I’m a Steve Pavlina reader, so of course, I’ve spent hours in front of a piece of paper, scribbling out endless variations on feelings I had about my Life Purpose.
I’ve since found myself laughing with other Pavlina fans about this. At least among the ones I know, this process just didn’t work, or at least, didn’t bring about life-changing results.
You can try it for yourself if you like. I think the problem for me, and perhaps for others, is that the focus is on finding a purpose for your entire life. I eventually came up with some interesting answers, though not any that made me cry like Steve said they should. I think these answers were somewhat valid, and still hold some truth for me today (something about seeking and actualising the “sacred truth”). But I still didn’t feel any less adrift, lost, purposeless – and I did feel very much that way back then. Simply put, having an all-encompassing purpose for your entire life doesn’t really bring you to the practicalities of the present moment. And, as I later found out, it was only in the present moment that I could feel purposeful.
It took me quite a few years from there to uncover a strong sense of purpose in my life.
To start with, I became more and more aware that I wanted to dedicate my life to doing good. That was a start. I knew now that self-oriented goals such as travelling the world or becoming wealthy or having lots of sex didn’t motivate me enough to live for them. Sure, I could fulfil such desires, but they needed to be in the context of something more meaningful overall.
Simultaneously, I also hit the barrier of poverty again and again, learning and re-learning the basic fact that I needed to take care of my economic wellbeing to have a shot at accomplishing any of my other goals.
I quickly decided that I would need to earn money from some kind of business that was also changing the world for the better. I wouldn’t be greedy with it, but it seemed fair – and necessary – that some of the people I helped would support me so I could continue my work.
Actually, I started my website pretty early on in this process. I did pretty much have the idea that I would earn money while doing good, through it.
But I started slow. Well, I spent about a month of zealous work on it, and then I discovered that success wouldn’t magically fall into my lap. So I cooled off on it, and my blog became a part-time project for a long time. I think many times I pretty much forgot about becoming a successful blogger, still adrift in the swirling eddies of my anchorless life.
But I did keep regularly updating. Luckily for me, I think about “conscious” topics – personal development and activism – a lot, and when I think about them, I pretty much compulsively want to write about them. So this little habit gave me the consistency which so many prospective bloggers lack.
In the meantime, I tried all sorts of stuff. I worked in a restaurant for a little while and thought very seriously about starting my own – I even went so far as to scout out potential locations. I tried doing energy healing, something I’m good at, and for just a little while I thought my calling might be as a healer. I also did English teaching for a year, and I tried to get the most I could out of it spiritually, though that was a stretch.
None of this, though, really engaged my sense of purpose. I didn’t feel the urge to put everything behind them, to bet years of my life on their uncertain success.
I think what really brought me to my purpose was not insight as such – or at least, not only that. I think that in order to feel my purpose I needed to grow and heal and change.
And that’s what I did. I think that living very intensely and according to my impulses helped me alchemically transmute a lot of negative patterns and energies in me, such as extreme ungroundedness and disdain for money and practicality.
I think starting my gender transition must have helped, too. In my very first week of affirming myself as female (no hormones at that point), I noticed that I could suddenly connect to the Earth in my meditations. Previously there had always been some kind of barrier between me and the Earth. Now, no more. From then on I was accordingly much more grounded. Groundedness is a wide-reaching thing, but it makes you more practical, and more focused on getting things done in the real world rather than in your fantasies. I think this is a key ingredient in connecting with a sense of purpose.
Later, a couple of things converged. I was slowly becoming more and more aware of my desire to write, and more frustrated at my inability to focus on that. I also suddenly found someone who was willing to support me in my dream of becoming a writer. I had to consider their offer seriously, to really come to terms with what it’d mean to work full time on this. After a few days I took them up on their offer, and my life became full of a surging sense of clear and determined purpose.
The difference between this moment and when I simply knew that I was interested in “the sacred truth”, or in doing good for the world, is that my purpose was specific enough to act on. And I was acting on it.
A sense of purpose seems to come when you’re taking steps, and you’re advancing. Each successive step on the right path gives you a bit more energy to continue, making it a self-sustaining course.
I’ve found that finding purpose for me was a matter of taking steps even when I wasn’t sure. Sometimes the steps felt less right. Sometimes they felt more right. But it was as I was taking them that I was able to feel how close I was to being on the right path, and make adjustments. Each path I took was a little closer to my right path.
Even now I’m feeling that my path is not entirely my right path. It IS mostly my right path, but there are more adjustments to make. I feel like I need to be doing more speaking and relatively less writing, and perhaps be interacting with people more face-to-face. So I will be attempting to get closer to that ideal, as much as I can.
I actually don’t have words or a mission statement for my purpose. All I know is that when I communicate, good stuff comes out, and I think I can help people that way. Oh, and I feel an almost primal urge to communicate, which I think may be one of those good instincts and not a negative impulse. So mostly, I’m having faith and doing what I feel called to do, without analysing things too much.
I don’t know if I will do this all my life. But here’s the thing: I don’t overly care. What I care about is having a purpose I can feel and act on in the here and now. I don’t need to put that to words, so long as my feeling is clear enough that I can take the next necessary step. After that step, there will be another. And then another. But I don’t need to know about those steps yet. All I need to do, is to follow the purpose I feel right now.