There’s lots of advice out there on how to find your purpose, but most of it creates stress and, in my opinion, totally misses the mark. That’s why I want to share this with you today.
Lately, I’ve been working on being softer towards myself. Kinder. Slower. Why? Because it just feels so darn good, but also because I often feel anxious about the constant pressure to “improve”.
You might be feeling the same way. Every single day we receive messages telling us to eat better, work out more, lose weight, or be more productive.
And don’t get me wrong—there’s plenty of value in self-improvement. But is that constant pushing really the way to create a meaningful life? I’m talking here about the ultimate spiritual crisis: How to find your purpose.
We think our purpose is outside of ourselves.
Just thinking about how to find your life purpose can literally make folks sweat. We tie ourselves up in knots searching for answers to questions like: What’s my higher calling? How do I stop spinning my wheels and get down to business? And to be even more blunt: What the hell am I supposed to be doing with my life?!
I struggled with this too, until I finally found my purpose (spoiler alert: or so I thought) with Crazy Sexy Cancer and then Crazy Sexy everything else. At first, I felt very strong and proud. My feathers were fluffed. I had finally arrived spiritually.
My purpose was to help people live a healthy life, teach prevention and raise awareness about animal welfare. I used to tell myself, “Well, that’s one good thing that came from cancer…”
But here’s the rub: When our purpose is external, we may never find it. If we tie our purpose or meaning to our vocation, a goal or an activity, we’re likely setting ourselves up for discomfort and even failure down the line.
Mythbuster! Your purpose has nothing to do with what you do.
There, I said it.
Your purpose is actually quite simple, it’s to awaken. To discover and nurture who you truly are, to know and love yourself at the deepest level and to guide yourself back home when you lose your way.
The more you do this, the more aware and present you become, which creates more harmony in your life. Everything else is your burning passion, your inspired mission, your job, your love-fueled hobby, etc. Those things are powerful and very worthy, but they’re not your purpose. Your purpose is much, much bigger than that.
My deeper understanding of purpose feels right in the soul of my bones. It diffuses the ache of separateness I experience when my work isn’t appreciated or when my efforts are overlooked or criticized. Sometimes folks will treasure your work, sometimes they won’t.
In fact, sometimes you’ll get the gig, sometimes you won’t. You’ll be on the marquee, and you’ll be passé. You’ll be thanked and you’ll be taken for granted. You’ll give and you’ll get nothing in return. You’ll be “Liked” and you’ll be unfriended. That’s life.
But, does that mean your life has no purpose or meaning?
Absolutely, positively not. What it does mean is that tying your worth to that yo-yo circus will only make you feel depleted, depressed and resentful. Instead of looking for outer approval, anchor your sense of purpose within, sweet friend. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself drifting out at sea again and again.
What if your purpose is very different than what you’ve been taught to believe?
- What if your purpose is to build an everlasting relationship with yourself? To fall deeply in love with precious you? This isn’t self-centered or selfish, it’s self-expansive. Interconnected. Conscious.
- What if your purpose is to forgive yourself and others? And by doing so, to allow warm waves of compassion to wash over the entire planet (yourself included).
- What if your purpose is to gently heal all self-injury? And by doing so, to become a mentor and role model for others to do the same.
- What if your purpose is to release all shame and feelings of unworthiness? Guess what you’ll find behind those feelings? Vulnerability—where your true strength and courage reside.
- Shall we talk about perfection? Yes, I think we must. What if your purpose is to teach yourself that there is no such thing as perfection and that your never-ending pursuit of it is destroying your life and your relationships? Let it go.
- What if your purpose is to speak kindly to yourself so that you elevate your energy and the world around you?
- What if your purpose is to develop an everlasting faith in yourself? To remember your holiness and treat yourself accordingly. The deeper your faith gets, the stronger your connection to a higher power.
- What if your purpose is to take impeccable care of yourself so that you have the energy and joy to serve others?
