There are so many books out there which give an equivalent of ‘five steps to finding your true purpose’. As though reading the book and following the instructions are going to actually help one find direction (Hands up all those whose lives have actually been changed by reading a self-help book!) These books all sell incredibly well because finding one’s passion in life, one’s sense of purpose, is the holy grail of our world. (At least it is in the educated middle-class world that is my current frame of reference!)
I don’t believe that it is always that simple. For most of us, it takes time and active exploration to discover the thing we are supposed to be doing. It usually doesn’t happen by accident. There is an invitation that we find enticing. We take a first look and decide to spend a little more time engaging in that space. Over time, it becomes clear whether this new avenue is really worth pursuing or not. But mostly it takes time and reflection. It’s a bit like a developing relationship. Regardless of the strength of the initial attraction it is important to live into it a little, to see if it is the real thing or not.
But what does one do in the apparent absence of potential avenues? The answer here may seem a little counterintuitive, but is good solid advice – become excellent at what you do. Focus on doing the task in front of you to the best of your ability. The discipline will stand you in good stead if nothing else. Occasionally though, daring to invest fully in your present life may just stir a latent enthusiasm.
There is much to be said for finding ways to create the best life you can in your current circumstances. Those who are desperate to find a spouse are often not terribly discerning in their choice of relationship partners. The result is frequently an unhealthy relationship. Those who have the same desire for a spouse, but focus their attention on developing strong friendships, whilst they keep an eye out for a potential mate, are far more likely to choose well. Likewise in finding one’s life purpose: Focus on finding meaning in your current daily reality. When you understand that meaning, you are far more likely to be able to find the task which matches that meaning.
I think purpose is just that: finding the task which fits with the meaning of your life. Trying to find your purpose before you have found your sense of meaning is so much more difficult. And it is almost impossible to find any meaning when you have no investment in what you are doing. The easiest way to begin to invest is to start to strive to do what you do a little better.
It isn’t an exciting or exhilarating place to start, but at least it gives a direction which will reveal new vistas in time.