This is my most popular blog of all time. Every time I re-read it, it grounds me in my true purpose. 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. Get ready for a huge sigh of relief because it’s easier than you think.
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 self-help myself. You might be feeling the same way. Every single day we receive messages telling us to eat better, work out more, lose weight, be more productive, and on and on and… well, you get the picture.
And don’t get me wrong—there’s plenty of value in working on the areas where YOU want to grow. I’ll always support you on those endeavors and share strategies that have helped me achieve my goals, but that’s not what today is about. This isn’t a blog about strategies. It’s about a bigger question that often leads to the ultimate spiritual crisis: How to find your purpose.
Just thinking about finding your 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. For the rest of my days I wouldn’t have to worry about the nagging, burning “what’s my purpose?” question. I used to tell myself, “Well, that’s one good thing that came from cancer …” It seemed pretty clear: My purpose was to help people get healthier, teach prevention and raise awareness about animal welfare. Pretty rad. A karmic home run. Check the grand quest off the list and mooove on.
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, goal or an activity, we’re likely setting ourselves up for discomfort and even failure down the line.
Finding your purpose
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. 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, so then what? You have no purpose or meaning?
Absolutely, positively not. Can you see how tying your worth to that yo-yo circus will only make you feel depleted, depressed and even resentful? Anchor your 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 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 think suffering is inevitable in some way. The trick is to learn how to move out of it, or at least make peace with it, once we get the nugget and are ready to apply the lessons. 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 but who are dirty messes inside. Mean messes. Bitter messes. Sad messes. Jaded, cranky-ass messes. And guess what? Their reach and impact reflects 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 inner purpose is to connect with that light. Everything else will follow in time.