Since the beginning of humanity, we’ve all struggled with the same core questions: Why are we here? What is our purpose?
The ability to answer those questions is the dividing line between people whose lives are full of happiness and meaning and those who feel lost and unmoored. And, if you’re one of the millions of people who feel like you haven’t quite discovered your purpose yet, it can be incredibly frustrating to see some people off creating the lives of their dreams while the rest of us change jobs, relationships, and locations in desperate attempts to finally figure out what we’re here to do.
Often, the reasons we haven't found our true purpose are things we'd never expect to be hindering us. But if you're willing to change your perspective, you can—and will—uncover your raison d'être.
1. You think life purpose is something you have to achieve.
Almost daily, a client or reader will come up to me and say, "Mike, Mike—I’ve finally figured my purpose out. I’m meant to write a book.” Hey, that’s awesome. Who am I to tell them that it’s not their purpose? But here’s the thing—what if they decide they don’t like writing a book? What if no one buys it? Does that make it any less of their purpose?
The truth is that a life purpose isn’t quite as linear as we want to believe. It’s not something that we can work toward and achieve. If it were, that would mean that at some point we didn’t have a purpose. This line of thinking is another symptom of the "not good enough" culture that keeps us trying to prove and achieve everything.
Think of your purpose as a mode of expression rather than an accomplishment.
In my work, I help clients boil everything in their life down into just five or six adjectives that describe that expression. There are many ways to express our purpose, and we’ll be figuring out new ways until the day we die. But that doesn’t mean we’ve been on the wrong track. It just means the best mode of expression for us at a given time will evolve, just as we do.
2. You've been looking for the "how" instead of the "what."
Most of my clients immediately equate life purpose to work. When they tell me they want to find their purpose, what they’re really saying is they want to know what job to take or what business to create.
But way before we figure out how we’re going to share something, we need to know what we’re sharing in the first place. We know life purpose isn’t something you can achieve. Instead, it's something you’re constantly trying to express in different ways (with varying degrees of effectiveness).
Years ago I had a client who told me that she spent so much time in her life beating herself up for struggling with alcoholism and not understanding her purpose. It was only through our work that she realized that one of her "expressions" (what I call Brand Energies) is being enchanted, and that alcohol was the only way she knew how to feel enchanted. Once she understood the what, it was really easy for her to find new hows that felt more empowering. And she went on to create a hugely successful business helping people all over the world feel enchanted. Since then, she's had no desire to touch alcohol.
So instead of worrying about how you’re sharing your purpose, start thinking about what you want to share in the first place.
3. You've missed the clues along the way.
If life purpose isn’t something that we can achieve and it doesn’t matter how we share it as long as we're sharing it, that means we’ve been living it every moment of our lives. Maybe we’re living the shadow side of it (or the opposite) if things aren’t feeling aligned. But that doesn’t mean we’ve been out of touch with our purpose.
So, look for clues peppered throughout your life. I once worked with a client who told me she was all over the place and a total mess. She had been a special-education teacher, an ESL teacher, a sign language interpreter, a tech entrepreneur, and an energy healer. It made absolutely no sense—until we started to look for the clues within each of those things.
They were all about translating language, empowering people to express themselves, and helping people to feel whole and connected. Very quickly, those same themes (or their antonyms) were showing up in her deepest trauma and biggest dreams. It wasn’t something she had to achieve; it was an expression flowing through every moment of her life.
Life purpose is much bigger than something we need to accomplish or a job that we have. It’s the entire meaning of our being. It’s the reason we eat, sleep, and breathe. It’s why we’re here and how we uniquely see the world.
The biggest barrier to discovering your purpose isn’t that you’re screwed up or broken; it’s that you’ve been looking at it in a disempowering way.
Are you ready to start seeing your purpose in everything you do?
Want more insights on how to level up your life? Check out your July horoscope, then find out if you're meeting your emotional needs (and how you can do it better).
Mike Iamele is the Boston-based author of Enough Already: Create Success on Your Own Terms, which takes a critical look at the dysfunctional pressures of modern success and leads readers through a powerful journey to create a new kind of success on their own terms. He has a bachelor's in communication from Northeastern University, and went on to receive his certification in herbal studies and a health and wellness coach certification from The Boston School of Herbal Studies and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, respectively.