By Sarah Gregg
This is an extract from Choose Happy: Easy Strategies to Find Your Bliss by Sarah Gregg. Reprinted with permission from Rock Point, an imprint of The Quarto Group.
Purpose comes in many different forms, we can have more than one, and it can change over time. Purpose can be anything from making people happy with your cakes, writing, raising a family, or setting up a business.
Our purpose may be highly individual, but one consistent characteristic it holds is that it’s a feeling. It’s an indescribable feeling knowing that you are meant to do that thing. Purpose is the why that pulls us forward into the future even though we know the journey might not always be easy. But if you don’t know your purpose, where do you even begin?
It’s understandable that when we feel a bit low or lost, adding “find my purpose” to the list of things we can compulsively worry about can make us hide under our bed covers. For many of us, finding our purpose can feel like the enormous elephant in life we’d all rather ignore until later.
However, by rethinking what’s meant by finding our purpose, we can shrink its enormity and still ensure that we reap the tremendous happiness benefits it can bring. If you feel overwhelmed by finding your purpose, it can be helpful to think of it like going on a treasure hunt.
On a treasure hunt, our overall goal is to find the hidden treasure, and it would be boring if the hunt consisted of just one clue that brought us to the end. After all, the joy of a treasure hunt is in the process. The story we tell about solving a treasure hunt mainly comprises of the fun and frustration of figuring out each clue to the elation of suddenly knowing as you race to the end. If you listen to anyone describe the story of their purpose, you are likely to notice a similar pattern. Their story might end on a big “Aha!” But it’s predominantly a series of small ohs as they followed clues that eventually lead toward their purpose. And the clues are already in front of you.
When it comes to finding our purpose, the journey starts when we’re ready to begin. And we don’t have to wait until life is great or we have everything figured out. Many of the most significant turning points that led toward purpose were born out of uncertainty, pain, and feeling lost.
As author Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently summarizes, “The most interesting moment of a person’s life is what happens to them when all their certainties go away. Then who do you become? And then what do you look for? That’s the moment when the universe is offering up an invitation, saying, ‘Come and find me.’”
Perhaps the resistance you feel in your life may turn out to be your greatest teacher. Maybe you’ll use what you learned to inspire others, create a new product, or pursue a different career. We are the meaning makers of our own life.
Wherever we are in life, our purpose is to be fully present with that moment, aligning our actions with our intention of what we desire in the future. Our purpose (or purposes) is ready to start revealing itself when we are willing to accept the invitation to find it.
PURPOSE AND HAPPINESS
Purpose gives us a sense of meaning, which has been linked to greater work enjoyment, life satisfaction, and happiness. And purpose does more than impact our mental health. One recent study revealed that people with a strong life purpose live longer.
But don’t be blinded by the bright lights of purpose. A common misconception is that having a purpose means we all have to do something big in the world, like solving climate change or winning an Oscar. A recent study into the purpose of life by psychologists Matthew Scott and Adam Cohen found that we can find purpose in fulfilling some of our small basic needs, like caring for our family or finding a romantic partner.
FINDING YOUR PURPOSE
Like every treasure hunt, you begin where you are and move forward from there. Finding our purpose involves taking small micro-steps and reconnecting with our passions. To kickstart the process, use these journal prompts to help you reconnect with your joy and find clues to your purpose.
· What gives you joy?
· What did you enjoy doing as a kid?
· What experiences would you like to have in life?
· How could you use your skills, passion, or knowledge to help others?
· What interests you?