Finding one’s purpose in life is said to be the Holy Grail, but lately, there’s a new take on things; putting pressure on ourselves to ‘find’ that purpose can often result in disappointment and burnout.
Purpose; it’s such a grand word, full of possibilities. Also, it seems to become more charged, more important, as we get older. Purpose is change-able and it evolves with us, but many of us feel it’s pre-determined, and therefore, when perhaps we don’t find it when and where we expect, it can turn into a source of frustration.
In the dictionary, the first definition of purpose is: The reason for which something is done, created or exists. It also defines purpose as a sense of resolve or determination, and for me, it’s the second definition that we really need to focus on.
Purpose doesn’t necessarily mean career
For most people, purpose is the sole domain of what they do in their working life, and that’s great if you’re doing something you love. However, if you find yourself measuring your week by how many sales you made or how many Zooms you killed, you might sometimes wonder, ‘is that all there is?’
It’s no surprise that so many of us connect our job with our purpose; we’re pushed from an early age to ‘know what we want to do when we grow up’, so we do the prerequisite things, such as studying, getting work experience, before it’s time to actually get the job. Then we’re in the job, and it’s about clocking in each day and meeting targets, professional and personal. Before you know it, 10 years have flown by.
As I said before, if you’re doing something you love, then that’s great! If you just like, or tolerate your job and still feel purpose-less, it’s okay to feel that way. If you don’t want to change your job, or you can’t, you can still work towards what purpose means to you.
For me, a much easier way to understand this, is to remember Solange Knowle’s words on a 24 second interlude on her most recent album, When I Get Home. Track 8 is called Nothing Without Intention, and in the final seconds of the track, you hear a woman repeating the phrase over and over. I remember the first time I heard it; I wanted to ensure that I would always remember it, so I created a screensaver for my phone. Now, every day when I turn that phone on, the first word I see is INTENTION.
It sets the tone for the day and reminds me that, while I don’t always get to choose what’s on my schedule, whatever I’m doing, I’m going to do it fully, with intention. This single reminder can make all the difference in the work I produce, but also in my workouts, how I might arrange some flowers – even in my interactions throughout the day. This version of purpose makes me feel more able to work, thrive and enjoy my days. It is no longer some improbable, fearsome projection; instead it makes me feel like each day is one step closer to something wonderful.
The small things
If you’ve spent years struggling with what your purpose should be, check out these tips.
*Create a playlist that makes you want to smile or dance! It’s a scientific fact that music affects our mood, so it’s important to pay attention to what we’re listening to. Of course, when we’re feeling moody it’s totally cool to listen to tunes that vibe with that tone, but when it’s a day that needs to see action, your brain will thank you for listening to songs that inspire and energise you! Make a playlist, play it loud and get to work.
*Read more. I’m not asking you to pick up a self-help book; instead think about a new genre entirely. If you’re a diehard Nordic crime fan, consider some English literature classics that will whisk you away into another type of drama entirely, and maybe have a tiny bit of romance thrown in. If you’re usually a beach-read type, why not try some sci-fi instead? By changing your habits your mind is forced to think differently and it’s also a great distraction.
*Play. As children, we’re encouraged to play, but for some reason, at a certain age, being playful is just seen as childish, something we should no longer be doing. I couldn’t disagree more! Adult play is a way to remember the things you loved, explore your creative side (because we all have one) and just loosen up a little. Focus on a few hours of week where you channel your inner child and you will see just how freeing it can be. Taking actions like this can free up space in your mind for continuing to strive for more purpose in your everyday life.
Purpose comes in many forms
Being a parent, or simply caring for someone you love, could be your purpose.
Creating art could be your purpose.
Growing and maintaining a garden that feeds you or brings you joy, could be your purpose.
Smiling at someone when you go out on errands, and making them smile, could be your purpose.
Playing an instrument, learning a language or a craft, could be your purpose.
Finding a cause you feel passionately about and supporting it any way you know how, could be your purpose.
Listening to someone when they need it, could be your purpose.
You can do all of these things and more, because your purpose can change every single day.
By Charisse Kenion