There’s a common theme amongst many of my clients, whether that’s private coaching clients or the groups that I train, coach and mentor within organisations – and it’s that I often hear people say that they don’t really know what they want. And from a life and careers perspective, although they may not like or enjoy their current role, they haven’t yet identified the work or career that could provide them with a greater sense of meaning and fulfilment.
Many people are on a quest to ‘find their purpose’, yet believe that it’s elusive and that they still can’t pinpoint what they’re here to do. It may feel that they’re biding or wasting precious time – going through the motions and turning up in their lives and work day after day, yet feeling lacklustre, unmotivated and uninspired. Their minds tell them that if they could only find and discover what it is that they should be doing in life, then everything will fall into place and make sense and their lives will finally be ‘on track’.
Some of my clients cling to this sense that they’ll receive a sudden flash of insight – or believe that someone else can tell them what their purpose is. They feel frustrated that it’s taking so long to get ‘there’.
Yet what if there is no ‘there’ there? What if purpose isn’t something that can simply be ‘found’ or downloaded in a single instant? Yes, it would sometimes be nice to wave a magic wand and be able to receive instant answers as to why you’re here and what your unique contribution is meant to be in the world. That does occasionally happen when people stumble across careers and opportunities that are a perfect fit for them, where they’re able to use their gifts and talents to best advantage. Happenchance and being in the right place at the right time is actually often a key factor in many successful careers. And it’s also true that people can receive sudden flashes of inspiration and insight that help to guide them towards their purpose – I’ve even experienced that in my own life and career.
Yet it’s more likely that our purpose will be created and evolved over time and may involve a winding or meandering path, rather than a direct route to reach this ‘ultimate destination’.
Trying Things Out and Experimenting
By exploring and engaging in different activities and trying things out, we can work out what we enjoy, what we’re good at, what unique strengths, talents and attributes we can offer and also explore the types of work that are available to us. Through doing this, we can uncover new potentials and possibilities and find work that suits us. We’ll also each have different values and motivations and so we can weigh up each role, career or type of job to see which is likely to provide the best match and fit for us.
Often finding and creating our purpose is a case of ‘following the trail of breadcrumbs’. Instead of sitting around waiting to be struck by inspiration or spending time procrastinating and thinking/talking about what we want to do, waiting for that elusive ‘someday’ to come when we’ll find the perfect role or path that’s waiting for us, there’s a far quicker route to discovering this and that’s by TAKING ACTION.
Thinking won’t get you on track. Taking action will.
Try out something that has some of the qualities and aspects that you’re looking for and move in that direction. See if it feels good and learn about what you enjoy and don’t enjoy. You may find that you don’t like it as much as you thought you would, or you prefer certain aspects but dislike others and maybe you’ll discover hidden talents that you didn’t even know you had.
If you enjoy something but lack confidence, take action in ways that will build that confidence and develop your skills and experience. Keep following the breadcrumbs and see where this leads you. Keep taking action and using the feedback of what feels enlivening and good for you to refine, tweak and change direction if needs be. This may take a few weeks or a few months or even several years but all the time it’s helping you to evolve and craft the perfect path for you.
Developing Experience and Changing Direction
In my own career, my path has involved many twists and turns and I’ve gained an extensive variety of experience – everything from travel marketing for an airline and leading adventure and cultural tours in India, Egypt and Europe in my early career, through to working in IT, Lecturing in a University Business School and working as a Corporate Trainer and as an Executive, Career and Transformational Coach and Wellbeing Practitioner – if you’re interested, visit my About Me page to learn more about my background and experience.
It’s all been very useful and valuable and has shaped my business and my work with others. I’ve been able to capitalise and build upon on what I’ve gained through each experience, even if they’re unrelated. For example, when Tour Leading, I overcame my fear of public speaking, developed confidence by discovering that I loved and had a talent for working with groups and inspiring people and learnt that I could keep a clear head and resolve problems in difficult situations. These qualities have proved extremely useful throughout my subsequent career, even if the roles are very different.
Whenever I’ve changed direction or pursued other opportunities, it’s usually because I’ve reached a point where I felt the need to shift or evolve and expand my purpose – it’s this that led me to establish MindFlame so that I could use the benefits of all of my experience to inspire and help individuals and organisations and reach more people in a bigger way. In my case, some of my purpose has also been created by overcoming challenges and adversity in my life and then desiring to use the wisdom and insight that this has given me to assist others.
Savour The Journey, As Well As The Destination
So, as I’ve shared in my own experience above, this journey is likely to be a life-long process. Throughout our lives, we’re continually refining, revisiting and recrafting our purpose. Even when you’re well established in your work and career, it’s still healthy and a good idea to regularly check-in with yourself and ask whether what you’re doing still feels enlivening and fulfilling to you. If the answer is no, you may need to explore new horizons, seek growth or stretch opportunities within your current role or organisation and pursue fresh challenges or responsibilities to keep you engaged and motivated.
Or if you’re feeling frazzled, burnt-out, bored or listless and you’re craving more balance and meaning in your work, maybe you can negotiate with your employer to find ways in which you can create better balance, ensure that you’re playing to your strengths and maybe explore new roles or responsibilities which could provide more meaning and a greater sense of purpose.
It’s worth noting that purpose doesn’t necessarily have to come through ‘paid employment’ either – it may arise through other roles such as parenting, volunteering and mentoring and these can be immensely rewarding ways of achieving more meaning and fulfilment in your life and feel that you’re making a difference.
There are also new trends and work patterns emerging, as more people are establishing their own businesses or pursuing ‘portfolio careers’ where they may engage in more than one activity and type of work in order to create greater meaning and purpose. Each role may provide different things – for example, a senior executive may find that their main job provides security, good pay and perks and also status and satisfies their need for technical competence and challenge. Yet they also value their role as a mentor and find that this provides satisfaction and fulfilment as they get to nurture new talent and help other people gain the benefit of their insight and experience.
Additionally, even when your ‘official’ working life ends and you reach retirement – that doesn’t mean that your purpose stops – it just means it evolves to the next stage and you can explore new interests, new priorities and discover new things that will inspire and motivate you in order to carry on feeling vital and energetic and continue to have satisfaction, meaning and fulfilment in your life.
For more suggestions of specific ways to uncover your passion and purpose, read the second part of this post ‘Which Way Now? Foolproof Ways to Explore and Discover Your Purpose’.
MindFlame supports individuals and organisations to discover and evolve their potential and help them find more purpose and meaning in all that they do. If you’re an organisation looking for support with your leadership or career management and development needs, or to help your people to get clarity and discover their why and their purpose – we offer Executive, Leadership and Team Coaching and Mentoring Packages, plus MindFlame’s Consultancy Services and our bespoke range of innovative Training and Development Courses. We also support individuals with our specialist Career Management and Career Development Coaching and Life Transformation, Resilience and Wellbeing Coaching Services.
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