Some of us are lucky enough to discover early in life the direction life wishes to point us in.
The rest of us have it a little bit harder, and have to go looking for it.
Neither is better or worse than the other; all humans have their own paths and timing. For you, you’re reading this, so the time for you to look into your purpose is the best time for any of us, known as right now.
Purpose is the most important aspect of anything you do. You can make up in purpose (some of) what you lack in skill, knowledge, experience and resources.
You’re smart to be looking for the answers, because it matters.
So let’s get into it.
[For those who prefer audio, episode #1094 of my Work On Your Game Podcast also addresses this question.]
Do what you cannot NOT do.
This, right here, is the key to your passion and purpose.
Podcasting is hot right now, so lots of people are starting podcasts. Most of these podcasts suck and should discontinue publishing immediately. Same with YouTube channels, blogs, self-published books, and coaching/consulting businesses.
Because (many of) the people doing them are only doing them because they smell the opportunity (money, attention, SERPs) attached to the action — not because they actually have anything useful to contribute to the world.
- I started my podcast because I had so much to say that I couldn’t not say it. Over 1,100 daily solo episodes later, I still have more to share.
- Volunteers at animal shelters who’ll stop at nothing to get an animal adopted before they let that animal get euthanized.
- Those who go above and beyond the basic duties outlined in their contracts.
THAT’S what purpose looks and sounds like.
Here’s a sample passion statement for you to fill out. If you can’t fill this out using your current job/profession/business, you’re in the wrong line of work.
I _______ (job/activity) because I couldn’t not ________ (job/activity). In fact, I would still do this even if I wasn’t making / could never make money doing it!
But listen — I get it. Maybe you don’t have anything you’ve ever done that fits into that statement.
Well, there’s another way for you to find your purpose.
Follow your… DISCIPLINE
Follow your passion is tired and bad advice.
- I’m passionate about cinnamon sticky buns, especially the ones with the raisins on them. But I’m not opening a damn bakery.
- I’m passionate about grilled cheese sandwiches, when they use good cheese and quality bread — but I won’t be launching a sandwich shop anytime soon.
- I’m passionate about sex, but I’m not going to… I think you get the point.
Passion is defined as a strong and barely controllable emotion.
Emotions are great gas pedals — but terrible steering wheels.
Unchecked emotions cause us to make reckless decisions that we later regret once the emotional tidal wave has subsided. Letting our passions navigate us through life will lead us off the edge of a high cliff.
Reason and logic are the better decision-making tool. Once a decision is made, then we employ emotions to push us faster in the direction that was chosen through rational, measured thinking.
Don’t follow your passion. Passion’s ideal role is as a passenger, not a driver. You’ll get much clearer answers about your purpose by following your discipline.
Discipline: train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.
Here, we’re not talking about making yourself disciplined. We’re asking: where are you already disciplined?
- What do you always find time or money for, even when you have very little to spare?
- What are the non-negotiables in your life?
- What do you have a habit of doing that most other people don’t?
- What do people admire about you?
Here — in the answers to these questions — is where you need to be.
- Because you’re already doing it.
- You already have some of the habits in place.
- Because you won’t struggle to adapt to the inevitable hard days and long hours that come with turning an ROI from any endeavor.
Examine your current disciplines (we all have many). These are a starting point for your overall purpose.
What are you doing when you don’t have to be doing anything?
Loosely related to your discipline — what are you doing when you could be doing literally anything?
- Looking for the best new food spots in town?
- Playing video games?
- Writing poetry?
- Researching the safest toys for your kids to play with?
What you do with your free time may not exactly be where you should spend the rest of your life — but there surely is something within those activities that contain the seeds of your purpose.
Ask yourself the following questions.
- Why am I doing this?
- What benefits do I get from this activity?
- What do people tell me/ask me when they learn that I do this?
- What could happen if I did this all the time, with a bit more structure?
Again, these answers may not tell you your specific purpose, but asking and answering these questions will get the wheels of your mind turning towards finding that purpose.
Purpose matters, a lot. A person in any line of work who has no purpose is uninspiring, underwhelming and ultimately underachieving — even when he/she is really good at what they do, because the purpose, the why, is missing. We have a sixth sense for when a person is just doing a job versus living their purpose.
To be great at anything, you need a combination of can-do AND want-to (podcast episode on this: coming soon).
Have the discipline to ask yourself some tough questions, and the confidence to follow the answers, wherever they may take you.
Your purpose depends on it.