What is your purpose? Have you ever been confused about what you should be doing with your life? Maybe you feel adrift in a large ocean of questions.
It's a very lonely feeling. But, trust me when I say you're not alone. There's a lot of pressure to figure everything out early on, but we all face it. Just talk to any kid about to graduate high school or the college sophomore that needs to declare her major.
To clarify, when I talk about purpose, I'm addressing career and life goals. In my own experience, I have dealt with the question of life purpose on and off my whole adult life.
While I always knew deep down what I really wanted, I was afraid of making the wrong choice. Recently, I decided it was worth shooting for my artistic and creative dreams despite the chance I might fail.
My passion is and always has been art. As a kid I knew it, but somehow once I entered adulthood I let a lot of doubt seep in. Happily, I have it sorted out now.
So how do you figure it out? I'm no expert, but I thought I would include some things I've learned on my own journey. Hopefully, it will help you as you pursue your own.
Finding Your Purpose in Life (In 5 Helpful Tips)
1. What are you interested in?
This seems obvious, but it is often overlooked. What interests you the most? Can you watch the History Channel for hours? Do you experiment with new ingredients trying to perfect new recipes? Maybe you've thought of an invention that will change the way people watch television.
Our passions guide us. They are a blueprint of possibilities. In my article, What Really Matters in Life- I posed this question, "What is that thing you can spend six hours doing and it feels like six minutes?" If time seems to fly by at lightening speed when you're making cookies for your church bake sale, maybe you should consider baking for a living.
2. Don't be Afraid to stand out.
We often don't pursue things because no one else has. It's uncharted waters, and there seem to be sharks out there. If your passion is unconventional, maybe you should try it anyway. Failure may be all but certain, yet that passion will still continue to press if you don't act on it, eventually settling into a big pool of regret.
There was no such thing as a full length animated movie before Walt Disney made Snow White. Disney sunk a ridiculous amount of money into making the film when almost everyone out there said it would never be a success. If it had failed, it most likely would have spelled the end for the Disney studio. Fortunately, it was very successful. Yet, Disney didn't stop there. He continued to take incredible risks on creative projects, eventually opening the first theme park, Disneyland.
It's an incredible and inspirational story, but it never would have happened if Walt Disney had been afraid to stand out.
3. Don't wait for a sign.
Signs from the heavens don't usually direct us toward our path. I'm not saying it has never happened, but typically conventional wisdom guides us a bit more. Often, the answer is a bit more mundane.
When I was four, I could sit for hours and watch my Dad draw at his art desk. He was my hero. I remember sitting at his desk at home when he was away at work, turning the lightbox on his drafting table on and off, and also slicing my fingers on a pair of scissors when I was eight, but that is a different story. Eventually, I found myself drawing all the time hoping that one day I would be as good as my Dad.
No star fell from heaven. No divine voice told me what I was supposed to do, and recently I came to terms with that being okay. Truth be told, it was the misery of not pursuing my passion in art that lead me to the certainty I have now.
4. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself. There is no deadline.
Putting pressure on ourselves is a form of perfectionism, and as I wrote earlier this week, perfectionism is a dangerous obstacle when it comes to pursuing dreams. Things don't have to be perfect before you start doing them. You also don't need to be an expert before you start either.
Set realistic goals for yourself. If you want to be a chef, be a chef. Know that you are a successful chef when you cook for others to purchase and enjoy. Success doesn't have to be a show on the food network, with three cookbooks on the National Bestseller list.
I placed all kinds of pressure on myself to succeed at very high levels. I've been published in magazines, books, and had my art hang in galleries, yet I still had the feeling that I hadn't made it yet. The result was a constant feeling of defeat and failure. More recently, I've just decided that as long as the majority of my workday is filled with art and writing, and our living expenses are met, then I am living out my purpose. I have made it.
Also, despite what anyone else says, there is no deadline on any of this.
5. The right way presents itself through action.
If the path you choose isn't the right one, the right way usually presents itself as you move forward with your choice. When you sit and wait, the path remains obscure, and might never actually materialize. Taking action, even the wrong action can help you determine your path, or at the very least, show you what you don't want your path to be.
Both of my Grandfathers were Christian pastors. Despite my passions, I wrestled with whether I too had that same calling on my life. I pondered whether I should give up my passion for art to pursue a higher, more divine calling.
While I never did attend seminary, I was employed at a ministry for a number of years. During my time working in the ministry, I fantasized and dreamed about a life pursuing art instead. Now, I can look back without regret knowing that pursuing art was the right choice. So, even the wrong path taught me about what I really wanted to do, and the question about whether I should follow in the footsteps of my Grandfathers was finally put to rest.
Finding Your Purpose
Let me encourage you as you search for your passions and chase your dreams that so much of the richness of life is in the pursuit, and not just the goal. Searching for your purpose can be difficult and confusing, yet it is a journey filled with lessons, adventure, and a richer life.
So as you navigate the waters of life, I hope all of you will find what you are looking for.
Thanks for reading, Scofflaws!