The last of the FRW Five for Life is arguably the most elusive – and definitely the most challenging to define. Telling your friends “I have found my life’s purpose” can sound (unintentionally) lofty and pretentious. And yet living without a purpose can lead to putting one foot in front of another purely by habit, with no thought as to your why.
When Dan Buettner studied the five original blue zones of the world – the places whose residents had the greatest longevity and lowest incidence of chronic disease – one of the commonalities of these five seemingly disparate populations was the existence of a sense of purpose. Or, as Okinawans call it, ikigai. In another of the blue zones, the small Greek island of Ikaria, there is no formal word for “retirement”; rather, Ikarians are active and vigorous well into their golden years. In these longevity hotspots, people rise for a reason every day, they move, work, socialize, and eat with a purposefulness that is not universal. It is also important to note that the five original blue zones are not particularly wealthy areas – several are, in fact, quite the opposite. In other words, and pardon the cliché, further proof that money does not buy happiness.
Pretentious as I may sound, I have found my purpose in life. Can I define that purpose in one sentence – or even a few? Definitely not. But what I can define is what activities I’m engaged in when I feel most in touch with that purpose, and how this purpose makes me feel. I won’t spoil your journey to finding your own purpose by revealing all here – though if you know me, can you probably guess the gist – but I will tell you that your purpose will find YOU, not the other way around.
Still, with your busy lives and packed schedules, saying you need to let your purpose find you may feel a bit like a fool’s errand. How will you know that your purpose is tapping you on the shoulder when you can barely find time to get your hair cut, let alone explore your inner most emotional and spiritual aspirations? Fortunately, there are questions you can ask yourself that will help bring that murky concept into focus. Remember, you must be almost brutally honest with yourself when going through this process. It may even be worth asking a loved one for their honest take on what seems to make you happy, on when you seem most fulfilled.
· What am I most grateful for on a day-to-day basis?
· What part of my day do I most look forward to every morning?
· What would my perfect day entail?
· Have I taken risks to do things that are meaningful to me?
· Have I found ways to offer my talents and unique gifts to others?
· If not, how can I offer my talents and unique gifts? What’s stopping me?
· How often do I feel hopeful and excited about the future?
· Do I have regrets about things I have not done yet?
· What would my 18-year old self think of who I am today?
· At my funeral, what three things do I want to be remembered for?
At the core of this process are fundamental questions you must ask yourself about your what, why, and how.
o What are my talents, my strengths, my gifts?
o Why do I push myself to be a better person, a more fulfilled person? Is it for myself, for my kids, another family member? What is my BIG goal in life, how I envision myself in 10, 20, 30 years?
o How can I become this best version of myself?
Once you have an honest conversation with yourself, it may be time to take a hard look at your life to determine what can be cut from your daily schedule to enable you to pursue your passions and purpose. For a worksheet designed to help you do this, reach out to Kate!