Have you ever wondered what your purpose or calling is? Or what you’re meant to do with your life? I know I have.
I believe each person has a purpose in life that’s more than just to exist. Because of my faith, I believe each person is called to something that is more than just serving one’s own desires. I believe each person has an opportunity to fulfill a purpose that’s greater than one’s self.
In his book, Good Leaders Ask Great questions, John Maxwell shares “You can’t grow to your potential if you don’t know your purpose.”
We all want to grow to our potential don’t we? I know I do. I don’t want to be someone who’s hit the ceiling on my potential.
So how do you figure out your purpose? Well I’m sure there are infinite ways, but what I”ll share with you below is what I tell others when we talk about uncovering their purpose.
Things to keep in mind as you begin reading through the steps below. First, I use calling, why, and purpose interchangeably below. What I mean by these terms is what I mentioned above. This “thing” that is your reason for living, and helps you focus on how to make the most of your one and only life. Second, this work is a process. You likely won’t discover your why overnight or in a few days or weeks or even months. This will take time. Third, your purpose will be unique to you. Just because someone else shares a purpose or calling that you like or think is admirable doesn’t mean it suits you. Each person has a calling unique based on their life and experiences. Last, give yourself grace. There is not a “right way” to uncover this. Practice patience. Be willing to ask yourself hard questions, and committed to setting aside time and energy to this process.
You ready? Let’s dig in.
Step 1: Make Time
Make an appointment on your calendar for 1-2 hours. Put your own name in the appintment. What you’re doing is setting aside time for you to focus on just you. You can’t have distractions or interruptions. This needs to be time for you to just sit and think and write.
Do it after the kiddos are in bed or before they wake up. Pick a park or coffee shop or your own backyard to just sit with your own thoughts. Put the appointment on the calendar so it’s not nudged out by anything else. This is non negotiable. No cancelling on yourself. This is important.
Step 2: Write it Out
When the time arrives for your appointment with yourself, bring any notebook or pad of paper and a pen with you. Make sure you have a few pages since you’ll be jotting down a bunch of notes.
Begin by getting comfortable. Sit in silence for a few minutes. Allow your brain to transition from what you were just doing to this time to focus on just you.
Once you’re in a good mental space, read through the questions below. Then, begin by writing out your answers to these following questions in your notebook. Leave some room around each question for notes later in the process. Don’t skimp on your answers and don’t overthink it. Just write what comes to mind. The more detailed your answers are, the more helpful this will be for the process later of uncovering your purpose.
- Who am I?
- What do I believe?
- What do I need?
- What do I love?
- Where do I belong?
- Where do I get my energy?
- What gets me out of bed in the morning?
- What does my perfect day look like?
- What makes me cry?
- What brings me the most joy?
- Where am I the most myself?
- What breaks my heart?
- What do others say I’m best at?
- What are the things I’m most passionate about in life?
- What is missing from my life currently?
- What do I want my life to look like in 5 years?
- What about in 50 years?
- What do I want people to remember me for?
Do you have all your answers written down? I hope so. Remember, don’t skip any of these. Some questions may seem similar but they will likely give you different answers. If you didn’t finish these questions in the time you allotted, book another chunk time to complete them. These will be used in depth later.
Put aside the answers to your questions for now and make another appointment with yourself in your calendar. Find another 30 minutes – 60 minutes for this next step.
Step 3: Finding Your Values
During your next chunk of time, go to this link where you will find a download from Brene Brown’s website with a list of personal values. You can also find it here and then scroll to the “List of Values”. If you have a printer at home, print out the list. If you don’t, grab that journal from the first step again and you will do the exercise in there.
Go through and read the list of values. For any values that seem to tug at you, either circle them if you’ve printed the list or just write them on your piece of paper.
Now go through your list that you’ve either circled or written down, and put a star next to your top 10 values.
Go through the values for a third time, and now highlight your top 5.
Finally, go through those 5 and pick write down on the back of the paper or in a new list, your top 3.
Whew. I know. That can be tough because all those values are so, well, valuable. BUT just because they are all valuable doesn’t mean they all fit you the same way. We each have perspectives and each person will have a set of values unique to them. Choose those that connect to you.
If you get through the values and you’re worried you didn’t pick the “right” values, don’t. You’re not tied to this list. There’s not a perfect set of values. As we go through the next steps, you may find that some of the values that didn’t make the top 3 but are in the top 10 are important. That is totally fine. That’s why you have various lists while you began narrowing down your values.
Keep this list handy and we will come back to it later. Your homework is to carve out another hour or so for Step 4.
Step 4: Finding Patterns
In Step 2, you wrote out answers to your questions to a variety of personal questions. In Step 3, you looked over a list of values to see which aligned most with your personal values. In Step 4, we are going to look for patterns and put these together.
Look over your answers to the questions from Step 2. Grab a highlighter and start identifying words or themes you keep seeing come up. Maybe “support” or “family come up often for you. Or maybe this idea of leaving something lasting is a theme that you’re finding. Whatever it is, pull out those words, phrases, or themes and add them to a new sheet of paper. Then go and look at your final 3 words from the values list.
- Do the values and your themes seem to overlap? How? Write it out.
- Are they totally different? Think about why that may be. Write it out.
- Are your themes more closely related to your list of words when you had 10? Why do you think that is? What words does it align with? Write it out.
This part is incredibly important. What you feel when asked personal questions and your values when strung together should help you begin weaving your quilt of purpose. If they don’t line up just yet, not to worry. We will talk about that in the next post on this topic.
Step 5: Practice Patience & Ask Why
Be patient. My “purpose” took months to uncover. I understood bits and pieces, but not until I really spent time digging further into some “why” questions was I clearer about what I feel I’m meant to do.
To dig further into the “why”, literally ask yourself “why?”. Look at your list of 3 values. Write out why that value stuck to you. Then ask “why?” again. You may find yourself asking “Why?” a few times to get to the real root of why that word means something to you. Once you can’t ask why anymore, because you’re at the heart of the matter, stop and go to the next question. Then, do the same thing with your answers to the questions in Step 2. Ask “why?”.
This step may take a few chunks of time. Maybe it’s easy for you or maybe it’s a bit harder. Any way is okay. What’s important is you’re committed to asking “why” in order to better understand yourself.
These first 5 steps may take anywhere from a week to 3-6 months or more. As I mentioned at the beginning, this is not a fast process. While you may complete these first 5 steps in a week if you set aside a few hours each day, it doesn’t mean your purpose will be uncovered in that short period of time. Practice patience.
These are just the first 5 steps. I’ll be sharing more of this process in an upcoming blog, so stay tuned!