When we look within ourselves one of the questions that often arises is “What is my purpose?” What follows is usually an endless loop of getting nowhere. Not because we don’t have a purpose but because the idea of purpose is usually thought about in complicated and obscure ways. After much examination, I found an easier way of looking at purpose.
Your purpose is simply to share your gift with the world. Your gift is your talent. Some people claim they have no talent but that’s usually because they suppressed it. Perhaps they thought they could never make money with their gift. Or they bought into the idea that their dream was unrealistic or impractical. They may have tried to channel their gift in a very particular way and didn’t see the instant success they expected.
Sometimes a rigid approach to our gifts can prevent us from fully unraveling them. We are also susceptible to comparing ourselves to others. We may look at those that discover their gift early and think we aren’t that lucky; not realizing that many people find their talent later in life. Sometimes we can’t find our purpose because we’re too concerned with searching rather than creating.
Do you find or create your purpose?
Some people say you find your purpose, others say you create it; I say it’s both. You have to discover your talent but you also have to build skills around it. Dreaming is great but you can’t discover or create your purpose without taking action. Soul searching isn’t just sitting around pondering. It’s a combination of trying things and reflecting on them to see what resonates with you.
Do you have a sole purpose?
Some people believe we have one true purpose, others believe we have many. Gary Keller the author of ONE thing looks at purpose through an extremely focused lens. Find your ONE thing and put all your focus and energy towards it. An example of this would be Bill Gates, his one thing being computers. From an early age, Bill Gates focused predominantly on computers and used this focus to become one of the best in his respective field. This approach can work for some people but it can also be too restrictive for others.
Comic strip creator Scott Adams shares a more open and flexible approach. Adams argues that instead of trying to be the best at one thing we should become really good at 3 things. This is exactly how he became successful with his comic “Dilbert”. Adams wasn’t the funniest nor was he the best at drawing but he had some talent in both areas. He combined these talents with writing & business into a unique combination of skills that brought him great success.
Either perspective may be valuable at different points in your life. You may have ONE thing but your ONE thing can change. Bill Gates ONE Thing was computers but he has since moved on towards philanthropic work surrounding climate change, health, and education. Both focus and divergence are necessary for finding and creating our purpose.
How purpose can evolve
The way I used to look at purpose was more through the lens of Keller’s ONE thing. Music was my ONE thing. This approach helped me build a solid foundation but proved to be too rigid in the long run. Today I much rather use Scott Adam’s approach of 3 things. By combining music, with deep inner work and business skills I can create unique value in the world. Still, when I reflect I can find a central theme in my purpose and it has to do with language & expression.
What made me fall in love with hip-hop was listening to Eminem string words together while bending their pronunciation. There are different types of hip-hop artists but I was always attracted to the wordsmiths. Before I ever became a recording artist I was a lyricist.
I fell in love with words. What I also loved about creating music was sharing it with others. Performing my songs was the ultimate high. And even when I took a break from music I pursued similar avenues.
Through self-exploration I realized I had a deep fear of public speaking and joined toastmasters.
This put me right back on the stage, weaving together my speeches with spoken-word. At that time I also started blogging and wrote an e-book. A friend read it and said I was a pretty good writer. That idea never crossed my mind as I used to get C’s and D’s on all my papers in college. But maybe all the reading I had been doing helped me find more clarity in my thoughts.
This gave me the motivation to write more and to try to understand what it means to be a good writer.
Whether it’s through creating music or writing articles, my purpose always involved using language to share ideas and express creativity.
How to find and create your purpose
We have already determined that purpose is both discovered and created. Purpose is both about exploring and engaging with various environments. It’s about trying things to see what you excel at and what you enjoy. If you still are unsure about what your talents are then you need to try more things.
It can help to ask yourself what are you most curious about right now? Then follow that curiosity.
You can read a book, take a class, join a meetup, or take on a new project in that area of curiosity. I also recommend doing some deep inner work.
We can engage in deep inner work through various modalities such as meditation, therapy, journaling, and other self-knowledge exercises. I have found the top 5 values exercise to be of great help in aligning with my purpose. Personality tests have also been helpful in my self-discovery journey.
Two of my favorites are the Big Five and The Enneagram.
Finally, I would encourage you to take some strength tests such as VIA character strengths and CliftonStrengths.
None of these tests are definitive but they are each a step towards greater self-understanding.
Finding and creating purpose is less science and more art.
Your purpose is to share your gift with the world.
Your gift is your talent.
But you have to both discover your talent and build skills around it.
You find and create purpose simultaneously.
There can be a general theme to your purpose but it will evolve.
Both deep inner work and external action is a necessary part of finding and creating purpose.
May you find and create more purpose with every coming day.