How to find your purpose
“Creative Living: living a life that is driven more by curiosity than by fear.” Elizabeth Gilbert
How many times have you heard about the purpose driven life: find your purpose and everything will come easily. If only it was that simple.
Living in alignment with your purpose takes outrageous courage. It’s also not what you were taught growing up (in most cases). Let me explain…
Finding your purpose is like flying to the moon.
Did you know that when they flew to the moon, the rocket ship was off course 97% of the time! How on earth did they get there? Inside the rocket ship there was a gyroscope. It made little adjustments, correcting course, over-correcting, adjusting back again. Balancing and counter-balancing it’s way in a zig-zag to the moon.
Finding your purpose is very similar. The zoomed out version looks pretty linear (in hindsight). But zoom in and it’s a series of adjustments over time.
At first, our gyroscope is not calibrated. We use other ‘rational’ instruments to make our decisions like expectations of others; external rewards like status, fame and money; or fear of failure and scarcity.
Warning: rational instruments can seem very logical, reasonable tools when making decisions.
Our gyroscope is made up of a few parts: our emotions, our intuition and our desires and curiosities. When we start relying on these instead of others to make our decisions, the re-corrections become faster and easier. Sooner or later, we find ourselves orbiting around our purpose like it’s what we were always meant to do. Now, we are also guided by the gravity of our purpose, grounding our life.
How do we use our gyroscope tools?
All of our gyroscope tools are clues. Let’s have a loser look at each one and then see how they work together.
Our emotions are great indicators. When we make decisions based on other instruments, for example expectations of others, we find ourselves off our own creative path. This often leads to feeling unfulfilled, frustrated even angry because we’re living in alignment with someone else’s values instead of our own. These emotions are clues to tell us we’re off track.
When we experience emotions like joy, empowerment, enthusiasm – these are clues that we’re on the right track.
If we’re not sure, we can lean into emotions like gratitude, hope and optimism to help us find our way back too.
When we’re experiencing heavy emotions, the key is to reflect on why we feel that way. What instruments were we relying on to make decisions that lead us off track? Identifying the decision-making tool that got you lost in the first place helps you avoid that trap in the future.
Intuition has many names: gut instinct, hunch, flash of insight, divine guidance. Whatever you call it, it is powerful and a wee bit unpredictable.
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Albert Einstein
The voice of our intuition often speaks up when the volume of our rational mind is turned down.In this state, we allow more information from our subconscious mind to bubble up without judging it or reasoning it out.
From a neuroscience point of view, you allow information from the TOP of your mind (the temporal, occipital and parietal lobes that house information gathered from the senses like the vision centre, the auditory centre and a vast array of memories and associations) to enter your frontal lobe where your conscious thoughts reside.
You can access this state by slowing your brain waves from beta into alpha and theta: as you meditate, take a walk, exercise, fall asleep, begin to wake, as you dream.
These messages are not linear and they are not rational. You need to build trust in these messages by trial and error. Follow your hunches, indulge in day-dreams and learn from your experience. These insights have a funny way of working out for the best and inviting serendipity or happy coincidence into your life.
Our Desires and Curiosities
You know why other people’s expectations and advice doesn’t work for you? Because they are not you and their purpose is not your purpose. You have your own unique perspective on the world. We need your perspective, it helps us understand our own.
When you improve, we all improve.
Could you imagine a world filled with lawyers and doctors? That world would be very short-lived. We need people to do all sorts of jobs. We need advisors, teachers, artists, engineers, chefs, musicians, scientists, actors, storytellers, writers, leaders, inventors, plumbers, builders… we need the whole rainbow.
Your desires and dreams are clues to your unique purpose and contribution. It might seem like they are impossible dreams to others – but they are not you. They do not share your desires (thank goodness – we need their desires too). You are allowed to want your desires.
Please, for the love of humanity, follow your dream.
You don’t have a dream (yet)? That’s ok, follow your curiosity instead. What sparks your interest? What do you want to learn more about? Who do you like spending time with? What fascinates you? Where do you lose your sense of space and time?
Don’t have any curiosities? Sure you do. Ask more questions.
The moral of the story:
When we make decisions based on expectations of others, the promise of external rewards, fear of failure or scarcity we feel unfulfilled, frustrated and disappointed. These are clues to look at how we’ve been making our decisions and start relying more on the tools of our inner gyroscope: our emotions, our intuition and our desires and curiosities. From here, we can reflect, recorrect and fine tune our gyroscope. This is living a creative life and it will lead you to your purpose.