I have a love-hate relationship to those ‘success’ stories that go something like this: “When I was a teenager, I had a revelation that I simply had to become a doctor. I just knew it was my destiny to help people in crisis and since then, all my decisions and actions were led by this insight”. Some people are privileged to have such strong influences in life, usually triggered by some sort of incident, however most of us frankly don’t. I love them, because I find such stories hugely inspiring if the person behind it is fully authentic, and I don’t love them because they can be frustrating and demotivating.
However, the fact remains that only if we can answer the ‘why’ question, we can look at ‘how’ to achieve those goals that create a life in alignment with our purpose.
The word ‘purpose’ is so difficult to grasp for many of us. It brings expectations around a mission for our life with it. The effort to get it right seems as intense as moving a mountain.
During my training as a coach, I made about dozens of attempts to find my purpose. At the beginning, it felt as if I was the only one in my class who was hesitant to address this subject in the first place. And the reason was that most of my peers understood an easier segway to the topic. And so I learned that our purpose could just be considered as a ‘work in progress’ statement that gets permanently reviewed and rewritten, just like our personal values (see related article: Beginners guide to happiness). When we’re open for this different view, our purpose doesn’t seem that far away anymore.
I have put together a list of my favourite questions that may help you find your path.
My suggestion would be not to answer them all at once, but rather to sit down with a blank paper, pen and coffee and to really engage in one or two questions and revisit the subject every once in a while.
What makes you forget the world around you?
We all know this feeling of getting so stuck into an activity that we simply loose track of time and the hours just pass by. We may even forget to eat and drink or forget to inform our partner that we will be late for dinner. Those kinds of activities that consume all of our being have great insights about where our passion lies.
What was a time when your full attention was on one particular subject?What was the subject?
What kinds of conversations get you really engaged?
In coaching, we call it ‘resonance’ when certain topics just land and you can just hear the person’s passion. It is this feeling when you know your subject inside out and you don’t want to leave the conversation. Resonant topics bear so much information about what is important to us.
What kind of topics do you love talking about?
What topic gives you full confidence?
What did you love doing as a child that you forgot to pursue?
As children, we have tons of hobbies and go fearlessly about testing things out. What we would resist to do today, because we’re bad at it or because we’re afraid of what others might think, was so effortless and natural when we were young. Following those signs of curiosities reveals new information about what we enjoy.
What did you give up that you really loved?
What would you want to pick up again?
What problems in the world are you moved to meet?
Environmental issues, poverty, politics, economy, literature, philosophy – the media is packed with subjects that may have heart and meaning for us. We may not be able to solve the world problems ourselves, however we can contribute to what we care about. The feeling of making a difference has a big impact on our overall happiness.
What subjects in the news do you usually pay attention to?
What is an area in the world that you feel strongly about?
What legacy do you want to leave behind?
As we go through life, we continuously create our own legacy. Our morals, values, actions, relationships we choose, and decisions all shape the path we walk.
What do you want your grandkids to say about you?
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Related articles: Beginners guide to happiness