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3 key steps to help define your purpose

What is a goal? It is an aim or purpose, quite simply. Something that you desire to attain. More often than not, the goal is often vaguely defined and therein lies one of the issues. How does one aim for something if you’re not clear on what it is you want it for, or don’t know much about it. My life experience is enriched, addled and complemented by misguided aims.

All through my schooling career, everyone in my family knew that my aim was to become a doctor in order to help people. Not just a general practitioner, specifically a cardio-thoracic surgeon. It was a term I had learned during my primary schooling. I read up about it using my trusty World Book Encyclopedias and decided in my infinite wisdom as an 8-year old that that was my calling. At the time, being a doctor was held in exceptionally high esteem amongst the wider family members and my community, thus building up my stature. After All, you had to garner distinctions to gain entrance into med school, which means you had to be ‘clever’.

That aim, nonetheless, fuelled my academic career right into matric, even into early acceptance at medical school. However, at the nth hour, the ‘calling’ sadly ran out of steam and I dropped the bombshell on my parents: I didn’t want to go to med school any longer.

Shock, dismay and fear (for my future) were the primary reactions from my family, but I stood fast. It was my very first taste of becoming clearer on my goals. But the immediate question that burned was, what next?

I shuffled my feet into my second career option, which was to qualify as an actuary. Note, that at this stage, my level of clarity about the profession was vague and was an option that came as a recommendation from my school teacher and a family friend. Good at maths? Check. Distinctions? Check. ‘Go do actuarial science, you will make lots of money’.

So, was I ready to change the world by statistically studying uncertain future events and using financial theory to recommend probable outcomes/solutions? Umm, we were going to find out.

And find out we did in my first year of university, where before the year was up, I knew this was not for me. Oh dear. A year’s worth of study ‘down the drain’. How could this be happening to this little dynamite from a small town who originally had the rest of her life mapped out for her?

I am certain there’s a few nodding of heads and ‘uh-huhs’ going on based on what I have outlined, as it resonates on many levels. Many people that I engage with, whether within a coaching environment or more generally, feel discomfort because they are going with the flow instead of channelling the flow into a particular direction because the can and want to. Many, many years later, through personal development, I came to realise it boils down to PURPOSE

It turns out my first year of study was the start of many epiphanies about who I am, what I love, what I dislike and the ‘why’ motivating it. Far from going ‘down the drain’, my setback pushed me to even greater achievements but also more setbacks and failures, leading me to my present. It’s been a thought-provoking journey understanding and living out my purpose.

I describe purpose, quite simply, as being the reason(s) and motivation(s) for why we do what we do, every day. And I do not mean at the superficial level, such as financial compensation (‘I do my job to pay the bills’), multiple roles we play (‘I’m a mom/dad/daughter/sister so its expected of me be/act/think in this way…’) or ego-building (“I want to be the best!”) – as examples.

Just like our skin has 3 layers, the epidermis (outermost layer), dermis (structural layer) and hypodermis (the shock absorber), so too is our purpose layered. By moving beyond the outer layer and starting to understand where our purpose emanates from at the structural level, already gets us a few further steps along the line towards taking control of the flow and channelling it appropriately. Through further intrinsic interventions, such a coaching, one can delve even further, to the critical shock absorber layer – the foundation level and connector between action (physically moving to get to where you need to go) and image (creating the surface for a balanced, healthy you).

How does one go about identifying one’s purpose then, fundamentally?

Here’s some steps to get you started finding the clues that guide you to your purpose:

          Think about what areas in your life you typically invest most of your time in. Identify why that is the case.

          On the flip side, also identify those areas in your life that you spend your least amount of time on. Again, delve into why this is the case.

          In each of the two points above, what brings you the greatest sense of happiness, fulfilment or achievement? Conversely, what brings you the greatest sense of failure, dissatisfaction or uncertainty?

Reflect, ponder and wonder on all of the above and see if any dots start to connect. Typically your purpose is aligned to what makes you fulfilled, even while accounting for everything else happening in your life. You may or may not be investing time to it already, and that may be the next step you would want to take i.e. aligning how you live your life with your purpose as its foundation.

This is not a quick or easy task – but the best things for us typically aren’t available without some effort, difficult decisions and choices. 

Find Your Prerna (inspiration). Be bold. Be brave

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