- What if your purpose is to sit still and listen to the wise voice within? We all have a choice about whether or not to attach ourselves to the crazy swirling around in our heads, hearts and universe. Stay open to your inner guidance and choose another way when needed.
And lastly …
What if your purpose (or invitation) is to actually bear witness to your suffering? To honor and acknowledge it in order to move through it? “They” say that “suffering is optional.” But I’m not so sure about that. Plus, I’m not so sure that the people who believe this have truly experienced suffering. I may have agreed with this at one point. But that was before my experience of loss, sickness and cancer.
Today, I know that suffering is inevitable and so is grief. (In fact, my next book is all about navigating grief and still welcoming joy, no matter how messy life gets.) The trick is to have the guts to actually experience that loss, learn its lessons and eventually make peace with the parts of life you can’t change. Note: Residual pain may remain, and that’s OK, but at some point we can begin to thaw it out in order to embrace our one great, brilliant life.
What if finding your purpose is about finding and nurturing yourself?
Not an external to-do or accomplishment, even if that to-do or accomplishment is the most important discovery of all time. Because if you are the one destined to find the most important ah-ha of all time, you will probably find it quicker and easier if you feel good, loved and happy. Start there. It’s that simple.
Now this doesn’t mean that I don’t love my job (or you) or that I’m going to quit in any way. I cherish my work and all of my readers. And it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start an orphanage or save animals or empower women or teach people how to file taxes. It means that you no longer need to connect your personal self-worth with a plaque on the wall.
Your self-worth has nothing to do with your craft or calling and everything to do with how you treat yourself and others.
I’ve met brilliant and effective activists who I have gallons of respect for who are dirty messes inside. Mean messes. Bitter messes. Sad messes. Jaded, cranky-ass messes.
And guess what? Their reach and impact reflect their attitude. Imagine what they could accomplish if they moved from loathing to love. If they knew that no matter how important their mission, their inner purpose matters even more. Folks are like plants; we all lean towards the light.
You are the light.
Your true purpose is to connect with that light. Everything else will follow in time. If you are struggling with this topic, I hope this blog gives you peace. Love ya!
Your Turn: Does this take on purpose resonate with you? Anything you want to add?
Peace & purpose,
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Brilliant! Thank you. Love you, too 🙂
Thank you Love! Thank you <3
You just gave me the best Christmas gift. Your words are timely and powerful. Blessings to you, dear Kris. I love and respect you so much. ~Trish
Thank you so-so much, Kris! This post made me cry…
Love you 🙂
And when my eyes welled up, I figured I’d be the only one!
Thanks, Kris. This is an amazing post. I’ve just started following your FB page and blog and I certainly do not regret it! I’ve read two very ah-ha posts (including this one) so far and my wheels are turning in a positive way. Thanks again and Happy New Year to you.
Nope, made me cry too! This post makes so much sense, I’ve always tied purpose to my vocation and it does nothing but fill me with anxiety. Thank you Kris 🙂
This is beautiful, and I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying! Thanks so much for pointing this out. I agree I know we are already spiritually whole and there’s nothing for us to GET in this world..well I know it sometimes 😉 But it’s what I’m working on!
I think the way you wrote your blogpost points out the limitations of language. There’s a lot of play on semantics here..things like there’s no such thing as perfection or suffering is optional…so much confusion with wording! Sometimes we see “everyone is already perfect” (ie, our spiritual selves are and we cannot improve that, but we can improve our actions/performance (which is where no such thing as perfection comes from))..and sometimes we see “suffering is optional” but yet like you said there’s no such thing as no suffering..in this case it’s that we have to “suffer” to experience the joy and beauty in life (ie, we have to have experienced difficult situations to call forth our beauty and mastery) but most of the time with the “suffering is optional” quote, I find the word “suffer” is referring not to events that we don’t prefer, but instead our identification with them. So in one case, suffering is optional (identifying with the event, ie, we brought this upon us or someone is trying to hurt us) but in the other case, if we want to have the same depth of experiences in joy, suffering is absolutely necessary.
