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Finding Purpose in this Moment of Time

Written by MJ Ryan, SheEO Development Guide

The media is filled these days with news of The Great Resignation. It seems that Covid gave us all the opportunity to step back and ask, what am I doing with my one and only precious life? So many of us have looked at how we’ve been living and have decided to, or want to, opt out. I think this is a powerfully positive development. This is a moment of time to rethink how we are living, what we are prioritizing, in order to create a world that works for us all.

If you’re feeling de-energized, discontented, or finding yourself asking, “now what?” or “is this all there is?” I want to encourage you that these are whispers from your soul that you might want to explore. You’ve entered into the territory of purpose.

Purpose is a huge, often scary, word for many folks. It may make you feel that you have to do something grand, like find a cure for cancer and you feel bad that you haven’t discovered that grand mission yet. That’s ok. Our life’s journey is the quest to discover and enact our purpose, however it manifests for you. It’s ok not to know. For most of us, it’s not like a star shining in the sky. Rather, as my friend Dawna Markova wrote in her book I Will Not Die an Unlived Life, purpose is like a constellation. You have to see the pattern with your imagination. She teaches that the constellation of purpose is made up of 4 stars:

What you love (passion)

What you’re great at (talents)

What matters to you (values)

What places/people, work situations bring out the best in you (environments)   

Over the past decades, I’ve helped dozens of people have a clearer picture of their purpose through the examination of these 4 things. It doesn’t pop out an answer—astrophysicist—but it does indicate where you should hunt. Especially when you see overlaps: I love to surf, I’m great at connecting people, a healthy ocean really matters to me, and I thrive behind the scenes, helping someone else enact their vision. Hum, perhaps joining a company working on diverting plastics from the oceans, like some of our SheEO ventures like Loliware, Environex, or Better Packaging, to name just a few.

A few years ago, I came across a Japanese model of purpose called Ikigai that’s similar. Ikigai means “a reason for being”—another great way to think of purpose.  It adds in two other elements–the very practical question of what you can get paid for as well as what the world needs. It reminds me of a quote by Frederick Buechner about purpose where he calls it “the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

You can use the diagram to fill in your answers to get a picture of purpose. If you need some more questions to jumpstart your thinking, here are some from Christina of Fingerprint for Success from her recent newsletter:

“1. What was the first thing I ever wanted to be?

“Now, don’t take this answer too seriously. Few of us want the same job that our 5-year-old selves wanted. For instance, the first thing I ever wanted to be was an astronaut—that doesn’t mean I want to be one now! 

“The beauty of this question lies not in the specifics of it but in the general desires behind it. For example, I wanted to be an astronaut because I love the beauty of the night sky and the freedom of exploring new territories. While I have no desire to walk on the moon today, I feed those desires by visiting new countries, going stargazing and watching meteor showers.

As we grow up, many of us learn to stomp down those desires and tuck them away in the recesses of our hearts. I encourage you to remember what the childhood version of you wanted to be so you can remember what you used to find joy in.

“2. When was the last time I created something I was truly proud of?

“Typically, when we’re passionate about something, it inspires us to create something related to it. Someone who loves music might write songs on their piano, or someone who cares about animal rights might start a fundraising campaign for abused pets.

“So think back to the last time you created something you were proud of. In it lies hints to what you find meaningful.

“3. What’s something challenging that I could do for hours, without noticing the time passing?

“Have you ever been so engrossed in a challenging task that you glanced at the clock and realized two hours went by without your noticing it? This is known as 1flow,’ a state of being 1in the zone’ or so engrossed in a demanding activity that time flies by. It can happen when you’re playing an advanced piece of music on the piano or when you’re putting together a complicated jigsaw puzzle….

4. What do others say I’m good at?

“Now, take this with a grain of salt. Just because other people think you should do something doesn’t mean you should. But you can use their opinions as guidance, especially when that person is someone you trust and admire.

“5. What do I daydream about at work?

“Ask yourself, `What do I daydream about at work?’ If you’re tapping away at the keyboard doing some mind-numbing task like data entry, but you can’t stop thinking about the campervan conversion you’re working on at home, then that’s a pretty strong hint that it’s something you’re passionate about.”

I’m hoping that these ideas will help you find the constellation of purpose that is uniquely yours. Because right now we need each and everyone of us delivering our gifts and talents to the world!

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