How to choose your purpose.
Earlier this week, I got an email from someone who wanted to know:
“How can I find my purpose?”
This person feels lost and directionless.
She’s so tired of searching, wondering, and “not knowing.”
Yup. I’ve been there. I spent many years comparing myself to my parents (both very high achievers), to my older brother (a Grammy Award-nominated musician) and to my super-successful friends (who all seemed to have things “figured out”). I wanted to discover my purpose so badly. I would journal, walk, think, vent, meditate, ruminate, and stress about it. On multiple occasions, I literally burst into tears of frustration.
Then one day… I realized that you don’t “discover” your purpose. You don’t “uncover” it. You don’t “find” it. You just pick something and you do it.
Here’s what I mean:
1. Think about something that bothers you.
Maybe “online bullying” bothers you. Maybe “poorly designed websites” bother you. Maybe “animal cruelty” bothers you. Maybe “boring dinner parties” bother you. Maybe “seeing talented people stuck in the wrong type of career” bothers you. We’re all bothered by something. What irritates you? What makes you groan? What breaks your heart?
2. Ask yourself, “What’s a cool project that I could do to help ‘solve’ this issue that bothers me?”
Maybe you could do a fundraiser. Maybe you could write a book to change people’s hearts and minds. Maybe you could invent a new product. Maybe you could teach a “lunchtime class” for your colleagues at work. Maybe you could record a 10-episode podcast series. Maybe you could do a letter-writing campaign. Figure out a project that sounds interesting to you. Map it out. And then…
3. Promise yourself that you’ll complete this project, no matter what.
Completing this project is now… your purpose.
That’s it. Get bothered. Come up with a project. Work on completing that project. And then once you’ve completed that project, then ask yourself, “OK, what else?”
Living “purposefully” can be that simple.
Special thanks to some very smart friends and clients, including Ellen, Nicole, Andrea, Paul, and Phil, and so many others, for showing me what it means to “choose your purpose.”