In any case, I just wanted to point out that these beautiful ideas aren’t contradicting each other or wrong; there’s just wordplay going on 🙂
Lots of love! Merry Christmas!
Catt, I read your comment and just had to reply. I love the points you bring up about semantics and wordplay. You’re right, the way you say things, or just your perspective in general can change the meaning of anything, including suffering. What you wrote really points on the importance of the meaning you give to things. It’s critical to be aware of yourself and of the meaning your attaching to the things in your life. Great comment.
This brought me to tears – of the good variety. I have had a life long (53 years, sigh) struggle with purpose. I have let externals dictate, and it has never EVER occurred to me that I was barking up the wrong tree. Thank you for this amazing piece of insight – I am going to get right on it. And thank you for being such a pure light in the world.
p.s. I am hoping your cookbook is under my Christmas tree!
You are great! i really needed to hear this! please remind Me on new year’s too 😉
It has taken me 61 years to get around to this way of thinking. Wise words for such a young heart and I wish you well in your quest. There is certainly questionable advise being given by “self help” books and the like, about finding a reason to exist. Keep up the good work Kris.
O M G. Kris you have hit this one out of the park. I knew I had to go deeper inside to find my purpose yet totally missed that *was* it all along. Sometimes we need a friend to point out our blind spots. Now I understand the letdown after doing some of my best work on the outside. Oh my oh my oh my … I am so excited about the possibilities of this realization. Thank you dear Kris.
Wow Kris I love this. I’m sure deep down somewhere hidden beneath my frustration and hopelessness of trying to find my purpose, I may have known what you have just written. But you were able to unearth it for me and I feel connected to it. “Folks are like plants, they lean towards the light” I love that. Thanks for this awesome Christmas present you just dropped in my lap!
Wow! What a beautiful message to wake up to. I’ve been pondering this question for the last several months. What is my purpose? In meditation, to love and nurture yourself is always the whisper I hear. Thank you for this reminder Kris. Your light just shines brighter and brighter!
Just read Dr. Mark Hyman’s blog on suffering in this life yesterday (titled “A Pilgrimage to Bhutan – Making Sense of 2012”), and yours is a perfect compliment to it. …So true about the essentialness of suffering. I appreciated your reminders & perspective on internal purpose. Gave me lots to think about. Thank you!
You hit this one out of the park! You are such an inspiration and a ray of pure sunshine!!
Thank you for showing me that no matter what I seek to do in the world I must first and foremost, take care of myself. If I want my light to shine for others, the first thing I need to do is turn it on!
Amber, I am so glad I read your response. I felt myself get chills when I read your comment about turning your light on first. It really resonated with me. Thank you. This is really going to stick with me.
I am asking my pre-teen son to read this as a gift for me for Christmas. How important for our youth to feel this way before they enter the soul crushing teen years. Thank you!
That is such a fantastic idea! It’d be great for teachers to print out and give to their classes on the first day back after winter break. It’s never too early to start learning what is truly important in life, especially in high school when the pressure is so intense to externally succeed.
Yes, yes, yes! Thank you.
What a sweet soul you are. This touched me so deeply Kris, and resonates with what I’ve been struggling with lately. Spot on! Thank you so much for sharing your insight and bringing a feeling of inner joy to my attitude. Your lovely light is contagious!
I have a vision of meeting you someday when I go to visit my brother in NY.
In the meantime, sending you oodles of love and gratitude for your nuggets of insight and inspiration, and warmest wishes for 2013!
Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing! It is food for my soul and I am going to be digesting it for the next several days.
Thank you so much for these great words. I am deeply touched!
These words remind me of the fact that we enter a time of
more conciousness and awareness of ourselves. Next to
that we will become more concious that we are all here to serve
Thanks again, Merry Christmas and all the best for you in 2013!!
I love this so much I want to swim in it! Thank you Kris I needed this message today.
Love you too!
Thank you Kris!!! I def needed to hear this and be reminded of my TRUE purpose! Sending you so much love and light and see you in NYC in February at the I Can Do It Conference!! Merry Christmas!! Xoxo