4 Ways to Know if You’re on the Right Life-Path
How to listen to your inner guidance
Cathy Heller, author, and creator of the podcast “Don’t Keep Your Day Job,” begins each episode by saying, “the opposite of depression is not happiness. The opposite of depression is purpose.”
Ah yes, purpose. The ever-elusive sense of purpose.
I went to the podcast website and took the free “passion finder quiz.”
Apparently, I am an investigator.
While this information is nothing new to me, I have often found with typing quizzes that they try their best to put my skills and talents into a particular box.
The truth is that finding your life path, and thus, your purpose, is a journey that only you can embark upon, and only you can know which turns to take.
It likely will not fit any type of mold or linear form, and that doesn’t mean you can’t find it.
Here are some hard lessons and helpful tips I’ve learned along the way.
Your path may be non-linear
My life-path has taken me to three continents, over 15 countries, three fields of work, one attempted master's degree, one completed master's degree and I don’t know how many different jobs. I have changed course more times than most people I know.
Some look at my life with judgment and confusion.
Others look at it with envy.
The truth is, part of what early adulthood is all about is getting to know yourself better, and merging the parts of yourself that may appear to be at odds with each other.
In my case, that meant acknowledging that one part of me craves stability and another part feels stifled by it.
One part of me yearns for freedom and another part of me feels listless and empty when I have it.
I had to continuously dip my toe into these seemingly polarizing extremes, in order to come to a place of balance.
Trust your inner guidance
There are forces at play far beyond your mind’s ability to plan ahead and set goals.
Your soul has bigger plans, and it can see the big picture.
Your mind can only see the choices that are right in front of you, and your mind will have you believe that one choice is more likely to lead to where you want to go, based on logic and reason.
Your soul, on the other hand, has a bird’s eye view of your entire life. It is that gut or heart knowing that the sometimes “illogical” choice will yield the greatest results.
Your mind says, “be smart. Don’t risk it. You might run out of money, or fail, or get hurt, or die.”
Sometimes, the mind is right to send us these messages.
But sometimes, the soul says, “trust me. You’ll feel a sense of freedom, and purpose, and joy, and fulfillment, that you’ve never experienced before. This choice will be fruitful.”
Often times when the soul takes the lead, we are able to make big life choices easily.
This doesn’t mean that effort and action aren’t required.
It just means that the effort and actions required tend to flow, and we have energy and lightness when we engage with them.
The best way to know if a certain choice is right for you is to check in with your body: If it feels taxing, difficult, heavy, or draining, despite anything your mind says, it will likely not bode well for you in the future.
If, however, a decision feels light, bubbly, exciting, or just easy and obvious, this is your internal green-light.
It may not always feel good
Have you ever experienced the feeling of devastation when something in your life falls apart, only to discover months or years later that it was the best thing that ever happened to you?
That’s the soul at work.
And when you’re in the uncomfortable, in-between moments before you see the light at the end of the tunnel, just remember that this too is leading you towards your soul-purpose and authentic life path.
To give you an example, about a year ago I returned to my home state of Maryland, after spending three years galavanting around Asia.
It was an easy choice to make, mostly because my mind had convinced me that it would go a certain way: I would return home, finally start a business and work for myself. I was going to find my soul-purpose once and for all.
Spoiler alert: NOT what went down.
I found myself back in my parents’ basement feeling more lost than ever. None of my pursuits felt right and I quickly realized that my business idea was not meant to be, at least not at that moment.
I couldn’t find a job, I felt like a failure, and I got depressed.
Looking back, I can now see the gift of spending six, dark months with nothing to do but cry, and heal.
I got to know myself a whole lot better.
I learned to recognize when my mind was at play, and how to listen to my soul.
It taught me to be present and patient and not to buy into a fake, fantasy version of how I thought my life should look.
Looking back, I can see that those six months taught me valuable lessons, and led to me living more authentically and confidently than anything other life-experience I’ve had.
Everything has value along the way
Regardless of what choices you make along the way, remember that everything you experience has value and, if you’re willing, every experience will lead you towards your soul-purpose.
Looking at it this way, we can see that there are no wrong choices, and you are never truly on the “wrong” path.
The practice of listening to and trusting your inner guidance is a more direct route to discover and live into your soul-purpose. The good news is that you are heading there regardless.
Many people discover their true purpose at age 50, or 80.
Others find that they have many different purposes throughout their lifetime. From mother to artist, to teacher, to mentor, there really is no arrival point where life is complete and our work is done.
And thank goodness for that, otherwise, how boring would life be?