How to Discover Your Purpose
I sat down to take the first lecture. And within minutes I knew that something was wrong.
I felt it.
Despite the feeling, I pressed on. Kept showing up to those lectures.
I had been brought up to commit and persist.
It’s a quality that can work for you or against you. Our parents often teach us these skills.
But despite the inner voice getting louder, I continued to the end of that first year.
The course I had selected was an accounting degree.
Ever felt like a square peg in a round hole?
That was me.
I was oil and the choice was water.
It didn’t mix.
So I made a pivot.
Decided to become a teacher. My accounting major was replaced by a teaching degree.
So I felt more at ease.
And sort of comfortable.
But when I did my first stint at “practice teaching” where you spent 2 weeks in a real school teaching that now familiar foreboding feeling made its presence felt again.
Despite this, I finished my 4 years and secured my first teaching appointment.
I then headed south to an unfamiliar city. It was a great school with supportive friendly colleagues.
But the feeling persisted.
Turning up to school every day was a chore. I looked at some of the older teachers and some loved their work.
Others just looked tired, worn out and cynical.
I gave that career for 5 years and then I moved on.
I needed to find why I was on this earth and teaching people who didn’t want to learn, wasn’t it.
We call them teenagers.
The adventure continued and the hunt was on. I had decided not to settle for stability.
I needed to find my calling.
I wanted more from life.
And it was scary as I moved into the unknown.
What was my passionate purpose?
It took me decades to find it.
Leaving a career that wasn’t me was the best decision I ever made.
Along the way, there were tears, pain and challenges.
But I wouldn’t change anything.
The big question
So how do you discover your passionate purpose?
That is one of life’s biggest questions and I don’t have an easy answer.
My journey was mine alone.
But maybe I can provide some hints. Maybe a guide to unearthing the reason you’re here.
Joseph Campbell (The author of “The Heroes Journey” and “The Hero with a Thousand Faces) calls passionate purpose “Follow your Bliss“.
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
What it isn’t
Following your bliss doesn’t mean….
Because you like watching Netflix that you become a movie critic.
You love running you and so you become a professional athlete.
Also, it often isn’t just one thing for the rest of your life.
It isn’t static.
It will evolve.
What do others say?
So how do you discover your purpose? Here are a few clues.
Steven Spielberg has followed his bliss and his contribution to the world is there for all to see with Jaws, ET and Jurassic Park just some of his creations.
This is what he had to say about following your bliss and discovering your dream.
“When you have a dream, it doesn’t often come at you screaming. This is who you are. This is what you must be for the rest of your life. The hardest thing to listen to, your instincts, your personal intuition. It’s very hard to hear”
Bliss doesn’t shout. It whispers.
You need to listen.
Joseph Campbell, the author of the book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and “The Heroes Journey” believes that we are all on a heroes journey.
But finding that adventure and bliss is not given to us at birth with a mission written out in big black letters.
So what is a hero?
The hero can be someone who had found or achieved beyond the normal range of achievement and experience.
A hero is also someone who has given his life to something bigger than themselves.
But according to Campbell there are 2 paths.
It is chosen for you….
Or you choose it yourself.
When it is chosen for you it is like a soldier being drafted and becoming a hero on the battlefield.
Or you can choose your passionate purpose by listening to that small voice that lies within and starts the journey.
But the most powerful insight from Joseph Campbell for me?
“The most heroic of all acts is the courage to discover who you are and who you want to be. To slay the savage dragon of the ego and to follow your bliss to the truth of your life“.
It starts with being aware of who you are.
A friend of mine shared a book with me that had an interesting title, “The Tao of Pooh”
It is just a small book but it may help you.
Now, this is not a children’s book despite the title. It is a book written over 30 years ago by Benjamin Hoff.
It is a simple overview of an ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism.
Here are 3 quotes from Winnie the Pooh and Ben’s take on them that provide a glimpse into its messages and meaning.
#1. “A fly can’t bird and a bird can fly”
So things are what they. Everything has its own place and function. You are who you are. Not someone else.
People try and violate this principle all the time and try and fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that “Things Are As They Are“.
And you are who you are.
And I was not an accountant.
#2. “A fish can’t whistle and neither can I”
Once you face and know your limitations you can work with them. Instead of having them work against you and get in your way.
The limitations can be your strengths.
Knowing I wasn’t a detail person now means I can hire those that have that skill to do that for me.
#3. “Why does a chicken, I don’t know why”
We all have an inner nature.
A chicken is a chicken. Trying to be an eagle is not going to work.
The brain can be fooled.
Inner nature, when relied upon cannot be fooled.
But many people do not look at it or listen to it.
And consequently do not understand themselves very much.
So…….begin with recognizing who you are, what you’ve got to work with and what works best for you.
And it is not what your parents or friends tell you.
So where do you start?
It starts with listening to that whisper. It doesn’t scream or shout.
Be aware of what you are and what you aren’t. Learning to say no to others and yes to you needs to be learned.
Do what it takes and start. A good idea without action is just an idea.
Then start creating.
Then you will need to persist.
Show up every day. Strap yourself in and do the work.
Tough times will show up. You will need to press on and routines can provide the framework.