Feeling lost and drifting
Three years ago (not quite to the day) I went on maternity leave for a year. This was the longest time I’d ever been away from work and I felt it would be a good time to think about what I really wanted from life. I gave myself two objectives: one (and obviously the most critical) to nurture my son; and secondly to use the time to find my purpose.
I had been feeling like I was drifting for quite a while and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life. I had low level dissatisfaction with work: it wasn’t amazing, but I wasn’t crying in the toilets either. I felt like I had changed and my job wasn’t quite the right fit for me anymore. I needed to understand what it was that would make me happy.
This is why I wanted to go on this voyage of self-discovery and really try to understand what makes my soul sing.
Now, spoiler alert, I didn’t find my purpose during maternity leave. A) I had a newborn to look after so didn’t have the time and B) l never had a lightbulb moment where suddenly everything fell into place.
I’m saying this to illustrate that finding your purpose is a journey and may not happen overnight. It’s a process of exploration.
Here’s what I learnt along the way.
The world isn’t your oyster
For a self-help/self-development/wellbeing blog, it might seem discouraging to say the world isn’t your oyster. Surely that’s going against the grain of everything I say?
Well yes and no. I believe if you really want to do something, then you should throw everything at it. Life’s too short for coulda, woulda, shoulda.
However, if you’re floundering around like a fish washed up on the shore waiting for the tide to sweep you back into the sea, then sometimes you need to be able to focus on what you need in that moment in time. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with too many choices, which leads to indecision.
So focus on your needs, then your wants. Be pragmatic.
What I mean by that is in my situation, as much as I’d like to spend all my time with my son pottering around my local area, it’s never going to be a realistic option for me. I’m the breadwinner and financially, I have to work to support my family. Momma’s gotta make rent and all that.
I also genuinely like work. I enjoy being around people from different backgrounds and learning from their experiences. I also have a reasonably creative job and it’s important to me that I can using my brain in that way.
So whatever I did had to support those needs (financial) and those wants (being creatively fulfilled).
It’s important to recognise here that we quite often think finding our purpose means finding a job we really like (I realise my examples above reinforce that..). However, I personally feel it involves taking much more of a holistic look at our lives overall to understand what gives us meaning.
Sometimes, there are ways of getting what we want in other ways outside of employment. Plus, whilst work can give us external validation, it doesn’t always give us the inner fulfilment we need.
This is why it’s important to check in on yourself and reflect on what your needs are because they change throughout your life – and your purpose will do too. Our lives all develop and evolve.
What makes you tick? 5 probing questions to ask yourself
I often think I’d like to move to a small holding surrounded by goats and sheep; yet the reality is I’d find that life really hard. I don’t mind getting up early but truthfully a 4am start in winter isn’t my jam.
This is why it’s important to ask yourself what really makes you happy?
Take some quiet time to yourself and sit down with a pen and paper. Write down your feelings in response to the following 5 questions.
1. What comes easily to you?
2. What makes you feel energised when you’re doing it?
3. Where would you like to be in the future? Write down how you want to see your future self.
4. When did you feel the happiest in life? Write down all the occasions you felt true happiness.
5. What would you do if you stopped holding yourself back?
Now reflect on what you’ve written to see if there are any common threads or thoughts. Does anything spark your interest or make you want to explore it more?
Can you use what you’ve written to create a vision for your life? How about putting some goals to help you put this into action? Are there steps you can take first?
The best way is just to start
Do you ever have an idea and then immediately think of several reasons why it wouldn’t work?
Well, stop that. Stop that right now.
I only really started promoting this blog (by which I mean sharing links on Twitter) back in June. For ages, I felt stupid and embarrassed that someone I know might read it.
I had other reasons for writing initially. I wanted to write about something I felt passionate about and use it as way to hold myself to account. But the more time I spent writing, the more ridiculous it seemed to not share it. Otherwise, I may as well just be writing a diary.
So I started to share links and take my blog a bit more seriously and funnily enough, the only thing that happened is more people now read what I write. No one has said: this is the worst thing I’ve ever read or judged me. And if they do, so what? It’s just their opinion.
It’s easy to let our fears of being judged stand in our way. We’ve already decided it’s a disaster and so don’t even start. Whilst this is our way of trying to protect ourselves, we also don’t let ourselves grow and look for new opportunities.
Please remember it’s just an annoying voice in your head and not your reality so try not to let it hold you back.
It’s ok to change your mind
Sometimes I think we feel the idea is the destination and once we have that cracked, the rest will fall into place. This is why we end up feeling so indecisive at the beginning becuase we feel we have to get it exactly right.
However, our lives don’t stay still: they transform throughout our lives so we don’t need to have the answers right away. This is why I feel like it’s important to try different things to see what makes you happy and sets your soul on fire.
It’s funny how sometimes life has a way of gaining momentum once you start putting thoughts into action. It’s like a chain reaction takes place and opportunities start coming your way.
“Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans”John Lennon
What if your real purpose is just to be you?
Imagine a world where you feel truly connected to what you need and that you can live your life based on your needs. Where you trust your instincts, follow your intuition and make decisions based on what feels right.
Your true purpose is to live your life without limiting beliefs and wondering about the what ifs. It’s about learning what’s right for you, not worrying about what other people are doing and putting thoughts into action (or recognising its ok to stay still). It’s about being happy with the decisions you make in this moment in time and recognising you can shift and change in the future. We’re ever evolving.
Your real purpose in life is just to be you.