Many people feel they live their lives without a purpose. I have coached those who feel they are wandering through life, with no direction or intention. Some people have always known what they wanted to do in life, and are intentionally living it every day – they have purpose. Some people discover their purpose later in life, after having lived a life of what they thought they SHOULD do, rather than what they CHOSE to do. Usually, some major life change forces them to re-evaluate and make changes so they can be happier.
If you asked people, “What do you think life purpose means,” you would get as many answers as people polled. That’s because it means different things to different people, and there are many factors that are taken into consideration when determining life purpose: values, culture, background, education, location, and so on.
The way I help clients find their life purpose is through an analysis of four components of their lives: Passion, Mission, Vocation and Profession. Here are brief definitions of each:
• Passion: Is that which you love. The thing that sets your soul on fire. Something you think about constantly, and when apart from it, you count the minutes until you are with it again. The object of your passion could be a person, a job, a place, a food, a pet or a combination of all. When you are passionate about something, you can’t stop talking about it, or trying to learn more about it.
• Mission: Is that which the world needs, and you are going to provide it for the world. Your mission, like your passion, drives you. But rather than coming from an internal place, a mission is usually doing something for someone other than yourself.
• Vocation: Something that you can be paid for, usually your job. Your vocation is what gets you up each day and sends you off to work so that you can support yourself and your family. Some people are more attached to their vocation than others.
• Profession: Is that which you are good at, and is closely aligned with vocation. You can call yourself a professional when you have reached a certain level of expertise in your job.
When these four components all intersect, you have arrived at your life purpose, for example:
“Life purpose is when you have found something for which you get paid, and which you have a high level of expertise in that fires you up and inspires you every day to improve. Not only does your life purpose provide comfort for yourself, it also does good for others.”
Here is a story about someone in search of her life purpose:
Vanessa is a 50 year old woman who is at a crossroads in her life. She has had a varied career in education, corporate management and was even a small business owner. Her 50th birthday found her in a reflective mood, wondering if she had wasted half her life. She didn’t feel excited about what she was doing, and was seriously thinking about making a career change, but was worried she may not find a job that paid as well as her current position.
Vanessa decided to hire a coach to help her with this life decision. Her coach quickly zeroed in on four major components of Vanessa’s life: her passion, mission, vocation and profession.
What was Vanessa passionate about? In all her jobs, the one common thread was helping people improve their lives. When she would hear about someone she had worked with whose life was improving, it was like a weight lifted from her shoulders and she was happy for the rest of the day.
Her coach then asked her about her mission. What did she want to do to enhance her world and the world around her? Vanessa was always interested in bringing quality education to those less fortunate. She felt very strongly that there were inequalities in the education system, but was always pulled to jobs that paid very well, and what she was thinking about just didn’t pay like that.
What was Vanessa’s vocation – what did she do for a living? Currently, Vanessa was a vice president with a for-profit educational services company. It was a great living, although the hours were long, the pressures high and she just didn’t feel fulfilled at the end of the day.
Finally, her coach asked her about her expertise – what was Vanessa highly qualified to do? With a Master’s degree in Business Management and Marketing, Vanessa felt she could meet or exceed the performance of most people in her industry.
Over the course of several coaching sessions, Vanessa and her coach arrived at her life purpose. Not surprisingly, it would require Vanessa to leave her current position and do something completely outside her comfort zone…Vanessa was going to start her own company! The idea started to take shape over the months Vanessa and her coach worked together. The new business would be I the education world, but would also include elements of the non-profit world and focus on delivering services to children in low-income families. Programs and services they would not have access to in their public schools. Through her connections that she built through years in the corporate world, Vanessa would raise the initial seed money to purchase the technology and hire a software developer to create the program she had in mind. Vanessa was so excited, that the ideas were flowing like lava and her enthusiasm was contagious. Soon, she had hired two interns from a local graduate school to help her with the millions of things she needed to do to get the company off the ground.
Vanessa was working harder than ever, but amazingly, she didn’t feel tired. She couldn’t wait to wake each morning and get started again. She had finally found her life’s purpose!
To find your life purpose, complete the following activity:
Step 1: Think about each of the following four questions, and answer them with some detail.
1. What is your passion? What is it that you love to do and want to learn more about?
2. What is your mission? What is it that you are interested in that the world needs?
3. What is your vocation? What do you do that you are paid for?
4. What is your profession? What do you do that you are very good at?
Look for any synergy between your passion, mission, vocation and profession. You may have to think about it for a bit – the answer may not be obvious at first. This is where regular coaching can really help.
The intersection of the four components is your life purpose.
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