A Life With Purpose

The local newspaper wrote an article about my Women’s Self Empowerment Group. The heading read Finding Purpose in Life.  The journalist was fascinated with my personal story. Why?  She told me that she could relate: she too often wondered what her true purpose is and she, like many, is still searching.

The dictionary definition of the noun states that purpose is – the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

This leads us to ask the question, “why am I here?”  For those of you who know the answer to this question and have an internal peace about your life and how you live it, I applaud you because most people grapple for a lifetime with this.  Many end up in jobs they don’t like because it’s all that is available and they have to pay the bills.

As you can see, the newspaper article states that I felt ‘lost and lonely’.  How could this possibly be true? I have a wonderful family and great friends; I am always busy and surrounded by people who love and care for me.  The truth is that this lost and lonely feeling has nothing to do with the actions of others, it comes from within.  I felt lost because I knew I wasn’t living the life I was born to live.  I knew I wasn’t fulfilling my true purpose, and I was afraid of my unknown future.

I’ve been lucky enough to try various different jobs in my life: I’ve worked in corporate sales, and I’ve had my own small business in direct sales. I’ve worked in pastoral care and volunteered much of my time and energy over the years.  But it took me until my 50s to realise my true purpose, and more importantly, to summon the courage to go for it!  And it does take courage, it’s not easy to step up and step out.  People will question and judge you, they will remark and label you. But I can honestly say that the rewards outweigh all of that.  For the first time in years, I look forward to what I do every day. I’ve found my groove. I’ve discovered my Clan. I am thriving and not just surviving. This comes when we move through life’s levels of satisfaction.

Level 1 Survival: meeting our basic needs of food, shelter and physical contact.  Most people in the western world can tick this box.

Level 2 Success: often defined by pleasure, prestige and/or profit.  We all know that heaps of books have been written about how money and material gain don’t lead to happiness, some would argue differently.  The way I see it, money buys freedom and affords us choice.  However, more money doesn’t mean more happiness.  Studies show that once we reach a certain level of income ($100k) more money does not lead to more satisfaction.  Even though we may look more successful on the outside, we can still feel like a failure on the inside.  Why? Because we feel our life is not significant.  Purpose is all about significance.

Level 3 Significance: This is a sense of knowing that your life matters, knowing that you make a positive difference, no matter how small.  Feeling fulfilled because you have something unique to offer the world.  Significance is not about good looks, money, education or status.  It’s about living on purpose, and living with purpose. Having a purpose reduces frustration; it helps us focus our attention and energy.  We can become overwhelmed and exhausted when we have too much choice.  (Types of shampoo come to mind!)  When we are in two minds about something, confusion rules.  As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice in Wonderland said, “if you don’t know where you are going then any  road will take you.”  In other words,  there will be many detours  along the way.  I’m an expert when it comes to distractions.    There are so many things I know I ‘could’ do and want to do  and so many new ideas, but I’ve learned to ask myself, “will this  task move me towards or away from my real purpose?”

Living on purpose increases motivation.  Your true purpose  gives you a motive (a reason why) and this in turn drives you to  put it into action.  Instant energy and enthusiasm bubble up  from within.  You feel an internal glow.  If people judge or  criticise it doesn’t pain you, because your belief in yourself and  your project is so great that you feel stable and on the right track.  You light up inside.  Friends notice a glow in your eyes and a positive change in your physiology.Don’t be afraid to shine.  Don’t hide behind anything, be your true self.

Imagine a piece of soap wrapped in plastic – no one can smell it’s beautiful scent, or feel it’s smooth finish and it’s of little use. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  None of us achieve as much on our own as we can when part of a team.  Soap needs water, it can’t do it’s job on it’s own.

We often have a list of what we want from life, and hence always notice what’s missing. I encourage you to turn this on its head and instead say, what can I offer?  From this perspective you will feel a sense of contentment and your confidence will grow.  You will create awareness around what you enjoy, you will appreciate the skills you have rather than focusing on what’s missing.

Initially people will ask, ‘why are you doing that?’ But soon they will be saying ‘how did you do that?’

Posted in Coaching.

Anne McKeown