But the downside of purpose is the pressure we put on ourselves to find it, especially if it’s not evident where our purpose lies.
This article dispels purpose misconceptions to help you look at your quest for purpose in a different light. By doing so, you can approach purpose with more clarity, patience, and open-mindedness. So, let’s get into it!
Myth #1: That you have to ‘find’ your purpose
This is one of the greatest myths about purpose, and we hear it often; that we must ‘find’ our purpose. This thought can be problematic and limiting as it puts pressure on us to discover one grand life objective.
We often try to intellectualise our path towards purpose when in reality, it is a soul journey. For many people, purpose is not found, but crafted or built. So where do we start?
The key is to understand and nurture who we really are, understand what makes us tick, and recognise how we can enrich the lives of others.
Why not start this process by pondering the following questions (courtesy of Zach Mercurio):
- What do you love to do (passion)
- What are you good at (talent)
- How do you improve the lives of others (impact).
To dig even deeper into your purpose, we encourage you to ask yourself ‘what do I want my life to do for others’ not ‘what should I do with my life.’
Myth #2: That your purpose is your vocation
This is a big one, and many people get caught in this trap. They identify so much as a CEO, marketer, architect, teacher, nurse, plumber, or whatever career they have, that they believe it’s what they’re meant to do in life. Let me preface this by saying that for some people, it may be their purpose, but for many, it’s not.
Although your job can provide a great deal of satisfaction and personal fulfilment, it can be dangerous to let it consume you as the be-all and end-all of your existence. It’s important to remember that you are not your job, it is just something that you do.
Myth #3: That your purpose is consistent over time
As we progress through life, we usually learn more about ourselves. This can include what makes us tick, what we like and dislike, what we’re drawn to, what inspires us, what makes our heart sing, and so on. Think back to when you were a teenager or in your 20s. What you thought your purpose was then, probably looks quite different to what you perceive your purpose to be now. So, it’s only logical that our purpose can change and evolve over time.
The premise that your purpose can transform over time suggests that we will (most probably) have more than one purpose in our life. So, it you’re thinking that you haven’t found that one earth-shattering notion that will bring your life great meaning and fulfilment, chances are, you will have many callings, and they will come from different places (for example your family, community, work etc), at different times in your life.
It can also be a trap to think that your purpose must be on a grand scale. There is a perception that we have to save the world, start a charity, impact thousands of people, or do something worthy of global headlines. The fact is your purpose can be much more modest than that; helping only one person can have a significant ripple effect in the world.
So, why not reframe purpose to think about what your ‘purposes’ are and consider the multiple sources of meaning in your life and work. It will take the pressure off yourself, and free you from the burden of finding the silver bullet.
Myth #4: That your organisation’s purpose is disconnected from you own
Organisations are becoming increasingly cognisant of the commercial benefits of fostering authentic employee purpose. By doing so, employees are happier, healthier, more satisfied, and ultimately, more productive.
Here are a few tips for organisations to nurture purpose in their employees:
- Craft a purpose statement for the organisation and make this highly visible
- Help your employees to think about how their roles positively impact on, and help others (give their roles meaning)
- Show employees how they (and their roles) specifically contribute to the overarching organisational purpose
- Focus on how your organisation can fulfil a human need better than your competitors (customer-first).
Here’s a great business case study that proves being purpose-led pays off.
A few parting tips
We hope this article has demystified purpose complexities and alleviated the pressure of thinking you must ‘find your purpose’. To help you on your purpose journey, we suggest the following:
- Find time for solitude every day
- Meditate as much as possible (just 5 minutes each day can make a difference)
- Learn more about what makes you tick (explore your interests, volunteer, read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts, and try new things)
- Practice self-compassion and learn to love yourself at the deepest level
- Think regularly about what you can do for others, not what others can do for you.