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The Art of Purpose: A Roadmap for Self-Exploration



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I’ve been in a phase of transition over the last few months and the most recent 'station' on my journey has been reflecting on my purpose in life. It feels a little grandiose when I put it down on paper like that! So what do I mean?


The major focus of my reflections this year have been on what I want 50 to look like for me. As that has begun to fall into place there’s been a natural shift towards looking at my career.


Maybe it’s an age thing, but I feel as suddenly people have begun to ask me about when I think I might stop working. My instant response, and I do like to trust my gut, is one of bafflement. Maybe this is because I’m a 'second careerer' (not sure that’s actually a word 🤔), so it feels a bit like asking a 28-year-old the same question!


Being a therapist enables me to activate my passion – accompanying women on their journey of self-discovery, helping them to listen to their inner voice and guiding them towards resources and opportunities for personal growth.


And when it comes to purpose there are three critical components to consider:


1. Passion

2. Compassion 

3. Expertise


Fused together they become the driving force of our lives, if we're willing to let them. 



However, we often get stuck thinking that we need to subscribe to a certain set of rules that we believe society expects of us. 


We pour all our energy into trying to achieve other people's standards when our own calling, maybe far from this, it's when we lean into what's right for us that everything becomes easier.


So that's the theory, but how do you go about find your version of 'right'?


When I looked at the research it revolved around asking yourself helpful questions. Which makes a lot of sense as our brains are hardwired to respond to a questioning stimulus and we get a rush of dopamine to support us in providing an answer.


Asking questions is also a perfect form of journalling (hurray 🎉). Rather than anxiously sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper waiting for an answer to magically appear to us, we can respond to a question asked.


So here are some questions that you could use to help you in your quest for looking for your specific purpose.


For the all the perfectionists out there, you don't need to answer all the questions, just cherry pick the ones that feel helpful to you.


Question

Reason it helps to find purpose

Are there any activities that make you forget to eat or go to the loo?

Identifying what we find so absorbing that we lose track of time is a great way of starting to know what we love doing as opposed to what's just ok.

If you were to browse through the Saturday papers which section would you naturally go to first?

This shows you what you naturally prioritise and find interesting.

What's the problem in the world that you feel most inclined to solve?

This question gets you thinking about whether your passion comes from a desire to change something. As theologian Frederick Buechner claimed 'purpose is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's needs'.

What aspects of your life would make your 9 year old self jump for joy?

As children we tend to do what interests us and what we find fun and then as we get older and become more conscious of what other people think, we often start to let go of this. Thinking back to what you loved as a child can help you to see whether it still lights your fire.

What aspects of your life would make your 9 year old self cry?

This one can make you feel a little tender, it can be hard to acknowledge when we've let go of joy in our lives. However, this can be an insightful way to acknowledge where we are NOT living in line with our values and passions.

If there was no internet and no social media what would you do with your free time?*

In a world where we never have to be bored we can sometimes find ourselves getting stuck in the same internet rabbit holes as a way to pass the time. So if those didn't exist what would you do with yourself? And what does that say about your passions? *apologies to anyone born after about 1985 who won't really remember the pre-internet days, this question might be harder for you!

If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do with your time?

This gets right to the root of the issue. If time were limited how would you spend it? That's what you value and are passionate about.

Where in your life are you living by 'shoulds', 'ought to's' and musts?

Should, oughts and musts are generally externally driven rules for living and we forget to challenge whether they lead us to what we want or what other people think we should do.


It's clear that finding purpose is about aligning passion, compassion and expertise. By asking ourselves the right questions which help us to stay true to what's interesting and important to us we can pave the way to an exciting and authentic way of coming at life.


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