Read this if: you are anxiously searching for your life purpose.

For most of my life, I have anxiously wondered about my “life purpose.”

Why am I here? What is the greater meaning of my life? What is the message I am here to impart? What’s the point of my existence? And so on. Etc.

I have consulted with astrologers, Tarot card readers, career coaches, hypnotherapists, partners and lovers. I have taken long walks through the woods. I stared into the night sky. I’ve drunk too many cups of coffee. I have read biographies of my heroes looking for clues. I’ve tried to tease, prod, stimulate, and extrapolate “the answer” in a million and one ways.

Then the other day, while drinking lemonade with a friend, I had an epiphany:

What if I’ve had it all backwards?

Let me pause for a moment.

I should explain what my friend and I were talking about.

Her: I am 64 years old. I’ve run multiple businesses. I’ve achieved a lot. At this stage in my life, I just want to make a difference. I want to feel like I am using my life to leave behind a real “legacy.”

Me: You love teaching women how to believe in themselves. You specialize in teaching people how to shift their mindset from “I could never do that…” to “I am capable. I have what it takes. Why not me?”

Her: Yes. That’s what I do. Most women feel inadequate in some way or another. Most women just don’t believe in themselves.

Me: What if you started a new project? What if you declared, “Over the next 10 years of my life, I will teach 1,000 women how to believe in themselves. I will record each of their stories on my website.” What if you made that your personal mission? Imagine the ripple effect of that project, now, and long after you’re gone.

At this point, her eyes welled up with tears.

I saw the tears and then — zing! — I had an epiphany.

Rather than trying to figure out my friend’s “life purpose” (which can often feel nebulous, confusing, change-able, or hard to put into words) we came up with an exciting “project” — a project with a specific timeframe (10 years), a specific goal (sharing tools to build self-trust and combat feelings of inadequacy) and a specific way to track progress (1,000 women).

Completing this specific project can now become… her purpose.

My epiphany: for most of my life I’ve been trying to nail down my “purpose” so that I can choose the right types of “projects” to align with my purpose. But what if that’s a backwards approach? What if it’s better, for some people, to choose a project FIRST — and let “completing the project” BECOME your purpose?

(I’ve just blown my own mind.)

What about you?

Are you exhausted from roaming the earth searching for your purpose?

What if, right now, you chose a big, exciting, slightly intimidating project… and you vowed to complete it before you die?

Perhaps that’s all your “purpose” is: a project that feels interesting and significant to you — and that you promise to complete before your time on earth is up.

Maybe we’ve been overcomplicating it.

Maybe you’re not “born” with a purpose.

Maybe you don’t “discover” your purpose.

Maybe you just outline a project and then you do it.