Oftentimes finding one’s purpose and/or meaning is an endeavor that drives life. Without purpose, some may feel lost, helpless, or hopeless. On the other hand, others may experience this as a freeing feeling, one not bound by external or internal pressures. Choosing how to view one’s purpose will ultimately influence everything from daily life decisions to the long-term goals one aspires to achieve. Although this can be an important driving factor within life, there may be questions and confusion surrounding how to discover this.
Many clients start therapy — some for the first time — seeking clarity around their purpose. Common issues that have been endorsed as a result of feeling lost in life are feelings of anxiousness and depression and experiences of familial and relationship problems. It may be typical to have felt lost in this regard for a long time, while others may have just started to scratch the surface of finding their meaning. After working with clients, I have seen how having direction can be freeing and empowering. If this is something you have wondered for yourself, below are some tips that may be able to assist you in your journey to discovering your purpose.
1) Clarity to Curiosity
One fundamental aspect that many feel is crucial to finding one’s purpose is clarity. We often want things to be clear and to come into a profound revelation as to what we are meant to do in life. Unfortunately, the nature of life is that it can be confusing, imperfect, and incredibly ambiguous. At the same time, life can also be joyous, meaningful, and fulfilling. The way I have helped move clients to the latter is through curiosity. Instead of forcing or pressuring yourself into having life figured out, I suggest embracing the ambiguity and then shifting to curiosity. Curiosity allows for questions, brainstorming, openness, and opportunity as to what our purpose may be or look like.
2) Choosing and Cultivating
Perhaps the most important factor to remember throughout this journey is that you can ultimately decide what purpose looks like for your life. Choosing and cultivating is one part of therapy I thoroughly enjoy and a process I try to establish early on. Once individuals have made the choice to start their journey of self-growth and discovery, we begin cultivation. My advice is to start fostering experiences that bring you joy, are important, raise your spirits, and add to your life’s values. These experiences can help solidify what you want your meaning/purpose to be. Clients may not know what their values are or how to decide what is important. If this is true for you, I ask you to consider some of these questions:
· Does your purpose involve a career path? If so, what careers can be fulfilling?
· How do you conceptualize the importance of family? What values do you hope to instill within your family?
· Do you want your life to include elements of spirituality? If so, what role will spiritual factors play in determining your purpose?
· What life goals do you have for yourself? How will achieving those goals contribute to your life overall?
· What are your passions and hobbies? How do those interests contribute to your well-being?
· Are there stressors that may be interfering with these elements of your life? If so, how are you working through these?
3) Continuous and Changing
Lastly, my advice is to remember that this is a journey! Journeys are not typically met with straight paths, nor will this process be. Just as you grow and change throughout life, so might your goals, values, and purpose. These changes are normal and to be expected! It is easy to become frustrated with oneself when our pursuits do not go as planned or when we notice that what has worked in the past may no longer serve us. If you find yourself here, be sure to read tip #1 again! Instead of pressuring yourself to have it figured out, try being open to the uncertainty in order to allow for opportunity. You may discover a new value, outlook, or belief that was not present before. If it feels good, you can grieve the person you were. At the same time, give grace, patience, and understanding to the one you are becoming. You will need it!