How to clarify your purpose – 6 practical tips you need to know

Apr 11, 2019

A couple of years ago, I reached a point in my career where I began to wonder – what’s next?

There were elements of the work that I enjoyed and I loved being my own boss. But I couldn’t shake the feeling something was missing.

I was dreading Monday and living for the weekend. I soon realised – I’d lost the passion for my work.

Through coaching, I began to explore my purpose, values and goals. For the first time ever, I considered what was important to me in my personal and professional life and what meaningful work look liked to me.

One of the biggest game changers was clarifying and understanding my life purpose. If you’re unhappy in your career and want to make a change, one of the most important steps you can take is to become aware of your purpose.

Read on to learn 6 practical tips to help clarify your purpose. You’ll discover what a life purpose is, why it’s important and how you can begin to define yours too.

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE PURPOSE?

Your life purpose is at the heart of who you are as an individual, what you were born to do and the impact you want to have on the world. It’s about living your life with intention and meaning. How you do that will change throughout the course of your lifetime.

Your purpose is the one constant in your life, even if you don’t know it’s there. Instead of trying to find it, the goal is to become aware of it.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Defining your purpose gives you clarity about what’s important. When you then use it to guide your choices and decisions, it gives your life greater meaning and a deep sense of fulfilment. Your purpose is a pathway, not the final destination. When external influences or your own internal voices try to take you off course, your purpose gives you a clear sense of direction and guides you back on track.

When you’re not living your purpose, your work lacks meaning and you feel like something’s missing. Even if your life looks ‘perfect’ from the outside and you’re highly successful in your career. When you’re on purpose, your life has intention and you’ll feel in harmony and flow.

After changing my career and business model to work that’s truly connected to my purpose, I’m energised, passionate about what I do and excited to go to work each day!

HOW DO YOU CLARIFY YOUR PURPOSE?

Understanding my life purpose has helped inform my career decisions and has led to greater fulfilment in my personal and professional life. Here are my tried and tested, practical tips to help you clarify your life purpose.

TIP 1 – WHAT’S YOUR ‘WHY’?

In ‘Start With Why’, Simon Sinek talks about thinking, acting and communicating from our ‘why’. Your ‘why’ is your purpose. It’s the reason you get out of bed every day and why you do what you do.

Why are some people more successful or able to achieve their goals?

Knowing what we want – a promotion, new job, career change or to start a business – is not enough.

We need a compelling reason – our WHY – to back it up. And it needs to be more than money – money is the result, not a ‘why’.

As Sinek explains, science supports this theory. The neo-cortex is the part of our brain in charge of our rational thoughts, not our behaviour. Knowing what we want, setting a goal and rationalising it is not sufficient. Our ‘why’ or purpose appeals to our limbic brain, which is responsible for our emotions, decision-making and behaviour. Purpose drives our actions and behaviour.

What’s your ‘why’ – the purpose, cause or belief that drives you?

What’s the WHY to back up your what?

TIP 2 – SHIFT YOUR BELIEFS

A common misconception is your purpose is the one job you were born to do.

Your life purpose is much deeper than that. It’s expressed across all areas of life – through the contribution you make to your work, your relationships and the world. In your career, your purpose is about combining your knowledge and experience with what you’re good at and love to do.

Eliminate the belief that you’re only here to do one thing. Gone are the days where we work for one employer for a lifetime or stay in the same profession our entire careers. With technological developments and the changing world of work, multiple careers will become increasingly common.

Instead – be flexible to change. Keep updating your skills and invest in developing yourself. Continuously testing out new skills or ideas and following your passions is key to defining your purpose.

TIP 3 – JUST DO IT.

Prior to my career change, I spent months thinking about what to do next. And I did endless hours of online research trying to magically uncover my purpose.

What created the shift I needed to understand my purpose and gain clarity on what to do next?

Taking action.

Action shifts you out of analysis paralysis, overthinking and the fears that are holding you back. I struggled to define my purpose for a very long time. So, I took action by working with a coach, conducting informational interviews, starting a post-graduate and volunteering to test out new skills and interests. I paid close attention to what resonated, kept moving in that direction and slowly began to clarify my purpose.

Just do it. Take action.

TIP 4 – ALIGN PURPOSE TO YOUR VALUES

When you’re honouring your personal values, life is aligned to your purpose. If you’re not making decisions and taking actions that support what’s important, you’re not fulfilling your purpose.

For example, freedom is an important value to me. I value independence, financial freedom and the ability to make my own decisions. Being my own boss gives me complete control over my schedule and places no limitations on the money I can make. By honouring my values, I’ve built a career, business model and life completely aligned to my purpose.

What’s truly important to you? Pay attention to what resonates and keep following that path.

Also – if you’re experiencing any anger or frustration, consider what values you’re not honouring. It could be a sign you’re not following your purpose and what’s important to you.

TIP 5 – GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD

Your purpose is part of who you intrinsically are – it’s not rational. To discover it, you need to step outside your rational mind and look deeper inside your heart.

What fills you with joy? And what does your heart say?

To clarify your purpose, block out the external noise, move out of your head and into your heart.

TIP 6 – REFLECT

Clarifying your purpose is an ongoing process, requiring plenty of time and reflection. Eliminate any noise or distractions and find a quiet space. Be still – meditate, breathe, do whatever it takes to help you become present and centred.

Once you’re ready, take the time to reflect on your career and life. Specifically, any underlying themes or patterns in your past actions or decisions.

Consider your strengths and skills – what are you good at?

Reflect on your interests and what lights you up – What do you love to do? What energises you? What makes you come alive?

Your responses to these questions will point you towards your purpose.

Identifying my life purpose created one of the most significant shifts in my actions, ways of thinking, the decisions I made and how I approached my entire life.  

My purpose is to inspire and empower others to develop their careers and make the changes needed to completely transform their professional lives. Today, I completely honour this by supporting other professionals as they transition into starting a business or finding work that truly matters to them.

This is the power of knowing your purpose. It’s the reason I start here in the work I do with every coaching client – whether they’re transitioning their career or developing their existing one.

These tips helped me to successfully clarify my life purpose. And they’ve assisted my clients with finding their ‘why’. I hope they help you too.

Once you’ve read this post, I’d love to hear from you. Which of these tips resonated the most? And what’s one step you can take right now to start getting clear on YOUR purpose?

Drop me a note to share your thoughts!

Stacey Back is an Executive & Career Coach and the Founder of Profile Careers. She helps professionals transition from the corporate world to starting their own consulting businesses, as well as assisting consultants, managers and business leaders in professional services based organisations to develop their current careers. Stacey works virtually with professionals from Sydney to Singapore, London to New York and all over the globe.

Want help to clarify your purpose and define your next career steps?

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