Keys to Unlocking the Mystery of Your Life Purpose
Part 1: Looking at Life Through a Different Lens
Your purpose is not meant to be a mystery; it is not meant to be hidden. But to find it, you must dive into the unknown to discover what is meant to be known by you Ė your timeless essence, gifts and purpose.
We all enter this lifetime with a purpose to fulfill. While many people may have similar purposes, the way in which we each manifest our purpose is a unique expression of our timeless essence. Although we made the journey into our human bodies to fulfill a purpose, most of us have been programmed from very young to put significant energy towards a career that we hope will meet certain needs for us Ė often needs that are out of alignment with our spiritual essence and life purpose.
Many people spend their whole lifetime working at careers, perhaps with some sense of dissatisfaction, often without an awareness of their true purpose. Others begin to seek their purpose and are unsure how to proceed. And in humanityís current stage of development, most people never discover their purpose. Yet your purpose is not meant to be a mystery; it is not meant to be hidden. But to find it, you must dive into the unknown to discover what is meant to be known by you Ė your timeless essence, gifts and purpose.
In the process of searching for your purpose, it helps to know where to look for hints and clues. I liken this to an old-fashioned treasure hunt. There are many clues in your life and environment that provide hints to your purpose. And they can help you to discover your purpose if you become attuned to them.
When I was a child, my favorite activity at summer camp was the treasure hunt. And I learned that the keys to finding the treasure lay in knowing where to find the next clue and how to put the clues together to solve the puzzle.
And these keys are very applicable to unlocking the mystery of lifeís purpose. While the process is unique for everyone, there are several common clues that can help you solve the puzzle. And unlike the group treasure hunt, there is treasure here for everyone, and there is no need to rush. Some of these clues may lead you down expected paths, while others may take you to unexpected places.
A word of caution before we start on our trip: you may find that working through all the clues in one setting is too overwhelming. I recommend working through one clue per week, following the guidelines here, and then holding that clue in your awareness as you go through your daily life, and recording any new findings throughout the week. If a clue seems to have no relevance for you, hold it in your awareness and move on to another clue.
Before we begin, take a few moments to settle into your heart and allow yourself to breathe deeply and fully. Slow down and quiet the mental chatter. Letís go on a journey together with the intention of peeling back the layers of the mystery of your life purpose, by following some common clues.
Each of us, no matter how far we think we are from living our life purpose, has experienced fulfillment. And these experiences often serve as signposts to our purpose.
Clue: What fulfills is on target
Letís examine the
most obvious clue. Each of us, no matter how far we think we are from living
our life purpose, has experienced fulfillment. And these experiences often
serve as signposts to our purpose.
Take a few moments to center yourself in your heart. Then travel back to the time period with your earliest memories. Allow yourself to journey there without your internal dialogue. Travel gently with a strong intention to become clear. As a young child, what activities were most pleasurable? What events stand out as positive forces in your development? Ask these questions and allow the answers to come to you as you read this, and through the coming days and weeks. Write down whatever comes into your awareness under a heading labeled Fulfillment.
Now move on to your elementary school years. Ask yourself these same questions. And allow the answers to unfold in their own way. Record whatever becomes present for you. Next, look at your adolescence. And ask yourself what was most meaningful in this potentially challenging time of life? What was most fulfilling? Remember to keep breathing.
And proceed to early adulthood. Look at how you chose to spend your free time. In those activities what was most meaningful? What was most fulfilling? And remember to stay in a centered place while you gently ask these questions.
Now look at the type of work you chose. What aspects of your work or your relationships with coworkers or customers do you find most meaningful? Remember to stay in your heart as you ask these questions and to hold an intention of discovering your life purpose.
If you have started a family, look at your family life without judgment. What is most fulfilling here? What is most meaningful? What is most purposeful? What makes you joyful?
And continue through your adult life until you arrive at the present time. And ask your self these same questions, continuing to stay centered as you proceed.
Once you have completed this journey, take stock of how your answered these questions. Take out a piece of paper or open a file on your computer and write these attributes under a heading labeled Fulfillment, if you havenít already done so. Then look for patterns or progressions and note those below your answers. These patterns often point us in the direction of our lifeís purpose.
Looking back on my life journey, one of the themes that emerged was being available to others when they were in need of support. Other themes were teaching, leading, nurturing, and spirituality. And these same qualities are all present and expressed in my lifeís work as a psychotherapist, life coach, and teacher.
Clue: What comes naturally or easily is not by chance
By the time we arrive at adulthood we have acquired several skills. Although many of those skills were honed through years of repetition and teaching, we each possess some inborn talents. Just as a master artist benefits from years of instruction, our innate talents may be harnessed through teaching and practice. But they differ from attributes that are mainly acquired through learning. The master already possesses the seed of artistic mastery before receiving any instruction. The master is gifted before being instructed in technique. Similarly we all gifted in our own ways, even if we are unaware of the gift. A few examples may serve to clarify this.
