Jun 05, 2022

For most of my life I’ve been asking myself the question of what I’m supposed to do with my time. I don’t know how or why the question got there, but it’s been there as far back as I can remember.

I suppose it could be a factor of my fortunate upbringing to have had enough security and resources to think about my impact at such a young age. Or maybe I am just a philosopher-type, endlessly intrigued by life’s biggest questions. Either way, I had a sense that life was something special and I did not want to waste it.

From my early life experiences, I quickly learned that meaning would not be found in the accumulation of things, and it was more likely to come from experiences. This was all well and good, but what work would I do? What would captivate me so deeply, it wouldn’t feel like work? We’ve all heard the quote

“Find something you love and you won’t work a day in your life.” -Unknown

I don’t think it’s enough to find something we love though. There are plenty of things we love that are fine as hobbies and simply don’t translate into making a living. I learned this when I became a farmer at 23. I loved being outside, working with nature, inspiring young minds and avoiding the confines of an office. But those things were not enough to make it a fulfilling career choice in the long run. What about the hours of monotony weeding long row crops all alone. Or the lack of interpersonal skill development that would be necessary for nearly all other jobs in the future. What about professional growth, and money? There was so much more to be desired.

During my college years, I began to think the purpose of my life was somehow about adventure. I first travelled overseas when I was fifteen and had developed a small obsession for novel experiences and cultural exploration. But I also loved outdoor adventures hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, caving, white water rafting, snowshoeing, white-water kayaking and canoeing. You name it, I wanted to try it. I would set out on weekends to explore the mountain ranges and rivers and gravitated towards people that enjoyed the same things. I felt alive in nature, pushing my limits and exploring our beautiful planet.

But when I thought of what I might do with all of this for a career, I was stumped. Maybe I could be a tour guide in a foreign country or a travel agent so I could enjoy the fringe benefits. At the time, I was studying nutrition and living a really healthy lifestyle. Looking back, I think my college years were more a study of lifestyle than anything else. I wasn’t sure what I would do with my nutrition degree and I had just the right amount of privilege to study something I had no idea how I’d apply. I believed if I just kept exploring my interests, things would just click one day and I’d find myself in a fulfilling life with a solid relationship and a career I loved.

I would go on to haphazardly follow my interests for fifteen years before it dawned on me I needed to change my strategy. I had gained a lot of interesting experiences working as a caterer, a waitress, a farmer, a researcher, a salesperson in tax advisory, a non-profit program manager, and a fundraiser. I began to realize a life of meaning wasn’t going to just fall in my lap. And I couldn’t look around and take from what others were doing. I needed to take the time to look within and define what a life of success and meaning looked like for me.

The extremely personal nature of this dilemma makes it even more difficult to figure out. The fact that no one but us knows the answers to the deepest longings of our soul means we have to inquire within. And it’s even more strange because if the answers are within us, then why don’t we already know? I believe our purpose is so inherently us, we often fail to recognize it. It is related to themes that have been present throughout our lives and the aha moments come when we begin to honor our unique experiences, skills, talents, abilities and interests.

It can help to have a coach or another person to help shine a light on our limited thoughts and beliefs so we can begin to see the ways we diminish our unique qualities. We need someone to ask us the questions we have not yet asked ourselves. After all, if we have not managed to get clear on the meaning and purpose of our lives so far, how can we all of a sudden do it now on our own? I am reminded of a quote by Albert Einstein that says, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

New solutions require new thinking.

So I’m gong to share some questions for you to contemplate to begin understanding the major themes of your life. Carve out some quiet time and ask yourself:

  • At what times in my life have I felt the most joy?

  • What am I really good at?

  • What am I learning in my life right now?

  • What am I realizing I don’t want anymore?

  • What motivates me?

  • What have been the three most significant events in my life? Either they were accomplishments, failures, lessons, learned, or pivot points. How did these experiences affect my life?

  • What similarities do I see across these stories? What are the major themes?

  • Imagine you are ninety years old and looking back on your life. What are you most proud of? What do you want to be remembered by?

Write your answers in a journal and see what else arises in the days after you do this exercise.

And remember … finding and living into our purpose is a process that evolves throughout our lifetime. We don’t just arrive and then never have to deal with the question of purpose again. Things change and what we want changes as we grow. Cultivating patience and a growth mindset can be hugely supportive in any self-development work. As long as you are growing and learning more about yourself, you can rest assured in the knowledge that you are taking steps towards are more purpose-driven life.

Whatever you do, don’t settle! The world needs that special thing that only you possess.


All the best,