3 Steps to Be Purposeful
Purpose. A reason for being. The thing that gets you up in the morning. Ikigai.
The dictionary definition of purpose is “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”
I’m going to share a secret with you. Nobody knows how, and what life should be. Yet we are taught from a young age that we “should” know certain things. Between age 16 and 18 we are made to choose school subjects based on the next few years of our education that will then lead us to what we will have as a career. A career that is supposed to last a lifetime. We are also influenced by family, friends, strangers, and the media that success, happiness and purpose mean getting married, having children, buying a house, buying a car. The list goes on, outlined by society. I myself bought into this view of purpose. I had a full time job. I got married. I bought a house, and then had a daughter. I have no regrets about this, as each day I lived my purpose of being a good mother, earning money to help support my family, and enjoying being with my friends and family. I’m not saying any of these “reasons for living” were wrong. They may be someone’s actual purpose and truth. But I had a bigger purpose that I was unaware of. I didn’t realize I was living an optical illusion of purpose.
I now live on a thirty-four foot boat, nothing grand, just a practical space that makes me happy while providing everything I need. I moved from the UK to California to start a new life, now living in the states for eleven years, on my boat for the last five. A friend, who lives in the UK, came to visit me recently and asked when I would be getting a bigger boat. She went on to explain that a bigger boat would not only mean extra space, but also represent to society that I had more wealth and success. And the higher I looked in society’s eyes, the more opportunities I may receive and the more items I could afford. As she spoke, I realized what she was getting at.
But in reality, I was already happy living my creative purpose, no matter the size of my boat.
With the right mindfulness tools, this illusion of what purpose should look like can be broken down and altered, in order to live a healthier, more truthful lifestyle. To begin, one must look at their own life and what they feel called to do.
Purpose can be represented in different aspects of your life:
- Family or Friends
- Spirituality or Religious Beliefs
- A combination or all of the above
Here is an example of a couple of careers leading a person to finding their purpose:
- An actor is in the entertainment industry because they personally love the craft, but their purpose extends to impacting the viewer of their films and TV shows beyond themselves.
- A gardener personally loves nature personally and feels happy when surrounded by it, but their purpose extends to impacting the environment and giving back to others.
But what if you don’t already live your purpose truthfully? How do you find out how to live yours? How do we go against society and the optical illusion of what is “right”? When looking at your own life, it is simplest to look at what you love. Love can be an immeasurable, irrational bond that has the power to break through society’s illusion of “right” and point you towards your true purpose.
But what if you don’t have any form of clarity? Does that mean you’re less than? Does that mean you are never going to find it? Everyone’s timeline for finding their truth and living it is different. It can be hard to fight the societal need of “I want it now”, but good things often take time.
In order to try and find your purpose or reassess if you’re already living in yours, try these 3 steps.
3 Steps to Be Purposeful:
1. Self reflection (on happiness, purpose and idea of success)
I reflect on myself in various ways: Going paddleboarding, being in nature, reading, writing, and general solitary time. I think about what truly makes me happy, what I feel called to do with my uninfluenced heart, and what success I want to achieve along my ever-changing journey.
Don’t forget there is no time limit/expiration for self-reflection. It can take a while to discover your true purpose. Searching for your truth is success in itself.
Keep in mind that your purpose doesn’t always correlate with something you’re “good” at. Part of the optical illusion is that your purpose should be something that society has told you you’re good at, something you started to follow by a certain age, and/or something specific in the way that you do it. You may be a natural talent with your purpose, but don’t write off your true purpose if you aren’t.
When you know your truthful purpose, it might then be hard to accept and pursue that inner desire when your outer life is out of sync/does not reflect it.
So my next step is:
2. Adjustment of life
I removed the pressure to constantly prove my worth to others. I stopped forcing myself to go to parties and social events for exposure & false hope and instead looked inward for self-validation and confirmation that I was following my purpose.
This can be hard. There is a possible risk to shifting one’s life, but the reward can be greater than the risk. The more interwoven with others and outside aspects, the harder the adjustment will be. Remember that some shifts might not be visible to others, but can still have a profound impact on your life. A life adjustment could be anything from a career change to telling someone “no”. Again, there is no time limit/deadline for this.
Once you have found your purpose and have adjusted your live to life in that purpose:
3. More mental check-ins
This was and still is crucial to ensure I continue to be truthful with myself and my intentions. Along the way, I’ve reassessed friendships and relationships to weed out those I was using for selfish gain. I’ve had to push forward despite huge doubts from
myself and society. I’ve pushed through fear and panic with the unknown to keep living in my truth.
Remind yourself every morning and end of each day of your truthful purpose and the importance of living in it. Constant check-ins are necessary to ensure you keep perspective by not placing unattainable expectations on yourself or being drawn back into society’s illusion.
At the end of my friend’s trip, once she had experienced my life on my boat, seeing how I truly happily lived, her comments shifted.
Rather than be influenced by outside forces to change who I was, I stayed in my truth and society eventually accepted me and my purpose.