To have a reason to get up in the morning and to know what your ‘purpose’ is has been shown by researchers and philosophers alike very important to ones own happiness and sense of well-being . William Damon who is one of the leading writers on young people today researched why so many young people are having ‘failure to launch’. He said,” What does matter for happiness is engaging in something that the person finds absorbing, challenging and compelling especially when it makes a valued contribution to the world beyond the self.” In his landmark study The Path to Purpose he showed that only 1/5 of the youth today are thriving with a clear a sense of direction and know what activities they love and inspire them. The key ingredient for the highly engaged is that they have developed a clear sense of purpose in their lives that motivates them and gives them direction
I have spent a good deal of my own life trying to figure out ‘my purpose’. I think my difficulty came more from definition than from actually not ‘knowing or having a sense of purpose and meaning’. The dictionary defines purpose as having an aim, intention, or goal for oneself. I had many of those throughout my life and I was going towards them; however, I defined purpose more in terms of achievement, the end goal, not the journey. I was influenced by extrinsic shoulds more than thinking about my own intrinsic values. When I reflect back on my life journey I can see clearly that there were times when I was exactly in my ‘purpose’ but felt I should be achieving more.
When I read What do you want to do when you grow up? By Meghan McDonough I felt something lift off of me. She wrote that you are asking the wrong question if you ask what do I want to do? “ The correct question is how do I want to be? This is a present-focused question that builds on qualities we wish to cultivate and grow in our life, no matter what work (or play) we are engaged in. These qualities could include: loving, curious, engaged, creative, patient, compassionate, generous, steadfast, grounded, brave, playful, lighthearted, or connected. What are some qualities of being (versus doing) that fill you up?”
I loved this! It was so much more ME! I knew how I wanted to BE. I began to think and review in terms of what brings me meaning, pleasure, and what are my character strengths. Research shows us that by knowing what our character strengths are and using them can lead to a more fulfilling, happier life. Looking at all three of these one can see where the overlap is and find their sweet spot. My sweet spot is teaching, coaching others, and my family. It is where I am using my top strengths and I find the most meaning and pleasure. I love working as a life coach. I love the tools of positive psychology and paying it forward as a teacher/facilitator in my workshops.
Journaling is one way to think about what your purpose is. Think of these three questions whenever you are in a transition or trying to figure out what the next step is for you.
Three Question Process
1.What is meaningful to you? What is important to you?
2.What is pleasurable to you? What do you enjoy doing?
3.What are your strengths? What are you good at?
Dreaming and visualizing is another way to begin to look at how you really want to live your life. In my next post I will share with you how to make a vision board so you can show your brain what it is you are really looking for.
For now think about how you can live using your strengths and bring your best self to the world in the moment. Are you loving, curious, kind, have an appreciation for beauty or a love of learning? Look back at a time you thrived and see how you were ‘being’ than. Knowing thyself is key to finding your purpose, meaning and being in this world.