One of the most common questions I get asked is, “How do I find my life purpose?” The short answer is to follow your joy route.
What does that mean? Your find your joy route by identifying what makes you happy, what makes you feel alive, and what brings you uninhibited joy. And then you follow it.
My joy route involves expressing myself creatively through writing and traveling. When I started searching for my joy route, I could see glimpses of my ideal life, but the full embodiment of it felt so far off and foreign to me. I thought, “How could I possible become a travel writer and book author when I am stuck in a job I hate?”The jump from my corporate advertising job to following my actual bliss seemed totally impossible, until I was let go from my job. After the shock wore off, I realized it was the best thing that could've happened to me. I started to build a bridge to happiness; I worked freelance jobs to pay the bills and consistently took daily action to create the life of my dreams.
You don't have to know the end of the journey. You just need to know the next step. Take one step at a time, and the next step will reveal itself to you at the appointed time.
Most of us are "stuck" because we are afraid of the unknown, afraid of failure. But I am living proof that your dreams can become reality. I am writing this article from Mexico because I did the work to manifest the life I wanted. Writing from all over the world brings me pure joy.
If you're trying to find your life purpose, take a step back. Start from square one, and you might learn some things about yourself you didn't realize before. Here are a few questions to nudge you forward on the journey.
1. What makes you feel alive, fulfilled, and present?
I was once asked "What are you best at?" in a job interview. They really meant, "Where does your passion reside? What do you love to do? What makes you feel confident, fully alive, and present?"
Ask yourself those questions, and visualize the answers. Do you see yourself painting in your art studio? Are you outside in nature with your loved ones? Are you curled up reading an amazing new book? These expressions of your joy are glimpses into your ideal life.
The way I found my purpose is by discovering what feels important and meaningful to me. Ask yourself What do I love to do? What comes natural to me? What am I best in the world at?
2. What suckiness can you tolerate? What can't you tolerate?
Let’s just get this out of the way. Nothing is pure joy all the time. You'll definitely have to roll up your sleeves and sweat. There will be tears. You will struggle. The question is—what struggle can you tolerate?
No matter what your joy route is, there will be a transitional period from where you are now to that ideal life you envision. And even when you're far along the joy path, there will be struggle. It's called life. The sticky little bugger of a truth is that everything sucks some of the time.
When I started to pursue freelance writing, I had to stare my fear of rejection dead in the eye and just get over it. My last book was rejected by over 25 publishers but went on to become an Amazon best-seller. Imagine if I had quit after my first rejection. Where would I be now?
Maybe you want to become a superstar tech entrepreneur, but you're terrified of failure. You won't make it far. If you want to be a professional singer but aren’t willing to play your songs in public, you might as well hang up the guitar now. If you want to be a big-name court lawyer, but can’t stand the 80-plus-hour workweeks, then you're in trouble.
The goal of finding your life purpose is to ask yourself what suckiness you will tolerate—and what kind of payoff is worth that investment.
Everything involves sacrifice. Every pursuit comes with some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting 100 percent of the time. What struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, your ability to achieve the life of your dreams is determined by your willingness to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.
3. When did your younger self lose track of time?
When I was a child, I often wrote stories and poetry. I would sit outside by myself for hours writing about life, imagining other lives. This was my bliss. I didn’t write it because I thought people would read it. I wasn’t trying to prove anything or get recognition. I did it because it brought me joy.
At some point, the demands of life stepped in, and I stopped. We have a tendency to lose touch with our sense of wonder when we get overwhelmed by "shoulds" and "have-tos." Social and professional pressures can squeeze the life out of our joyful, curious inner child. Think about when you were happiest as a child, and find your way back to that.
4. Where do you find your mind drifting when it's free from worry?
We worry a lot—about both things we can and things we can’t control. We worry about what might be and what has already been, although we can't change either of those things. Fear is paralyzing. It keeps us from moving forward with clarity and joy. Occasionally, when we've exhausted our brains with worry, it gives us no choice but to stop. Your mind goes on a little vacation.
When that happens, your mind drifts to joy, fantasies, and possibilities. The next time you experience this, take note of where your mind goes. Do you dream of traveling the world and writing about your experiences? Do you dream of helping others eat and live better with recipes or cookbook ideas? These insights are inspirations from your heart. Trust them.
5. What is your biggest fear?
I'm not talking about your fear of spiders or public speaking. I mean the deep-seated fears that inform every decision you make (even the subconscious ones). Most of us are afraid of the unknown, but when we peel back the layers of this fear, we come to realize that "the unknown" is really the same as "not living life fully."
My biggest fear is not living my full potential—dying before I do everything I want to do. This fear motivates me to live each day with purpose and make the most out of my life. Find your biggest fear, and tackle it in your life—whatever that looks like to you. If you don't, your biggest fear is already coming true.