Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Why looking for your life purpose may not give you the answer you're looking for!

If you're of a certain age, you'll probably know the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.*


The people who had waited 7.5 million years for the super computer to work this out weren't too impressed either. 

"I want to find my life-purpose!"

According to countless articles, identifying your life-purpose is as close as we can get to answering the "ultimate question" in the absence of our own super computer. Knowing your life-purpose can bring you happiness, energy, fulfillment and success. If you are feeling increasingly disconnected from what you do in your daily life and are wondering whether there is something more or different available to you, the question of life-purpose may well rear its head. 

"10 questions to find my life purpose? Perfect! Question 1......"

And so begins the quest to find the "thing" we are missing. The "thing" that our life-purpose will point us towards. The "thing" we are meant to do, to create, to build, to change. This "thing" will make us fulfilled. When you find it, happiness, meaning and success will follow.

But as we answer the 10 or 15 or 7 questions that will "reveal" our life-purpose, all we see is a jumble of words, memories and wishes. The light-bulb moment isn't forthcoming. 

"What's gone wrong? Didn't I answer them properly?"

Now an element of panic sets in. If we don't find the "thing" now, we'll miss our chance and be destined to be unfulfilled forever!


Take a breath. Relax.

If you're struggling with your life-purpose, here are four important points to consider:
Life-purpose does not have to be one "thing".

Wouldn't it be easier if we could identify one neat purpose for our lives? Bear Grylls' might be "always an adventure", Jamie Oliver's might be "food passion and education". But if you can't see the particular "thing", don't lose hope.

We are conditioned to categorise and label things according to what we already know. And yet human beings are multi-dimensional and complex. We have a wide range of passions, motivations, interests and experiences. Rather than looking for a specific subject, job or answer straight away, stay curious and open-minded. Allow tangents and randomness. 

There is no expiry date. 

Ok, I suppose death is a natural expiry date. That aside, the only time pressure comes from you. Rather than thinking about what's missing and how you want thing to be different in the future, acknowledge what matters to you now and relish it.

Mindfulness, gratitude, living in the present, enjoying the journey, - whatever you use or call it, being more conscious of ourselves and our mindset helps us recognise our impact and choices. You can do this every day, starting now.
Accept you ARE unique.

You are the only version of you that has ever existed. The word unique can sit uncomfortably with some people but we are, unquestionably, unique. Even genetically identical twins have different thoughts, feelings and experiences from birth. (Don't believe me? Ask identical twins about whether birth order matters!)

Focus on what makes a difference to you and the difference you make. This is not a time for hiding your light for fear of being "big-headed" or "too big for your boots". Acknowledge and respect who you are. 

Trust yourself to be you.

You are naturally creative. You are resourceful. You are not deficient or lacking or broken. Trust your instinct. Trust your knowledge and experience. Trust your emotions. Imagine you are your own closest friend and listen to yourself without judgement. 

"So what now?"

Maybe finding your life-purpose will involve changing careers or locations or the people you are with. This can feel quite overwhelming, hence people seek a clear "thing" to guide them and make them feel this kind of change will be worth the risk.

But what if finding meaning in your life means making conscious choices about how you spend your time, taking charge of how you respond to aggravations, or changing how you think about and treat yourself. Those steps are absolutely within your grasp right now. Who knows, those kind of small changes may even help you find your life-purpose after all.

*from the brilliant Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams