If you’ve got a nagging sense that there must be more to life then this, then it might be time to find your purpose.
Because there can come a time in life (or more specifically usually a time in mid-life) when the things that used to be fulfilling stop being so, leaving everything feeling a bit meaningless and empty.
Whereas you might have been motivated in your twenties and early thirties by the benefits of working and playing hard – getting promoted, earning more money, enjoying a social life revolving around work – priorities inevitably move on.
By your early forties, with twenty years of work and several kids under your belt, things can look pretty different. Now seniority and salary, whilst nice, can leave you a bit cold. Kids, age and experience have taught you that there needs to be more than that.
Now you want to feel fulfilled.
You want life to count for more.
You want some passion and meaning.
In short, you want purpose.
What is purpose?
And that's where many people start to struggle.
It's common to be overwhelmed or even dismissive of the idea of ever really being able to know what your purpose is.
Yet it doesn't have to be difficult or unmanageable.
Quite the opposite.
We all have values, experience and interests that together create a Venn diagram at the centre of which sits the essence of the impact we want our lives to have.
It’s rarely – and arguably shouldn’t be – as specific as a job. More normally it's about the outcome we want to bring to the world, like enabling women to reach their full potential, creating the means for people to enjoy healthier relationships or tackling the environmental problems facing the planet. Or it could be simpler, even a single word, like Connection or Change.
Importantly, the outcome – empowered women, healthier relationships, connection – is what is key, not (at this point) the multiple ways you could achieve that.
We often get fixated on the how, confusing job or career with purpose.
But purpose is always bigger than the way in which you make it real on a day-to-day basis, and there are always many ways to achieve that.
You could, for example, create healthier relationships by training as a relationship counsellor, starting a podcast about how parents can build strong relationships with their kids or designing an app to help couples resolve their differences.
It could be as an employee or a founder, in a company or a not-for-profit, in a full-time role or as one of a portfolio of activities.
But the outcome – healthier relationships – is the core purpose that you need to be honouring in whatever you eventually do if you are to feel truly fulfilled.
In this way you separate out the essence of what would fulfil you and give you a real sense of purpose from the day-to-day means of how you would do it. This disentangles two very different considerations and let’s you get clear about what you want to be about, rather than what you want to do.
Only once you’ve worked out the first, can you effectively resolve the second.
Find your purpose
Working out the first consideration – what is my purpose? – need not be difficult.
At its essence, it’s about answering a set of powerful questions that get to the heart of what you want your life to be about.
what do I want my impact on this world to be?
what do I want to be remembered and celebrated for?
how do I want the world to be different as a result of me having been alive?
If working with one of our coaches, we often use visualisations to answer these questions in a more visceral, emotional way, that gets you out of your thinking mind.
In the answers to those questions, you can look for the commons themes, the emotional connection with ideas, words and concepts that have meaning for you.
Such as, does nature come up repeatedly? Is alleviating suffering a consistent theme? Do children feature a lot?
Take these repetitions and themes and use them to boil down your answers into a couple of words, or a sentence at most.
Like ‘getting back to nature’, ‘healing the earth’, or ‘forest’.
It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. As long as it really connects with you where you are now, that’s what counts.
And it doesn’t have to be your purpose for ever. It just has to work for now, and can grow and evolve with you.
Then just sit with it for a while, try it out, use it as a filter for answering big questions that you are thinking about and see how it feels. Play around with it and refine it until it feels right.
Once you’re comfortable with it, write it down and use it as a guide, alongside other key information like values (click here for our free values worksheet) as you start to think about what career will give you that meaning and fulfilment you are searching for.