“Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning we give it.” ― Tony Robbins
I used to spend a lot of time daydreaming about all of the things I’d like to be doing with my life. But I had a corporate job and was busy ticking things off my bucket list, settling down, finding a house and a man who’d love me. All of the things I felt I should do, all of the things society tells us is the way. But my life lacked meaning and I was unsure of what my real purpose was. Stuck is a job that suffocated my soul, I thought there must be other ways to make ends meet? Do you ever find yourself asking those questions; is this all there is? Is this what life is all about? What would you do if you had more time, money, freedom?
Eventually, my unfulfilled life got the better of me and I set out on a journey to discover my authenticity. Who was I, what did I want from life and how was I going to be remembered? What were my passions and could I earn money from them to get me out of the rat race. Can I spend more time doing what really matters and doing things I love whilst still paying the bills and can I go to work every day and live out my values? Hell, what even are they?
7 Simple Ways to Find Your Purpose and Live Meaningfully
I quit the corporate world and went in search of myself. I spent time figuring out who I was and what I wanted and rebuilt a life around my passions. Re-training as a yoga instructor and life coach, writing my first book, moving to New Zealand and coming out. As my journey progressed I felt more at ease with who I was, I discovered my authenticity but most importantly with this new found knowledge of my values and purpose I was living a life full of meaning. Here’s how:
1. Do what you love
We have such little time these days the things we love so often go to the bottom of a busy priority list. We find we have less time to do these things and in some cases, it may have been so long we’ve forgotten what these things even are.
That’s why so many of us want to win the lotto, we think the additional time we’d get from being financially comfortable would enable us to do more of what we love.
When you’re not at work on the weekends what do you like to do? How do you spend your free time? What do you enjoy talking about, what is it that friends ask you for advice on? If you’ve got a spare 10 minutes what do you surf online? What magazines do you pick up in the store?
These are all keys to what you love. And obviously your hobbies and interests, your passions, the things that you get up for in the morning and the things you’d do for free long after you’ve retired or won lotto and didn’t need to earn a living anymore.
My love for yoga lead me to become an instructor and my will to want to help people brought me to coaching. I also have a passion for writing and the three together lead me to publishing my first book.
If you’re struggling to think of things, cast your mind back. What did you used to want to be growing up, what did you enjoy as a kid?
2. Discover your values
This concept was so foreign to me that when I did this exercise for the first time I had to google a list of values to pick from, eventually I refined it to my top 5 and these are the things that I know guide my decisions and if I’m living in alignment with these I also know I’ll find meaning in what I do.
When we live in accordance with our values we do the things that matter in a way that matters most to us. If we combine these with our strengths and do things not only that matter but that we’re also good at it’s here the rubber hits the road. We are more likely to be aligned to our purpose and this gives us meaning.
Research shows that working for a company who shares our values and in a job that allows us to utilise our strengths mean we’ll be happier and more productive.
3. Remember your strengths
Our brains are wired to see the negative and we are often our biggest critics. We tend to shy away from praise whilst ruminating on the things we wished we were better at or the misses we’ve had over our successes.
If someone gives us 3 pieces of feedback one negative and 2 positive it’s the negative thing we’ll remember and ruminate on despite the positive’s outnumbering this by double. It pays to take some time to remind us of what we’re good at, especially in nations that can be too modest. If you’re struggling with this one, ask others, those who know you well, friends and colleagues. You soon start to see some emerging themes.
If we combine what we’re good and with what we love to do and align this to what we value most we’re on the highway to happiness and a short cut to finding our purpose.
4. Do work that matters – Find your why
Most of us go to work to earn money, if we’re lucky enough to have time we might have some hobbies too but can the things we love pay our bills one day? Many of us think not but there are self-employed photographers, artists, musicians, footballers, caterers, cabinet makers and landscape gardeners that’ll tell you different.
Beyond pay, I found my why in voluntary work. I got more pleasure helping people in need than I did from any promotion or pay rise and ironically I was doing it for free. My Mum always did jobs to pay our bills but was hugely involved in the Church and the work she did here holding services, visiting the sick, taking funerals and service in the community was her why and her sense of purpose.
5. How do you want to be remembered?
A life coach once asked me did I want to be my CV or my eulogy? Whilst we don’t like to think about dying, when we do people will talk about who we were as a person, what we did, how we lived our life. They won’t mention our salary, the company car we drove, the promotions we had or our KPI statistics.
Who do you want to be? When someone stands up at the end of your life, what is it that you’d like them to be saying? How much of that do you get to embody today, how much time do you have to be that person. Is the way you live your life how that person would live theirs?
6. Create a Vision Board
This works really well for those who are more visual and is also a great activity to do with friends or the kids. Using old magazines and pictures cut out words and images that align to your dreams. Sticking them all together in a montage gives you your vision board. It’s an at a glance reminder of how we want life to be. Mine had beaches on it, chickens and a puppy, good food, yoga, a poor village in a far off land where Id like to go and build huts one day. You get the idea.
It reminds us what’s important and what we’re working for. What our life goals are and the little things we’d like to accomplish along the way.
7. What does your perfect day look like? What are you doing? Who with?
So often we’re lost in those day dreams of the future, all the things we’d like to be different. The things we look forward to when times are less tough. When the kids have left home when we’ve got our promotion when we’re 10kgs lighter, when we’ve met our soul mate.
Most of the time we don’t get much beyond the day dreaming and we fail to understand that those perfect conditions we’re waiting for, the ‘right’ time will never arrive. There will always be challenges and tough times this is the nature of life and putting off life whilst we ‘wait; for this to pass is a never ending the journey, we don’t reach the destination.
So how do we take those day dreams and make them a reality, maybe not now right this minute but over time as we change our life to align with our purpose? An exercise I did whilst soul searching was writing an article about me at 40 (I was 30 at the time). I was to imagine 10 years ahead and a magazine had come to interview me. What would I say, who would I be, where would I be and who with?
I’m not 40 yet so I don’t know if it’ll turn out that way but I know I’m a lot closer to that vision now than I was at 30.
It can be so easy to get lost in the art of making a living and forget about making a life. So often we’re too busy with life that we’ve lost touch with ourselves and we’re not even sure if this life we have is the one we want, many of us believe there’s not a choice. Well there is and it’s your choice. Get clear on what you love, what ignites your spark and begin to build a life that aligns to what you value, do things that matter with your time and live a life full of meaning and purpose so that you’ll be remembered as that person that is authentically you.