaking to a coaching client this week who has been having a hard time “I just can’t seem to find my purpose, I’ve been working so hard in my field and I feel like I’m close, but I’m just not there yet.”
She’s been on my mind a lot, this is a problem I’ve heard before. My advice to her and others in this position is just keep moving in the right direction and you’ll get there - as long as you are prepared to commit time and hard work along the way.
These 4 tips will help you take the next steps:
1. Purpose isn’t discovered, it’s developed
Angela Duckworth, a psychologist who has spent her life studying world-class achievers who are deeply passionate and purposeful, says that people imagine that discovering your purpose happens the way it does in a movie - with a flash of insight and a musical overtone. Before that, you were struggling to find yourself and then, the next thing you know you know exactly who you were meant to be and what you were meant to be doing.
Duckworth, the author of “Grit”, says the reality of cultivating your purpose is not nearly as romantic, or as easy. It takes hard work and deep intention to develop the direction often referred to as purpose and it happens over a long period of time.
2. Cultivate your interests
The best way to find your purpose is to cultivate your interests and grow them in to passion. Find something you think is interesting and nurture this. Immerse yourself in it - read, research, play - grow the seeds of this interest in to a passion. Over time, if you put energy and focus in to it you will feel a slow burning passion building.
Easier said than done? One practical way to bring this to life is to find the interesting things about what you are already doing today and mindfully focus on these. Maybe it’s not the technical subject matter of Accounting that you love, maybe it’s the client interactions, or it’s leading the team through the annual cycle. Pay deep attention to these aspects. Cultivate them, study them, practice them and follow the path that allows you to spend even more time doing them. You may find that one day rather than an Accountant you are a passionate customer advocate or a teacher, helping thousands of students understand the difference between a credit and a debit.
3. Purpose takes perseverance
Perseverance, practicing hard things, setting your own stretch goals for personal performance and interpreting failure as a necessary step in learning are key elements to fostering a personal purpose. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Instead of giving up, take a step right or left, pick the things about the current situation you do like and follow that forward. Keep moving toward what interests you.
Here Duckworth has advice for us too, saying that a good-enough fit is a more reasonable to aim for than a perfect one. Too often people are looking for perfection, for the short cut to winning the prize. Rather she suggests we should consider each step along the way as an opportunity to learn and grow, and a required stepping stone in your journey.
4. Find the way your passion can improve the world
Having a passion is an important part of purpose, the next step from there is turning that passion in to something about it that can benefit society at large. Expanding your passion from personal interest to something that goes beyond you to benefit those around you, your community and society brings transcendence to your personal purpose and studies have shown this is a powerful motivator.
Achieving this could be a simple as reframing the way you view yourself and the work that you do today. What is the highest and best way to describe what you do? How does it help those around you? A Banker shifting their focus from simply providing home loans, to considering the role they play in making peoples dreams come true is transcendence at play.
Remember, don't look for the blinding flash of revelation - it's not coming. Instead take the next step, and the next, and the next. Wherever it leads you will be ahead of where you are today.
Originally Published on LinkedIn on June 7, 2017