How do you find your purpose?

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I’ve grappled with the concept or idea of a larger purpose for most of my adult life. What am I here for? What is my calling? What is my life’s purpose and how will I know if I got it right? Have humans all been sent to Earth to accomplish something specific? Am I just too dense to figure this out?

So, how do you find your purpose? When we peel away the layers, we hit on something deeper.

The questions I probably should have been asking are:

  1. Am I doing something that gives me a feeling of being valued?
  2. Do I define my worth by how I make a living?

Too often we let external sources define us. That can be a wheel of torment we’ll never get off of. I imagine that many of us have handed over our “purpose” to the masses and said, “Hey, everyone else! Tell me I’m worthy, I’m smart, I add value, I’m not a disgraceful human being! Please define me by your standards and let me know if I measure up!”

We all have talents; music, acting, programming, gardening, but unless someone else tells us they need it, or value it, or that it makes a difference, we’ll doubt whether or not we’re good enough or if anyone cares about it. For some, they’ll quit doing it all together and find something to do that someone else decides is more valuable.

I can’t feed my family as a writer because I’m not as good as Stephen King so I’m going to take a crappy job I hate but my parents respect it more and it comes with an awesome salary and benefits.

What I think we’re really saying when we make remarks like this, is that we think we may have gotten a raw deal. The things we’re good at we haven’t figured out how to make money doing, or at least not yet. So we’ve resigned ourselves to doing something to earn money, earn the “respect” of others, and stopped doing something we love.

Of course we need to feed our families. But who we are is not how we earn a living.

(BTW, I’m not a fan of horror novels, but Stephen King is probably better than everyone, and I think it’s okay to just surrender to that, without surrendering the dream of becoming a writer).

And what about if we’re doing something that will never make money? Perhaps we struggle with feeling like we’re “just” moms or “just” homemakers. Well, let me pose this question to you:

Do the people you care for 24 hours a day value what you do? Would their lives be drastically altered if you were not there? Do you LOVE these crazy people with all of your heart and soul? Yes, of course, and you know that. Let that be ENOUGH. YOU ARE ENOUGH.

It is so terribly easy to get caught up in defining our purpose by how we make our money, or by an outsiders definition of success. Young college grads work themselves to burnout within their first two years out of school because climbing that corporate ladder quickly is so impressive. Stay at home mommies can’t just take care of their kids anymore, now they’re competing to be the “hottest mom at the gym” or have a two-year old who quotes Nietzsche. Please give yourself a break if this resonates with you.

I don’t purport to know the true purpose of life, though I love to read philosophers’ and spiritual leaders’ perspectives on this. What I do know, is that we may need to stop asking that question, and start defining for ourselves the ways in which we know we add value, monetary compensation or not.

What about you? Please tell me your story! Are you an artist? Does what you create make people feel happy or feel human? Are you an excellent cook? Do people love to eat at your table because they feel loved or comforted? If you don’t earn a dime for doing these things but you can’t imagine not doing them, I hope you never stop.

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