Spend five minutes on social media or reading the news today, and then be mindful of your emotional state. Do you feel fear, anger, anxiety? The arenas of public health, race relations, sports, politics, and more have become filled with contradictory personal opinions. As we consume this media day after day, week after week, the cycle of media consumption and negative emotion continues to build and compound on itself. Negative emotion, aside from stressing us out, actually rewires our neural pathways and shapes who we are.
Challenging though it may be, a crisis is also an opportunity to rise above the crowd and find solutions toward a better world. The best way to accomplish this is to have a clear purpose. Purpose is defined as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.” Why do we exist?
What about life energizes us to do more, achieve more, and become more?
Below are five ways we can find our purpose and follow it.
1. What is your purpose?
What energizes you? What would make getting out of bed feel like Christmas morning for you? For 95% of people, purpose comes from helping others, not themselves. It points to a better world. It has to do with improvement, love, and empowerment. It might feel like it should be achieving goals, money, material things, and accolades, but these are short term and usually amplify anxiety instead giving us strength to embrace it.
2. Don’t feel entitled to a purposeful life.
Your environment won’t provide you with a purpose. On the contrary, a sense of purpose helps us shape our environment. Many people show up, do the same actions again and again, and expect their outcomes to change. Albert Einstein defined this as insanity. And then if they don’t receive the bonus, award, promotion, thank yous, or responses they want, they blame it on environment. By understanding clearly why we “exist,” we mindfully move toward our purpose every day and begin to see things from a different perspective. Instead of rewiring the brain to see more negativity, we can make positive changes in the way we think, giving us the power to reach for something beyond ourselves, something that we can’t achieve alone and something that fuels our souls. It’s felt in the heart, not the brain.
3. Don’t confuse goals and purpose.
Goals allow us to clear the fog on the path toward our life calling while the purpose is the path itself. Achieving a goal creates dopamine in our brains, which generates short-term happiness. Goals are then reset, and we are back to the grind. Seeing our purpose unfold creates true happiness, even in hard times. It fuels our souls and allows us to thrive in the world. It creates energy, motivation, and a sage perspective. It comes from the heart, improves our immune systems, our health, our sleep, and increases longevity.
4. Look beyond the obvious to understand how your role impacts the world.
Those we interact with daily also have a reason to exist. What is it? How do our actions help them thrive, and how do they influence our purpose? In the arena of business, consider a team that drives for customer satisfaction. No individual on that team can succeed without the rest. In the end it takes marketing, sales, finance, purchasing, production, design, product, experience, customer care, and administration to deliver something that will truly enhance peoples’ lives. If part of the team is dysfunctional, none of its members will feel important to the world as the impact on others will suffer. Some might be operating well, but they’re just working a job, not a calling. Our role within our team is absolutely vital not only to our own purpose but also to those we strive with. No matter what our role, the influence we have on our teammates will literally change why they wake up each day. Remember this the next time one of them approaches you with an opportunity to improve. Suddenly a defensive mindset to explain why we are right is replaced with a drive to succeed. Understanding they too are trying to achieve an outcome that is well beyond us as individuals.
5. Purpose is found outside of our comfort zone.
Purpose will never lie within maintaining the present, it leads to nothing. The best analogy I’ve heard came from the book The Advantage by Patrick Lincioni. He told a story from the sitcom I Love Lucy.
Ricky, Lucy’s husband, comes home from work one day to find his wife crawling around the living room on her hands and knees. He asks her what she’s doing.
“I’m looking for my earrings,” Lucy responds.
Ricky asks her, “You lost your earrings in the living room?”
She shakes her head. “No, I lost them in the bedroom. But the light out here is much better.”
Most people prefer to look for answers where the light is better, where they’re most comfortable. But this leads nowhere. If we are not in a place that is unfamiliar to us, then we are maintaining the present. Don’t be afraid of dark places. Like Lucy, that’s where you might just find your earrings.
Today, more than ever, the world needs leaders. When we are aligned with our life’s calling, leadership comes naturally.
Enjoy the ride. It’s exhilarating.