How to Find Your Life’s Purpose | Flow + Fulfillment Point the Way
How will you know when you are living your soul’s true purpose?
For some of us, we are fortunate enough to have visible proof or signs that we are living our purpose. But at times the evidence that you are on purpose is more of an internal thing.
Flow, fulfillment & finding your life’s purpose
These internal signs of being on-purpose are often felt rather than seen, which makes them somewhat less tangible. And I get that this isn’t always enough of the ‘answer’ that you might be seeking.
For those of you who are intuitive or spiritual, you might find it easy or even natural to tune into your feelings and look at your internal compass.
But for those of you who don’t find tuning into your feelings as easy, it might take you a little more grounding, soul searching or stepping back to look at your life before you understand where you are on your path.
Let me take you on a little journey back to my childhood…
I’ve always loved the arts. However, when I was younger I was told that pursuing arts wasn’t a ‘worthwhile’ use of my time, and certainly wasn’t a career option for me. That really stuck with me throughout my teenage years and into adulthood.
So for me, the part of my purpose that is connected to artistic expression is something that I have had to feel my way to, it took a great deal of soul-searching. It’s been very much an internal process for me.
My mother used to say,
“Destiny is best viewed in the rear-view mirror.”
She meant that if you looked back at your life, there were signs along the way, and events that led you to where you are now.
So how about today?
Over time I’ve become acutely aware of being in a state of flow when I am following my purpose. I feel a huge sense of fulfillment when I’m doing what my soul wants me to be doing. And remembering what my mother used to say — when I look back over the signs and events of my life, it’s very clear to me what my purpose is.
How about you?
I believe that looking at our emotions as one of those ‘signs’ that life shows us, is a great way to know how we are doing in terms of following our purpose.
It’s pretty clear to tell when we are not in alignment. We feel bad, mad or sad. Does the word “drained” resonate with you? I think we all wind up there from time to time, and it often coincides with us straying from our soul’s path.
When we get too caught up in the pursuit of money, career, or pleasing others, we end up way off course. And our emotional response; tiredness, despondency, and even feeling depressed, can be our emotional alarm letting us know we need to course-correct.
Function, form and essence.
So here is an analogy for you to consider…
Think about a spoon. It is made to be a spoon; that is its function and form, and its essence too. But you could take that spoon and melt it down into another metal object, perhaps a fork, just to stick with the cutlery analogy.
So now it’s function and form is that of a fork; but what happened to its essence?
And this is what often happens when people try to fit themselves into a different mold to please their family, friends, partner, or society in general. A person can change their form, perhaps their appearance for example. A person can also change their function, maybe by taking a certain job. But your essence…. Well, that’s who you really are.
That’s the little voice that calls to you in the quiet hours. That’s the ache that tells you something is missing.
So, let me summarize this in a practical way. Because whether you are deeply spiritual or not, I think we can all work with this…
When you feel a sense of flow or fulfillment, the chances are you are walking your own path, the one you are meant to walk, and your soul is thanking you for it.
If you feel disconnected, despondent, drained, or any variation of that; this could be a sign that you have veered off your path. This is when it’s time to take a step back and have the big conversation with yourself.
If you are there now, then please ask yourself this. Who are you at a core, soul-level. What is your true essence, and what makes you happy, fulfilled and flowing with energy?
Allow yourself to play more, explore more and delight in the activities that make you feel blissful to be alive. While not all of those activities will lead you to a career, they can be hints at the types of gifts, talents or strengths that come so naturally to you, that you could find more outlets for them in life.
More on FLOW
I consider flow to be a sign that we are moving toward our purpose. Flow is that state of being where you are so engaged in a task, that you lose all track of time, you lose sense of yourself — the egoic part of you that’s always judging. When you lose sight of that part of you, and you feel completely caught up and engaged, such that you and the task become one, that’s what researcher, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, described as flow. Carl Jung called it ‘peak experience’. For example, we always think about athletes who are totally in the zone where their athletic ability is at its peak, and it just looks like their performance is effortless. For musicians, when they get into that flow or that zone, where they are just playing as one. In fact, we describe how jazz musicians play ‘ in the pocket’.
There’s a sort of mystery and mysticism about flow. But we can also find that in a number of ways, in relationships, when we’re writing, when we’re singing, when we’re dancing, when we’re making love, all of those can be flow-filled experiences.
An easy way to recognize flow in your life
Signs of flow
When it comes to where you are right now, one of the things that I’ve asked people to do is to look over the last ten years of your life. Some people will need to go even further back, to maybe childhood, which is fine. Just look over the last several years of your life, and with a piece of paper, write down all the high points, all the times where you have had what we call ‘peak’ experiences.
Spot all that times where you experienced that state of flow, that state of joy, that state of elation, where you felt like, “Yes! This is living!” It may have been when you were doing anything purposeful, don’t worry about it being tied to work just yet. It could be that you were baking, or you were dancing, or you were volunteering. Just identify the things in the last several years, where you felt like it was a peak experience, you felt flow, you felt fulfillment, you felt joy.
So once you know that those kinds of things were where you had those peak experiences, the next thing is to write down what you brought to the table. In other words, explore what made those peak experiences possible.
The inner source of flow
There are things inside of us, that we bring out, that allow us to reach a state of flow. So in flow, we talk about using our natural strengths and abilities in a way that we’re totally engaged, and it’s usually with some effort, it’s not effortless such that you could do it with your eyes closed, that doesn’t produce flow, it kind of produces on me.
If you could make a list of the times when you had those high points, what in you, were you bringing forth? Was it your wisdom? Was it your ability to be a compassionate listener? Was it your creativity for, I don’t know, I’m thinking of my daughter, with cooking, she has this creativity that is just amazing, and she gets really into the zone when doing it.
So write down what was it in you, that you brought forth in those moments, or what aspect of your character was being used in those moments. Was it your intellect? Was it your keen eye for detail? Was it your love of beauty? Was it your courage?
So, while you are teaching or coaching, for example, what is it that comes out of you, what are you engaged in and using?
Outer Source of flow
Secondly is what about the environment or the situation, made that possible, so if we’re saying that being on the top of a mountain produced that peak experience, where you were looking at the sunset and you just felt awe, and wonder, and gratitude, and appreciation for life, then what made that possible?
Write down those things, because when you combine the internal and the external to what created these peak experiences for you, you’re going to start to see clues. So over the last ten years, write down all of these types of peak experiences. They could be anything, watching the birth of your sister’s baby, or watching the baby take its first steps, or being at some major event.
Whatever those peak experiences are, write down what came out of you, what needed to be in that environment, and those are going to be the clues that you will use to tap back in and say “ok, where do I feel flow?”
So that’s the first ingredient to figuring out your life purpose: flow.
The next ingredient that I feel is really important when it comes to living with purpose, is a sense of fulfillment. This is covered in the video above — but I’ll write up a second post about fulfillment and I’ll include the 5 essentials you need to put into place to live a life of purpose, flow & fulfillment.
All my best,
Originally published at www.andreapennington.com on June 13, 2017.