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How and why you should find your purpose in life


By Niamh Ennis
09th Apr 2022

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle via Instagram

How and why you should find your purpose in life

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle via Instagram

Purpose creates meaning, it can guide your most important life decisions, influence your behaviour, shape your goals, offer a genuine sense of direction and create a deep understanding as to who you are and what you do.

Discovering your purpose in life is one of those things that most people think they would like to have, or at least to pursue, but have no clue where to start. If they’re being totally honest, they won’t even recognise it when they get there either. As lovely and as wholesome as it sounds, finding your purpose is not so easy to uncover. But before we explore the possibilities, let’s first try and understand just what it means to follow your purpose?

THE DEFINITION OF PURPOSE

The dictionary tells us that purpose is the reason something exists, an intended end, aim; or goal. Your life purpose consists of the central motivating aims of your life, the very reasons you get up in the morning. Purpose creates meaning, it can guide your most important life decisions, influence your behaviour, shape your goals, offer a genuine sense of direction and create a deep understanding as to who you are and what you do.

For some people, purpose is connected to a sense of vocation and implies meaningful, satisfying work; but for others it is something simpler and determines just how they show up in the world. What this shows us is that ‘having a purpose’ can manifest itself in a variety of different ways, there is no one size fits all, but connecting with whatever your purpose might be is a sure-fire way to get more meaning from your life.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

There’s no denying that the language around ‘finding your purpose’ can be a little off-putting; it has been hijacked by those who feel it should be something pious and always related to being of service to others.

Yet my own experience contradicts this. Some years ago, while working for a truly incredible national charity, I discovered that my purpose actually lay elsewhere and so I set up a coaching business. You could argue that I’m still being of service to others, but my initial intention was simply to do more of what I loved, and it was that which led me here, a decision I have never once regretted. Purpose is the long game, it’s not a short-term objective and has no final destination and it’s exactly for that reason when you decide to discover yours, that it needs to blend your interests with what brings you the most joy.

BIG IN JAPAN

In Japan, purpose is known as Ikigai and it is based entirely on the importance of following your joy. It is particularly used when guiding people towards finding what their dream careers and career paths might look like. Simply put, it is locating the overlap between what you love and what the world needs, what you are good at and what the world will pay for. It encourages you to create your sense of purpose from your passion, as well as old fashioned practical considerations such as paying bills, which in fairness, makes perfect sense to me.

Trying to uncover your purpose might sound a little fluffy, it might appear like something that could be nice to have, but it’s actually a lot more important than you might first think. Living a meaningful life contributes to your physical and mental health in the most profound way. As you get older, this of course, becomes more important to you. You want to discover what your purpose is and knowing what your values are helps you get there. When you know your values – which are what you know matters most to you right now – are aligned with what it is you do, everything starts to feel just a little easier, less overwhelming and a lot more meaningful.

3 STEPS TO BEGIN UNCOVERING YOUR PURPOSE

1 Turn your pain into purpose

We all face struggles and challenges in life. How we overcome these and what lessons we learn really shapes who we become and allows us to look at how we show up in the world with fresh eyes. Remembering that none of us were meant to do this business of life alone, we ask for help as we navigate our way through difficult times. Some of us, later on, might then find our purpose in helping others facing similar struggles to those we have overcome. This has definitely been my own personal experience of uncovering what purpose looks like for me.

2 Look for feedback

It can be difficult to recognise those things that you feel passionate about sometimes. After all, you most likely already do many different things, and those things that you most love to do may feel such an inbuilt and automatic response, that you just don’t notice how significant these things are. That’s where other people might be able to give you some helpful insight. There’s every chance that you’re already displaying your purpose and passion to those around you without even realising it. Ask those whose opinions you trust just what they think of when they think of you or observe when you receive a compliment and look for what the patterns are within.

3 Do more of what you love with who you love

If you spend more time with people who genuinely get you, who inspire you, motivate you and encourage you to be better as well as to do better, then there’s every chance you’re going to discover your purpose while you’re doing just that. Forget what others think, or how they might judge you and ask what is it that you love doing then do more of that. We are much too influenced by what others think, that we don’t realise it is stopping us from revealing our own true purpose. It’s your short life that you’re living, not theirs!

Mark Twain sums up purpose best for me: “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh has just launched THE CHANGE ACCELERATOR, her Self Study Programme for those ready for Change. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or niamhennis.com.