Have you ever wondered what your life's purpose is? Or, what passion lies inside of you that might help you feel more fulfilled and happy? Like most people (75%, in fact), you've probably struggled to find the answer to these questions. However, the truth is that we all have a reason why we are here. It may sound like a cliche, but it is true. Each one of us has a unique blend of interests, talents and experiences that define our life's purpose and passion.
But, what is this passion that leads to living a purposeful life?
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi may have the best explanation. He uses the term 'flow', which is to be "completely involved in an activity for its own sake." Mihaly goes on to explain that, when we do what we are passionate about:
"Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."
This, to me, is what we should all aspire towards, and I believe it can only occur when we follow our own path rather than the stereotyped rules, expectations, and ideals of other people.
I used to make up the above-mentioned 75%. The fear of change, specifically one as significant as changing my career path, became a delusional crutch that ultimately made me feel stuck, unhappy, and unfulfilled. It didn't matter how much I earned, where I travelled to, or what respected business executive I worked with, deep down, something was missing. And so started a life-changing discovery to where I am today.
So, how do you and I find our passion and life's purpose? For me, it was and continues to be a combination of two things. A lot of self-reflection and looking inward. And, being more in tune to that which made me "flow". This seems to resonate most for me, and it helped me reconnect to a part of myself that, from a very early age, was forever curious about people and intuitively knew how to connect, listen to, and understand them.
The truth is, there is no formula that one can prescribe to. But, the brilliant Susan Sontag provides words of wisdom that may offer some direction:
"Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”
Knowing the one or many things that helps us truly connect with who we are is a step towards finding meaning in life. But, reality dictates that passion doesn't necessarily equal a life of uninterrupted happiness and fulfilment. Life isn't that simple.
Unlike what many authors and Hollywood portray as this Aha! moment that one day occurs in people who seek their true passion/s, finding what our 'purpose' is means being prepared to walk through turbulent ups and downs. Hard work. Sacrifices. Perseverance. Thick skin. Trial and error. It's a journey of discovery that takes place over weeks, months, sometimes even years. And that's ok. As Ella Fitzgerald says:
"Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”
We all have many choices in life. One such choice is to accept life as a mundane, resentful experience (resulting in feelings of unhappiness, discouragement, misery, and defeat). Or, we can see life as an ever-changing work-in-progress where each decision, experience, and risk leads us closer to finding our passion and life's purpose.
Sheryl Sandberg sums it up nicely:
"We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests."
In his eloquent 2005 speech, Steve Job said:
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle."
Explore your passion. Find out what it is that you love. Then, start living it. These three things could change the trajectory of your life.