How does anybody really figure out what they’re “meant” to do?
And once you do that, do you find a way to make it into a career?
What’s the difference between a career/purpose and making a living?
Are they always the same thing, and how do you figure out if those things overlap or not?
I received these thoughtful questions from a reader a few weeks ago when I asked for content suggestions.
They also happen to mirror a lot of conversations during the first Life with Intention Online class last week. So today I’d like to clarify and share an often overlooked aspect of purpose.
The Overlooked Secret to Finding Your Purpose
After studying and writing about purpose for many years, I believe there is a simple equation for purpose.
It’s clear. It’s concise.
And (most importantly) it is universally true.
In order to survive and thrive as a species over thousands of years, we had to look out for one another moment-to-moment.
So nature hardwired us to seek ways to benefit the group’s survival by producing surges of the “feel good” chemicals serotonin and oxytocin when we help and serve others.
However, this simple truth about present moment service as our true purpose is often overlooked in today’s world.
Instead of focusing on how we can serve others today – perhaps even in this dreadful job – we spend time dreaming about a specific career or role in our lives that might produce a sense of unending “purpose” that will forever fulfill us and perhaps even bring us a healthy paycheck along the way.
And this is where we can get tripped up.
Being a doctor, a stationery designer, or a mother can never be our sole “purpose” in the truest sense because roles are impermanent.
Each one of those things can be taken away (lose the job, get into financial trouble with the business, and God forbid, something happens to your children) and then we are left with… a purpose-less life?
Or, what about the many years before we started that business, had that first child, or got that degree? Were we purpose-less then? What happens to purpose when we retire, or get injured and are unable to perform our duties?
What about children who died young? Did they “lack purpose” because they did not have a career or offspring?
Of course not.
That’s why purpose is about using each day as an opportunity to improve the lives of those around us.
Even if we don’t like our jobs.
Even if we don’t have a job.
Even if we don’t feel particularly passionate about anything.
We still have the same purpose we will have for the rest of our lives right NOW.
The Good News
However, there is some good news: roles and purpose can work together!
Once we can completely connect to the idea that purpose is about present moment service, we get to move onto how we would like to serve going forward.
So, how would you like to help others in this moment? This year?
Just answer that question. How would you like to express your love and serve other people?
In a job you don’t like? Consider looking for a new one or approaching the current one in a different way.
Want to start a business on the side? Find a way to get three people to pay you for your services or products over the next four weeks.
When you no longer attach permanence to your role, you have a plethora of possibilities!
Don’t let the many options you may have scare you, though. Keep things simple. Ask your gut what you should do first and go do that thing.
Then, as you move forward in one direction, you might find that you feel pulled towards another path later.
As long as we serve others in whatever situation we are in, we are fulfilling our purpose and not a moment is wasted.
The only way we can “waste” our lives is by withholding service to those around us in the present moment while we wait for something “better.”
To summarize, we often overlook it, but our purpose is to serve others in the present moment wherever we happen to be.
And when it comes to roles in our lives, we can choose how we want to serve in this stage in our lives without attaching permanence to that decision.
We can let things percolate, progress, and pivot with a purposeful playfulness.
So take a deep breath and enjoy some feel good chemicals!
Go help someone today and you are on your way.
May something wonderful happen to you today,
PS – Want to explore purpose and intentions deeper? Join me in an upcoming Life with Intention Online class!