As a child, I took several years of piano lessons. And much of what I did during that time was practice Ė the same piece over and over again until it seemed to flow naturally. But I was not unusually gifted in music. I enjoyed music and did not balk too much about the hours of practice. So with discipline I could produce a result that was pleasing to the ear. But leave me without music and I could barely peck out a tune. So while I became competent at playing the piano, that task never came naturally or easily; I was not a gifted musician.
A different example illustrates an ability that has come more naturally. I had heard that public speaking is one of the topmost things that many people fear. Yet, one of my first public speaking experiences was to an audience of over 2,000 people, and I felt relaxed. It was only later that I realized that I had not been afraid, and that speaking in front of groups was an enjoyable task for me, and not a terrifying prospect. I never expected to have an ability to speak in front of groups, nor did I ever seek opportunities to do so until it was a requirement of my job. Although I have never spoken to such a large group again, the ability to speak in front of groups has served me in manifesting my purpose. And any instruction I have received, has fine-tuned an ability that was innately present.
Several life purpose programs ask you to generate a list of strengths and to narrow the list to a few top qualities. Then those strengths are used in the process of defining your purpose. Letís take a slightly different perspective. Start solving this clue by creating a list of your personal skills. This is not a time for low self-esteem. Write down as many attributes as you can without judging, rationalizing, or minimizing. Then take that list and go through each quality, and ask yourself if this strength came naturally and easily. Or did it come as a result of training and repetition? And place a star next to those attributes that came readily.
Next list all the qualities you starred under a heading Natural Abilities. It is likely that not all of these will be related to your purpose. But in this process we have begun to separate your innate strengths from the skills honed through education and practice. And it is those inborn qualities that provide stronger hints to your life purpose. Allow greater clarity to develop throughout the coming days.
Although some aspects of our lives may offer clear examples of what is not our purpose, these same areas may also offer hints to our purpose.
Clue: What provides the greatest contrast also offers similarities
To solve this clue, we must look at those aspects of our lives that seem most distant from our purpose. For many people this might be their present career or their role in their family of origin. Although some aspects of our lives may offer clear examples of what is not our purpose, these same areas may also offer hints to our purpose.
In my previous career as a software engineer, I knew that the work I was doing was not my purpose. But my job also offered clues to my purpose. Over time, many of my coworkers would voluntarily visit my office and ask my opinion about how they could make positive changes in their lives. I never offered this service, nor even perceived that I could help people in that manner. My head was buried deep in the software code. But eventually a pattern emerged, and over time I recognized it, and that helped me in discovering my purpose.
Now itís time to apply this clue to your life. Come into a centered, quiet space. Then look at those aspects of your life you are clear are unrelated to your purpose. And ask yourself, what is most meaningful to me in this area of my life? What is most fulfilling? What do I look forward to relative to this aspect of my life? And allow yourself time to find the answers. Then under the heading Contrasts and Similarities, write the answers to these questions.
When we step back and look at our life from a distance, we may see patterns that provide hints to our purpose even though we could not distinguish them up close.
Clue: What cannot be seen by observing a tree may be discovered by scanning the forest
The clues we have examined thus far have required us to look closely at aspects of our lives, as if with a telephoto lens. To solve this clue, we must switch to a wide-angle lens. When we step back and look at our life from a distance, we may see patterns that provide hints to our purpose even though we could not distinguish them up close. To solve this clue, write down all the major areas of your life, the different ways you can slice the pie of your life. These might include: present family life, family of origin, marriage / partnerships, friendships, career or schooling, affiliations or associations, recreation, etc.
Then again allow yourself to come into a calm, peaceful place. Spend some time enjoying the serenity there. For each aspect of your life, ask yourself what is most fulfilling here? What is most meaningful here? What do I most enjoy here? Write down any observations under the heading Current Life Patterns. Then review your answers and note any patterns that emerge.
As I reviewed my life, a pattern that emerged from early on was a solution orientation. In my family, with friends, in school, and clearly in my first choice of careers as a software engineer, my role was often that of a problem solver. And today as a therapist and life coach, I often help people to discover solutions to problems.
Where do you go from here?
By solving the clues in this first installment of A Treasure Hunterís Guidebook, you can collect several hints to your life purpose. If you continue to bring awareness to these clues, you will likely discover more pointers to your life purpose in the coming days. Your purpose will likely use some of your natural talents and it will definitely fulfill you when you fulfill its calling. You can also find clues by looking for patterns that occur in multiple domains of your life. And remember that those areas of your life that seem most removed from your life purpose may provide some clear pointers to your purpose.
If you regularly revisit the hints you have recorded on this phase of the journey, you may begin to notice connections between them. When you are ready, move on to the second part of the A Treasure Hunterís Guidebook and continue your journey of solving the mystery of your life purpose. Bon voyage!