Mark Twain once said “the two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why”. That’s because there often comes a time in our lives when we look at ourselves and realise that something is missing.
It’s when we reach a stage in life and realise that we want more. We want to make more of a difference, more connection, more meaning and have more impact.
We want to know that our lives are meaningful beyond ourselves and that we are making the most out of the brief time that we have on this planet.
What we want is to have more purpose.
It’s easy to distract ourselves from what is truly important and in many ways our society is designed to do exactly that. Distraction is everywhere we look from the big dramas we follow in the world, to the smaller dramas we create in our lives.
These dramas distract us from the fact that the life we are living is not the life we hoped for. But that’s ok because there’s the big weekend planned and then there’s the holiday to look forward to. Not forgetting the promotion we’ve been dreaming of because of the extra ten grand, that will change everything, and then, and then, and then.
We Lose Focus
It’s easy to lose focus on what really matters and before we know it we have a great job, big house, countless flashy things but feeling utterly unfulfilled.
If you think something is truly important then try this simple test. Ask yourself:
“Will this matter to me on my deathbed?”
Will this job matter, will this house matter, will these fancy clothes matter? Not to say these things aren’t fine to have in your life. But are they the things that you’ll be proudly telling your great-grandchildren about on that fateful day.
If the answer is no, then go and find something that will.
Find something that will drive you, and inspire you to give your greatest gifts to the world.
Many people don’t find a sense of purpose in life because they haven’t prepared themselves to notice it when it does arrive.
We spend so much time in our heads, but we can’t ‘think’ our way to our purpose. It comes from a deeper place than our minds, so we need to prepare ourselves to first quieten our thoughts.
If we can create the time and space to listen out for what truly matters then we are more likely to notice and act upon it when it does arrive.
Here are four practical tips to apply to your life today to help you find your purpose.
#1. Simplify your life
Our lives are so complicated these days. Much of what we surround ourselves with is to distract us from what really matters, as we think happiness comes with a price tag.
There is a movement called The Minimalists that promote simpler and cleaner living. They believe that the clutter we surround ourselves with distracts us from what’s really important in life. Simplifying our lives helps remind us of what we have that is truly valuable to us. It helps to create space for the things that are important to present themselves.
The Minimalists play the 30-Day Minimalism Game. In their own words:
“Find a friend or family member: someone who’s willing to get rid of their excess stuff. Each of you must get rid of one thing on the first day. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So forth, and so on. Anything can go! Clothes, furniture, electronics, tools, decorations, etc. Donate, sell, or trash. Whatever you do, each material possession must be out of your house—and out of your life—by midnight each day.”
If that thought terrifies you then ask yourself why?
What are you holding on to that you need to let go of to create space for something new to arrive?
If we want to connect to something new then we must at first create the space for it to arrive. Simplifying your life is a great way to do this.
#2. Find your tribe
A businessman once said that when he wanted more success in his business he stopped hanging out with people who thought that £100K was a lot of money.
It reminds me of this quote from John Kuebler.
“Show me your friends, I’ll show you your future”
Here’s an example of this from my life.
I wanted to leave my job for 15 years and start my own business. However, I was surrounded by people who were living the very life I wanted to leave, so developing the courage and belief to do something different was really tough.
I listened to their advice for years, and it was only when I joined a men’s programme with men who were living their purpose that I started to connect with my own. It was only then that I dared to imagine another life was really possible.
Two years after joining the men’s programme, I left my job and set up my own business aligned to my purpose.
A friend once said to me that before you take the advice of someone, ask yourself if they are living a life that you aspire to. If not, then ignore the advice and find someone whose life you do aspire to.
Ask yourself these questions:
Who inspires you?
Where do these people hang out?
How can you introduce more of them into your life?
Find your tribe, support them in their purpose to help inspire you to find yours.
#3. Manage your ego
The ego gets a bad press these days. I read about how to “kill your ego”, “destroy it” etc. Your ego is important and is there to help you in life. Unless you’re a Tibetan monk you’re very unlikely to ever transcend your ego. So let’s just let go of that and learn to manage it instead.
Start to become more aware of the ego and the impact it has on you. Use this awareness to look beyond the ego and help connect yourself to that deeper wisdom within yourself that’s telling you what to do with your life.
Realising that your ego is a part of you and isn’t going anywhere is a key step in learning to manage it better.
Externalising your ego and even giving it a name (let’s call him Roger) can help you to perceive it as being a separate part of you, and one that you can manage.
The ego will influence us towards beliefs and pursuits that will likely distance us from finding deeper purpose and meaning in life. That’s because the ego is more excited by things that make you look good and further develop the identity it’s created for you. Taking action that’s counter to this identity will meet with resistance.
Your ego creates a certain version of reality which is as real as you choose to make it.
Someone is late to meet you for example. Your ego starts telling you it’s because they don’t respect you and don’t value your time.
Really? Is that true?
Remember that the ego tells you stories that will best get it what it wants.
Noticing the voice telling you this is fine. Believing and acting upon it is a choice you have. Our ego wants to make everything others do mean something about ourselves. Therefore, noticing this tendency means we can relinquish the control it has over us.
It’s hard to find a sense of purpose with a strong ego that wants to further its own identity. By managing it we can start to listen out for the difference between when Roger guides us and when it’s that deeper wisdom within.
#4. Find solitude
The first three tips are related to preparing yourself to find your purpose. This tip is where the gold is.
Whenever I’ve had a great insight about something in my life it’s always come when I’m in some kind of solitude.
The three places where successful entrepreneurs are said to get their greatest insights are in the shower, the car and on holiday. These are all related to finding space in our busy lives to allow the inspiration to come.
The deeper wisdom that we wanted to connect to in #3 above is the part of you that can best answer the question of what your purpose is. So give that part of you as much space as possible.
The simplest yet most profound version of this practice is one I learned from one of my teachers.
Take 30 minutes three times a week to just sit. This isn’t meditation, this is sitting. We’re not focusing on anything in particular, we’re just creating space, without distractions, to allow inspiration to come.
Have a notepad and a pen with you to jot down any insights, and just sit.
If you feel strongly compelled to do something, then get up and do it. Then sit back down and wait for what comes.
This practice works two-fold. One is creating the space for inspiration to present itself, the other is ensuring that you capture it when it does.
Remember that the path to your purpose is not through your head, it’s through your heart. Any practice that slows you down so you can create the space and silence to listen to it is a wonderful thing.
I hope this post was helpful. Do you have any other tips you would add? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it. For regular content like this just fill in the box below.
To your success