At some point, most of us will question what our purpose in life is.
We may feel lost, empty and exhausted and think “there must be more to life than this.”
And then we get stuck.
Is there really more?
How will I find it?
How will I know when I have found it?
So we embark on a journey. An exciting voyage of self discovery.
Well, it’s exciting from a therapist’s perspective however I’m not sure if my clients would use those words to describe what they go through!
They would probably describe it more as a very painful, depressing, anxious and even angry time in their lives. I would understand if you thought me to be a bit of a sadist at this point, however this pain is essential. This pain is what tells us that we have lost our way in life. It is meant to work like an alarm system, guiding us as we navigate through life. Giving us feedback as to how we are progressing in the world.
When you find yourself feeling depressed, anxious, angry, exhausted and numb, I ask you to stop and listen. You are being told that what you are doing is no longer working for you.
The way you are living, the choices you are making on a daily basis as to how you spend your time and energy have now become the problem. You have lost your way and this is what your pain is trying to tell you.
So where do you go from here?
- Well, you can choose to ignore the unpleasant feelings until you collapse into a crying heap with the doctor mumbling something about chronic fatigue (this seems to be my preferred way of coping).
- You can try to numb and bury those feelings real good with food, alcohol, drugs, affairs, gossip, dramas – both on television and real life, etc (hmm, I think I can claim this method as well).
- Or you can use these feelings to guide you to your purpose in life. I made that sound pretty easy huh? Well the answer really is just that simple. We are encouraged to find our purpose; find our true/real/authentic selves; find our meaning in life and all for a good reason.
Having a purpose in life is what makes us happy.
How to be happy has been discussed by the greatest minds in the world for centuries. It’s not a new concept or one that I will in any way claim to have made some radical new discovery about. However after working with hundreds of clients from all walks of life I can say with confidence that people who find themselves, who live an authentic life, a life in line with their purpose, are the happiest. Being a psychologist, I have ingrained in me, a deep respect for scientific research, so I can make this claim with a sigh of relief as we now have the research to confirm what we have always known. To find our purpose, our meaning in life is to find ourselves and in turn our path to happiness and joy.
So all this may sound fine and good but I know from personal experience that you are probably thinking “it doesn’t tell me how to actually find what my purpose is! I am ready to do what it takes! Just tell me what I am meant to be doing?”
I know this because my clients have read every self-help book, listened to hundreds of seminars, watched endless you tube vids hoping that this will be it!
The thing that finally reveals to me my purpose so I can get on with it!
Get on the path that will bring me guaranteed happiness and wealth.
However this seems to also be where most of us get undone. For we not only want to be taken by the hand and lead to our path, we want a guarantee that our path will bring us guaranteed emotional and financial rewards. Oh, yeah, and if it feels like hard work at any point, then obviously we are not on the right path. Because finding your passion and following your purpose should be effortless and feel good 100% of the time. Right? Many of my clients have spent a lot of time trying to work out what their passion is and feel very confused when they try to work out how their fondness for sex or eating can be turned into a profitable business.
In this day and age, the focus seems to be very much on doing what makes us feel good. Eating cake feels fantastic, however it only feels good while we are eating it, take away the cake (or alcohol, sex, drugs, gossip, etc) and you don’t feel good anymore. In fact, once all these numbing behaviours are gone, you will probably feel worse about yourself. This is how you know if you’re on the right path, it shouldn’t leave you feeling bad at the end of it.
I am talking about finding who you are by paying attention to the things that make you lose all sense of time when you are doing them. Is it when you are following a new and complicated recipe? Or when you have discovered a new bush walk? You may find what you like surprises you. I ask that you simply pay attention without judging. Without asking “now how in the world is this going to make me money?” To find yourself and in turn, find your purpose and find happiness I ask that you pay attention to what gets you in the ‘flow’. While you are engaged in this activity what we are looking for isn’t necessarily just that you feel good. It may be something that challenges you, requires work and effort. When you are engaged in it however time flies. You get lost in what you are doing and time has no meaning. Once it’s done, you feel a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
So if you are feeling anxious, depressed, angry, exhausted, empty and fantasising about disappearing (and not even caring that you want to disappear) it is time to accept that what you are doing is no longer working for you. I’m guessing that you are spending your time and energy on activities that are not giving you any fulfillment or pleasure. It is time to rediscover your passion for life. It is time to find yourself, by finding what you are interested in and good at. What you like doing just for the sake of it. (We’ll worry about what the point of doing it is later, let’s just work out what gets you in the ‘flow’!)
Please feel free to make comments and suggestions.