My own birthday was never a big deal to me but because one month from today I will turn 60, there’s a bit of “am I doing enough with my life” going on for me right now.
Because I help people create livelihoods that make a difference, I naturally attract clients who talk a lot about finding their life purpose. Sadly, what I hear too frequently is that they are either afraid of not identifying their true calling or they don’t see how they can make a big enough impact to make a difference, so they do nothing. My job, and I believe this is my calling but not my sole life purpose, is to show them the possibilities, that they aren’t limited to a single calling and that making a difference in their own community or even a change in one life may be one thing they are here to do. Not everyone, in fact almost no one, was truly born to change the entire world.
Life purpose needn’t be about identifying your calling and doing one thing for the rest of your life. I believe we can and do embrace our purpose in many different ways that evolve over a lifetime. Those of us with many interests have struggled with this at times because, particularly for scanner types, we experience each new passion as “oh, I am really in my element.”
It’s only recently that I’ve recognized the different shapes that my own purpose has taken over the years. Reviewing a mental inventory of my life portfolio, the common thread has been the call to teach and to help people to see their potential and recognize their options. I like to think of this as my life “theme”. I know now that in many different roles as a sister, friend, mother, wife, daughter and employer, I have been embracing my calling to educate and inspire.
Until my early twenties, I manifested the call to teach in a more traditional sense. As a young child, I loved to help my little sister navigate the world and playing school with my friends was one of my favorite after school activities. As a teen, I was a camp counselor. In college, I majored in Art Education with the dream of having my own creative arts school to inspire and encourage creativity. Then in my twenties, I got sidetracked by a challenge to create businesses. In each new business, I believed i had found my calling. In advertising and home furnishings, I had a knack for teaching people who were uncomfortable with marketing how to sell authentically. When I had an art and contemporary craft gallery, I enjoyed and was good at teaching artists to market their work but I don’t see my life purpose as sales training. When I went to massage school and then started a body work business, clients told me I was a gifted healer and I began to believe that was my calling. Then I fell and broke my hand so couldn’t do any bodywork for two months. My colleagues began asking me for help building their healing arts practices so I developed my “Full Practice Formula” and wondered if my purpose was in fact teaching people to see the possibilities, value their art and market their skills. It wasn’t until my fifties that I recognized how all these seemingly unrelated endeavors, from advertising, to retail, body work, home furnishings and art were just different forms of fulfilling my calling to educate and inspire.
When you identify a gift, that doesn’t mean it is your calling. Maybe it’s part of a much larger theme. For example, some young friends of mine call me “the baby whisperer” because I can pick up a baby whose been screaming for hours and instantly he’ll settle down. I don’t see my life purpose as calming colicky babies, but do see it as part of my larger theme which is sharing things that come easily to me with others so that they see the possibility in themselves.
I believe most people are living their life purpose in one or many forms but may not recognize it or haven’t yet identified the joy and greater purpose in it.
If you feel like you are still searching for your calling, I suggest this exercise to help you identify your purpose or life “theme”:
Write down the different rolls you’ve played over the course of your life so far. Not just professionally but as a child, as a student, a friend and a parent. Don’t simply list the skills you used or the tasks you performed. Really think about where the joy was in each of those circumstances. What were the “ahah” moments for you? Where did you touch someone’s life? This could be when you helped your little brother learn to tie his shoes or the way you decorated the table for your parent’s bridge party. Maybe you were the one who always knew how to convince the teachers, parents, other kids that something was a great idea. Even if you feel stuck in a boring job right now, you are probably doing something that is in some way manifesting your purpose. Are you always the one to bring order, humor or calm to a situation? Sometimes it’s not obvious but if you spend time really looking and listening, there are probably some similarities between the gifts you bring to your present life and the pieces of your past that brought you joy or made a difference for someone else.
What are the common threads in your history that may be a key to your life theme?Lets Connect