What does it actually mean to "Find Your Purpose"
this blog post is part of a series, #oneblogpostaday.
the first part of this series is focused on purpose + career.
Oh man. In our world today, it seems like it’s almost social currency to feel like we’ve “found our purpose.”
As twenty-somethings, we’re constantly searching for it. We enter the working world and immediately expect to do the thing - to feel fulfilled and excited and full of passion with each email we send.
But, it’s freakin’ confusing to figure out. And those who have found “it” seem like magical unicorns who don’t exist in reality (who actually likes what they’re doing anyway?).
I know…I feel you. I was totally there once, too. And sometimes - even though part of my literal job is helping people find their passion - I feel like it’s kind of overrated.
I hear others talking about their passion like it’s the golden snitch in Quidditch: elusive, shiny, and something we can never catch no matter how hard we try (unless we’re Harry Potter of course).
I’m here to tell you not to worry. Your passion or purpose or golden snitch or whatever we’re calling it these days is not mysterious or confusing. It’s not somewhere hiding or something you need to “find.”
Let me let you in on a little secret: your purpose has always been deep inside of you. You just need to unravel all the layers to let it out.
Here’s a little story about passion + purpose.
Back in the day, I loved writing. As a little kid, I kept notebooks everywhere I went: on vacation, during the summer months, under my pillow. Reading and writing and words were always something that came naturally to me (true gemini over here!).
I’m not saying that I was always good at writing. If you look back at my notebooks from my elementary school years they were very plain vanilla. I described my (very boring) days and my crushes and my teachers. I talked about my fears and my goals. It was just me and the notebook - I didn’t expect anyone to read them so the words flowed.
But, I loved doing it.
I also loved storytelling. Ask anyone in my family - likely to their annoyance - I could not stop talking as a kid. I always had a story to tell or a way to jump in to the conversation. I embellished things a little (or a lot) for the enjoyment of getting people excited.
Side note - once I told my entire elementary school that my great grandpa was Mr. Milano from Milano’s cookies. It was so believable that one teacher asked me to invite him in to speak at school. Ha - you can only imagine how that turned out.
But, I digress.
You could tell that before all the “success” conditioning - I loved telling stories. That is - until I learned that writing was not a very “successful” career. Read: it didn’t make money. Other people didn’t think you had to be smart to write.
In order to be successful, so I thought, math and science were key.
So, what did I do? I took all the advanced math and science classes I could. I proved to everyone - mostly myself - that I could do it (and I was pretty damn good at it, too). I decided to go to college for finance. I got a job at Goldman Sachs for pete’s sake.
But, all along the way…I kind of hated it.
I mean, I wouldn’t have told you that back then. I was so caught up in the need to impress others that I had to suppress my first love: writing and storytelling. I focused on spreadsheets and analytics instead of journals and words.
To be honest - I didn’t even realize what I was doing at the time. And worst of all, I kept it up until I couldn’t anymore.
But, your purpose has a way of coming to the surface when you need it most.
So, when I was at my breaking point (aka sick of looking at computer screens all day “analyzing” data) - I looked around in despair and wondered: What the hell is my purpose?
I thought I didn’t have a clue.
But, the only thing I could seem to do was write.
In my darkest days, I turned to those journals. I wrote emails to friends and family. I scribbled notes in the back of my Moleskin journal. I connected stories and ideas and feelings instead.
I did what I felt best at: storytelling.
But, I still didn’t see it for what it was. I never imagined that I could have a job - let alone a career - writing and helping others tell their story. It didn’t seem possible.
I just kept doing it because I couldn’t stop.
…until one day, it was all I could do.
So, what can’t you stop doing? What seems to flow out of you when nothing else feels right?
Think about it: that might be your purpose. Even if you can’t see how you could combine your purpose + passion + career right now that’s okay. Keep doing it.
Find ways to incorporate it into your every day. Learn it and feel it and share it. Maybe it’s baking cupcakes. Maybe it’s doing your friend’s taxes. Maybe it’s leading your company’s softball team.
Who knows. Because purpose + passion + career don’t always need to cross paths (sometimes we don’t even want them to!). Maybe you keep baking those cupcakes and providing comfort to people through food as your love outside of work. However you choose to express your purpose is perfect.
But, if you do happen to want that purpose to be your entire life - continue to refine it first. Continue to do it without pressure for a little while. Oftentimes, we confuse career and passion without testing them out first.
In my case, I spent literally 3 years writing for fun without expecting anything out of it. I was able to test and learn and truly see if it was my thing without this need to make money from it. For me, it allowed me to decide (key word) if this thing I really loved doing was actually something I wanted to do all the time. And trust me - I went through many mini-decisions before that.
And, I realized that it wasn’t just writing that drove me. It was telling a story; using stories to help others feel connected and capable of achieving their dreams. I was able to parse out what I really enjoyed about that passion without the pressure to turn it into a Thing yet.
That was immensely helpful to me, because otherwise I might have squashed my purpose out of fear.
So, depending on where you are in your purpose journey here are my three major tips:
Look back to your childhood
Think about what you can’t stop doing right now
And then…Keep doing it - without pressure.
Most importantly: don’t stress. You will, and always have, known what your purpose is. That will never go away.