How to Find Your Inner Purpose for the Next Stage of Your Life
In his book, The Great Work of Your Life, Stephen Cope posits that when we miss our Dharma by a millimeter, we miss it by a mile. In my practice as a leadership coach, I see two distinct groups of women who have missed their calling by that millimeter. The first group of women are those in their late 20s and early 30s who followed the outline of familial and cultural programming and chose the career path they thought they “should.” The second group is comprised of more seasoned women, who in many ways paved the way for generations behind them but haven’t had the opportunity of designing their dream career themselves.
This latter group of more seasoned women are reimagining the 2.0 version of their career, and finally feel called to put themselves in the center of it. So, as we approach this career evolution, how do we connect it to our soul’s deepest calling—to our inner purpose? I believe that the great work of our lives sits at the intersection of where our gifts lie (yes, we all have forms of mastery!), what brings us joy, what we value, what we want to impact, and what we need. When we design our path from that space and bring our full selves to the table, we are living our purpose.
So where do we begin?
Step 1: Overhaul your beliefs.
The first place I check in with clients is on their beliefs. What we believe and how we prioritize those beliefs guides our lives.
Buried in our subconscious lie beliefs that inform our success, ambition, worthiness and more. The ideas we hold about ourselves (i.e. I’m not worthy enough to make this salary, or people like me can’t achieve that) and the world around us make up our core beliefs. What makes these beliefs so important is that they influence almost every action we take in our lives. And until we sit down to examine our beliefs about career, money, leadership, and advancement, they can be directing our lives in an unfavorable way. Once we’ve taken inventory of these core beliefs, we look at the ones that are limiting our success. We work to rewire these beliefs so that we can step into an expanded definition of success and purpose.
Ask yourself: What do you believe about work, success, and doing what you love? Do you believe that you can step fully into your calling? Are those beliefs supportive of your big vision?
Step 2: Honor your values.
What we value in this world shapes how we prioritize our lives and informs our happiness—and unfortunately happiness is currently at an all-time low. Just 14 percent of Americans state they are happy and present.
Black swan moment aside, I believe that unhappiness is a reflection of how out of alignment we are with our values as a culture. While Gen-Z is choosing to work in spaces aligned with their values, not all previous generations felt that they could make such choices—but in doing so, we compromise our own experience. As Cope also writes, if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you and the work that you do.
Ask yourself: What are your core values? If you were to distill your values down to the top five most important for you, what would they be? Are those values aligned with your current organization?
Step 3: Identify your mastery.
When we’ve overhauled our beliefs and are anchored in our core values, we start to see ourselves and the lives we’ve created with much greater clarity. We are no longer in the fog of our familial, cultural, and societal programming. We can now more consciously see ourselves and begin to examine our unique brand of genius—perhaps for the first time.
Many of us discount our true gifts because they come so effortlessly. Thus, we can spend an abundance of time trying to cultivate skills outside of our gifts, forcing us to be good at something else because we are in utter disbelief that what comes so readily could ever be perceived as valuable. It’s precisely that mindset that keeps us fractured versus flowing with the currents of our own true gifts. I teach clients to get in touch with their mastery through a process I call the Three E’s—the eh, the excellent, and the exceptional.
Ask yourself: When do you feel most alive and energized? When you do you find yourself in the space of flow? When do you fully lose track of time because you are so immersed and carried away in what you’re doing? What do people often seek you out for? Chances are those things are connected to your brilliance.
Step 4: Align with joy.
Joy is a form of nourishment—it’s a feel-good fuel that allows us to show up fully for the work we’re called to do, the families we love, and the impact we’re here to have. It’s also a signpost for what really lights up the truest parts of ourselves. Neuroscience and studies of positive psychology prove that joy is a key driver and precursor of success (with two decades of research backing this up). When we enjoy what we’re doing our brains and bodies work more efficiently. Joy allows us to feel better, do better, and live better.
As you move through your day and your week, ask yourself: What lights you up and fuels your fire? If you were to follow joy, what would you do?
Step 5: Shift from performance to purpose.
Now that we’re feeling like clear, joyful geniuses, I want to talk about using all that awesome energy for something big. I believe that each and every one of us arrived on this earth with a mission—each of varying shapes, sizes, and flavors. When we are deeply rooted in the impact we want to have, we are no longer blindly performing our way through life in a role that someone else assigned us— we’ve discovered the deep purpose hidden at the core of our being and its interdependence with the rest of the world.
Ask yourself: What do you want to impact in your family, community, or the greater good? If you could leave one space better than you found it, what would that be?
Step 6: Prioritize your needs.
As you think about re-imaging your work and anchoring in your purpose in a more profound way, I invite you to think deeply about what you need to do that work. In my practice, I work with exceptional female leaders committed to doing work that supports the greater good—but that often comes at the expense of themselves and their vitality. We all know that self-sacrifice is not a contribution, and if we fail to take care of the women running our businesses, are we really in service of women’s leadership?
As you think about your juicy calling, ask yourself: What do you need to show up fully for it every single day? What resources do you need? What is your salary goal? How much time off do you need? What would it look like to prioritize your needs?
I invite you to think deeply about all of the above. And for more guidance on this exploration, you can download this Passion & Purpose worksheet to help further your journey.
This essay was featured in the January 24, 2021 edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper publishes News and Views that Rise Above the Noise and Inspires Hearts and Minds. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.