Don't know your purpose? Start with knowing yourself.
Updated: Feb 8
As a coach who helps people maneuver through life’s changes and challenges, finding more purpose and a meaningful career is top of mind for many of my clients. Finding your purpose, aligning to purpose, leading with purpose are all goals that we hear about everyday on LinkedIn, in articles and leadership books. Researchers define purpose in life as the “intention to accomplish something that is at once personally meaningful and at the same time leads to productive engagement with some aspect of the world beyond the self.” (Damon, Menon, & Bronk, 2003)
The science and psychology of purpose has been studied in depth over the last 60 years. Victor Frankl, the inspiring Austrian psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, was one of the first scholars focused on purpose and meaning. Frankl noticed that fellow prisoners who had a sense of purpose showed greater resilience to the torture, slave labor, and starvation rations to which they were subjected. Quoting Nietzsche, he wrote “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear almost any ‘how’”.
Scientists have discovered that having a purpose in life is associated with a tremendous number of benefits, ranging from a subjective sense of happiness to lower levels of stress hormones. Studies show older adults with high purpose had lower cholesterol, lower levels of inflammatory response and were less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
I think we can all agree that there is huge value in having purpose in life. How does one get there? How does one discover their “Why” … beyond reading Simon Sinek?
One assumption that we have to overcome is the idea that there is just one purpose for each of us. With the abundance of interest in purpose in recent years, some people falsely assume that finding your purpose is like finding your soul mate. As if there is only one. When I’ve seen clients pursue finding their one purpose in this way, they often are left feeling overwhelmed and in doubt.
I would argue that the goal is not to find your life purpose but to find purpose in your life. And the first step is knowing yourself.
Focus on discovering what makes you unique and expressing your uniqueness every day in your life and work. I think the concept of uniqueness is vastly under-appreciated. Every single person has a one of a kind combination of life experiences, DNA, preferences, talents, desires, interests, skillsets, and super powers. There are over 7.6 billion people on this planet and no two are the same. The immense powers of social conditioning train us to suppress our unique individual selves. Dress like everyone else, create your resume like everyone else, speak like everyone else, be accepted, fit in, don’t rock the boat.
You’re not going to find your purpose by going along with the crowd.
To appreciate your uniqueness is to understand you can’t be compared or judged because there is no one out there to compare you to. Now if you’re trying to fit in to a crowd, then yes you can easily be compared. But if you’re one of a kind, well that’s a whole different story. And trust me, you are one of a kind whether you know it and express it or not.
I work with my clients on an exercise of discovery exploring all of their unique experiences, traits and talents and distilling from that list a description of their uniqueness. Here’s a list of some of what we review:
Behavioral assessments are a great start to learn more about your personality traits and ways of processing information. MBTI, DiSC, StrengthsFinder, HBDI, and Enneagram
Educational background and interests
Impactful life changing events. This is a big one.
Work background and interests
Top technical and social skills
Desires. What excites you the most.
Spiritual background and beliefs
Your personal vision and mission
What top three subjects are you an expert in
What top three subjects are you most passionate about
Once you go through this list, you’ll see there is no one else out there like you. The question is, what are you doing with your uniqueness? How much are you sharing it? Do you get to use it in your work every day?
Rather than focusing on looking outside of yourself for your purpose, you might just find that by understanding what makes you different and living out your uniqueness every day, you are living a life of purpose. You are contributing to the world what only you have to contribute, and you are valuable and needed.
Interested in exploring a coaching engagement? DM me or visit AmyLewisCoaching.com and schedule a complimentary discovery session to learn how coaching can support you.
Photo credit: Austin Chan. Unsplash.