As we head into a new year, a new career path or a new stage in life, we might be wondering what our purpose in life is.
I often get asked, “How do I find my purpose in life? How do I know what that is?” It’s unlikely that we wake up one day and magically know what this answer is. But at every fork in the road, don’t we have that feeling in our gut of what the next right step is or might be? When we are tuned into ourselves and paying attention, it’s obvious what our purpose or next right step is at that moment.
The most important question I ever asked myself to start to figure this out was, “How can I have more fun?”
If you wonder how you will climb that mountain of work, aspiration or ambition in front of you, you might find the answer by asking, “How can I have more fun here? What’s the next step?”
Perhaps you’ve noticed some of our colleagues who have similar jobs and similar work hours, and yet, they are happier, having more fun and seem to be effortlessly gliding through life—while we are left wondering what their secret is. What if it’s just that they are focused on having more fun or on that simple next step?
Let’s first consider another perspective and look at how far we’ve come. We might be standing on top of a mountain, and from our current vantage point, we can see a series of stepping stones, which are the tops of mountains that we’ve already climbed. So, rather than needing to climb Mount Everest over and over again, are there a series of stepping stones that will help you effortlessly step across that divide and safely reach your destination with less hardship, challenge and frustration?
Is there an elevator that can take you to the top without having to climb fifty flights of stairs or carve footholds on the side of that treacherous mountain?
What other opportunities might also get us to our desired destination with less frustration, hardship and struggle, all while having more fun?
Sometimes the elevator in front of you is your team, who lift you up and guide you along the way. You may be the leader, but they make it all possible and add more joy to the journey.
Sometimes the least resistant path is taking the scenic route to walk a fun path and spiral around the mountain to the top. Sometimes it just takes more clarity to know what you are looking for and asking, “How can I? How is it possible?”
Imagine if one of your mentors showed up and asked you, “What if you took this opportunity? Won’t it get you one step closer to your goal?” Rather than saying, “No, it’s not direct or fast enough;” perhaps you investigate it further and start asking, “How can I get there from here?” Spend less time thinking statements like, “Because it’s not possible,” “Because I have this set of circumstances,” or “Because I’ve painted myself into this corner,” and on and on our excuses go.
When we pay attention to the language we use and the stories we tell ourselves, we might be surprised at what we hear. These statements are ways of throwing up roadblocks and hurdles to prove we were right or add more challenge and struggle to our already busy lives.
Instead of using defeatist or self-deprecating language when describing your dreams, purpose and goals in life, or brushing them off like they aren’t that important, what if you shared them without shame, fear or guilt? Or with the joy in your heart and the excitement in your voice that you feel?
What if you started sharing your true self with others, including your hopes and dreams, and discovered you had a mentor who was lighting the way to a secret passage with an elevator to the top of a neighboring mountain? Once you arrived at the top, you then learned that all you had to do was walk across a bridge to the top of the mountain you wanted to climb? Or perhaps zipline across for that rush of adventure you so desire?
We often forget the series of steps that led us to where we are today and are in a hurry to leap to the top of the mountain when that achievement isn’t our purpose and won’t make us happier. The journey is where the joy, happiness and adventure live and allow us to serve our unique purpose every day. Sometimes we need a moment to be still and take a moment for gratitude and appreciation to see the abundant opportunities.
As we find ourselves in an unstable time amidst a pandemic, how do we find the time and solace to live fully into our purpose in life? Sometimes, the most incredible opportunity lies in chaos and uncertainty because it finally permits us to ask those big scary questions.
Four years ago, I hit rock bottom after work eliminated my position—the one that I climbed the proverbial career ladder to achieve; one of only a handful of roles in the entire country and where I thought I’d serve the remainder of my career. At that moment, I started asking, “What did I want in life? How did I want to feel?” I wanted to be pain-free after multiple surgeries and have more fun.
That simple question and answer led me to put on my workout shoes and move for ten minutes every morning. That one simple act of putting on my shoes led to a series of actions and opportunities that led me to start living the life of my dreams and accomplish more in the last four years—and accomplish what others said was impossible. It is possible to pay the bills while working only two to three days a week and spend the rest of the week pursuing those big, crazy dreams of mine and riding my horse whenever I want.
Here are ten questions you can ask yourself to learn what your next right step might be along your unique path:
- What is the lifestyle that I want?
- How do I want to feel?
- What would my dream life look like each day or week?
- What can I accomplish?
- What action can I take?
- What other opportunities might get me closer even if it seems that I’m moving further away?
- How can I have more fun and get one step closer to my goals and dreams?
- Who can I enlist to help me?
- What can I automate or delete to free up more time?
- What is one action I can take that is one step in the right direction?
If this exercise feels overwhelming, answer just one or two of the questions. We rarely know what we will accomplish in life or the amazing ways it will all unfold. Keep taking the next right step for you and take time to have some fun along the way, and your purpose will appear in all the decisions along the way.
After all, it wasn’t my lifelong goal or aspiration to be where I am today. I’m living the life of my dreams because I asked myself how I wanted to feel and how I could have more fun. Those two seemingly insignificant questions gave me the courage to put on my shoes and take that next step. These questions might lead you to see your purpose more clearly and live into your purpose more fully each day with more joy in your heart and pep in your step than you ever thought possible. +