There are few greater feelings than being in touch with your life purpose.
Somehow it makes everything simple.
Prioritising, clarity, motivation, ample energy- all of these come so easily when we’re in touch with our purpose.
Yet the pursuit of purpose can sometimes create serious problems that paradoxically can alienate us from feeling that we’re living a satisfying life.
In this article I explain this trap, how it happens and how we can escape it.
I’ll also share the way that I work with purpose which neatly avoids this problem whilst offering us the greatest opportunity to maximise the positive.
~ The trap of life purpose ~
The trap I mention above is this.
When we feel out of touch with our purpose we can start to feel all sorts of uncomfortable feelings.
Low self-confidence or self-esteem, doubt, anxiety, dread, apathy, loneliness, confusion, loss of hope- all of these sprout up like mushrooms when we lose contact with our purpose.
One of the most common remedies is to go in search of our ‘Life Purpose’.
In this context life purpose is almost like a saviour that we hope is going to miraculously rescue us like a knight in shining armour.
But if we’re not careful, the energy that we will be using in our search will be the energy of doubt or whatever other quality of energy that we’re struggling with.
This means that our search will often unconsciously steer towards a solution that solves that particular pain, not one that is an authentic purpose for us.
All too often this will turn out to be a waste of time and energy that takes us further from our purpose while increasing our pain in the long run. The desperation drives us towards what can only be a temporary solution.
~ Authentic purpose? Or temporary fix? ~
So how do you know whether you are directing your energy towards a creative authentic purpose or to a temporary fix?
The most powerful and useful tool we can develop to investigate this is honest and compassionate self-awareness.
We often know when we’re buying into something that is not authentic. We can tell because either there is something that we notice that just feels ‘off’ or because it’s simply too good to be true.
Allowing space for honest self-awareness to be present and acting on it is a great antidote to both.
Once we have some desire to be self-aware we can then look to the three ways of connecting to authentic purpose.
Although these three ways of connecting to authentic purpose can all be used at any time they tend to work best when we are in specific states of being.
~ The first way of connecting to purpose- Something bigger than ourselves ~
The first is when we feel clear and at ease and have lots of capacity and stability in our mind and emotional life.
This is when, in my opinion, it is the best time to open our minds towards our higher purpose.
The reason for this is that the most potent way to align to our higher purpose is to set aside our ordinary habitual ways of thinking about ourselves and the world and allow something truly different to arise.
If we’re caught up in baggage however, the likelihood is that we’re going to go for something that we already know. This is either the temporary feel-good avoidance solution described above or being pitched into despair.
Either way it takes us further from our authentic purpose.
We need our inner resources available to us to truly open to something bigger than ourselves.
~ The second way of connecting to purpose- Self-compassion ~
The second type of purpose is when we’re caught up in feelings that are just too strong for us.
Here it is near impossible to hang onto any sense of our purpose at all. At this point it’s great to have a ready made ‘first aid’ kit to pull out and use.
There are many tools that you could use- many ways to bring resources online to help soothe and calm you. Below are two that I think are often most useful.
The first is developing the skill of dual awareness.
This is the skill to know that ‘even though’ I am experiencing something difficult I can still take steps to make myself feel better.
So often in really difficult moments we forget that any other better situation is possible.
Developing dual awareness enables us to see that there is almost always something we can do. And this moves us from a state of hopelessness to one where there is the possibility of a better future.
The second great tool for helping in a difficult moment is to ask oneself the following question- how can I be kinder to myself in this moment?
So often when we’re caught up in our troubles we make it worse by self-judgement and self-criticism.
If we saw an injured kitten we would never give it a kick and yet this is so often what we do to ourselves when we’re at our lowest.
Getting into the habit of holding this question ‘How can I be kinder to myself in this moment?’ is a wonderful way of short-circuiting this habit of attacking oneself. Just this small act of reflection can start the movement towards a better experience of this moment.
~ The third way of connecting to purpose- Finding the purpose of this moment ~
Which brings me to the third type of purpose. This is the purpose of the moment. For me this is such a freeing way to understand purpose.
No matter what situation we’re in we can identify the purpose of the moment. Asking the question ‘what is my purpose in this moment?’ helps to prioritise where we’re putting our energy.
If we’re in a conversation it offers us the possibility to explore humour, connection, boundaries, playfulness, ideas- whatever feels most appropriate.
If we’re at work it can bring us immediately to the essence of the project we’re working on.
If we’re stuck in traffic it can help us see that it is a moment for quiet reflection.
~ Our ultimate purpose- to make the most of ourselves for own benefit and the world ~
Understanding purpose in these three ways- as kindness when we’re struggling, effective action for the present moment and opening to something larger than ourselves from a position of inner strength and clarity- moves us away from using purpose as a temporary salve towards it’s ultimate purpose as a way to tap into our deepest creativity.
And this has to the best way we can give of our best to ourselves, those close to us and the world. And it feels good.