Do you believe that every person was put on this planet for a specific reason? That there’s a unique purpose to each of us?
Here’s a secret: It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not. What matters is that you settle on something as your purpose, even if you don’t believe it’s predestined or “meant to be”.
Why is this a smart thing to do? Because research has shown that it’ll make you happy.
As a rule, happiness is one of the hardest things to pin down. Psychologists and sociologists have been tearing their hair trying to find universal criteria to measure happiness. They’ve come up with nothing much — in the end, it’s down to the individual’s perception.
Turns out Lincoln was right when he said: “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
The researchers then started looking for a correlation between a person’s perceived happiness and their outward, material circumstances. Again they came up empty-handed: Being rich or poor, sick or healthy has little to no influence on how happy people feel. The only thing they found was that people who strive towards something, who have goals and a sense of purpose, consistently rated themselves happier than everybody else did.
If pursuing a purpose creates happiness, how then do you identify your purpose? I’m glad you asked, because this is my area of expertise.
Follow your bliss
When I said you should just pick any purpose, I didn’t mean to imply that it doesn’t matter which one you pick. Too many people are already striving for something they only chose because it carries prestige or a good salary. They end up working all their lives in a career they aren’t emotionally invested in. We need to stop doing that.
In order to find your own purpose, I invite you to look at your passions first.
- What’s the thing — or multiple things — you could do all day?
- What makes you forget time, food, sleep and the weather?
- Is there something you used to love doing as a child, that you’ve since given up?
- Is there something you’ve always wanted to try but never started?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking in terms of jobs or careers. The thing which lights you up is probably a hobby, an art or a craft, or some unusual interest that you can’t possibly imagine making you money. Be patient — this is only the first step towards finding your purpose.
It’s easy to get people to agree on this point. Of course we should all do more of what we love! It’s true, of course, but I’m talking about much more than just having a hobby.
You may ask why on earth you wouldn’t just pursue your passions. Doing what lights you up makes you happy, and wasn’t happiness the initial reason we started all this?
Pursuing passion does create happiness, and you should absolutely do it. However, after a time this becomes a little shallow on its own. Therefore, I recommend going a step further and actually prioritising that which lights you up. The shift towards finding one’s purpose follows as a result of someone brave enough to put their passion front and centre in their lives.
Wait, what? Am I supposed to quit my job and play football all day?
You’ll be relieved to hear that such drastic steps aren’t required to prioritise a passion — at least not just yet. To begin with, changing your priorities is mostly a shift in mindset, albeit a crucial one. Here’s how you go about achieving this.
Write down a list of the priorities in your life. Making a living will probably feature on there, as will friends/family/partner/kids in some form. Now add your passions.
Most people would argue that making a living is central to life. I disagree; in fact, money is only important as long as there isn’t enough of it. Therefore, unless your job is aligned with your purpose, it matters only insofar as it keeps you afloat. It’s a priority, but a minor one.
The main priority should be your passion, even above your loved ones. In the following, I’ll explain why this is so.
To put your money where your mouth is, get into the habit of planning your week ahead with a calendar (the one on your smartphone is fine). Work hours are blocked off so you don’t need to waste any additional time thinking about them. Next come your passions. Block time for them, regularly, and before you schedule anything else.
The whole meaning of priority is that it comes first. So be ruthless and take the time your joy and happiness deserves. Only after this should you schedule date nights, family nights, and other quality time with loved ones.
I want to be very clear that this is not about neglecting your job or your family. On the contrary, it’s about making sure that you’re the best you can be for them. The time you spend working and the time you spend with your family, you’re 100% present and giving your all. You’re able to do this because you’re overflowing with joy from radically nourishing your passions and doing lots of what lights you up.
This is where I feel a little embarrassed. The truth is, I have no idea how it works, I just know that it does, every time. No fails.
It’s like this: When you truly prioritise your passions, your purpose will become clear to you.
I know it sounds too simple. The only possible explanation I can think of is that we were definitely not put on this planet to pay bills and live “lives of quiet desparation” (as Thoreau put it), but to be happy, joyful, and to love. Once you approximate this ideal state, things fall into place inside and around you. I’ve seen it happen countless times, in my own life and with clients I work with as a Coach.
You will get an idea of the thing you’re uniquely equipped to do in this life. For me, it was being an “agent of change” for others, and this led to me getting a Coaching qualification and working with clients for going on 12 years now. For others, it’s making the world more beautiful with crafts, or inspiring deep insights with art or writing. It could be teaching children or adults about an important subject. These are a few examples, but your own purpose might be completely different.
Just know that it’ll come to you, as long as you hold up your end of the bargain and truly put your focus on what lights you up. That’s your job. The rest is up to whatever higher power works for you, so be patient and let your purpose reveal itself. When it does, it’ll be crystal clear.
It really is that simple, almost deceptively so. That’s why hardly anyone’s doing it!