How to Learn and Embrace Your True Purpose

You’ll find your true purpose when you discover your true Self.

Has anyone seen the new Wonder Woman movie yet? I loved it. It boasted a well-paced story, fun stunts, and a welcome multidimensional female lead. Reviewers have described the film as buoyant, inspiring, and empowering.

But even though I enjoyed the movie, I didn’t leave the theater feeling inspired or empowered. Instead, I felt deflated. “Back to reality,” I thought to myself. “I’ll never be able to do anything like that! My life is so boring . . . and my true purpose is far from noble.”

Clearly an absurd reaction: of course I’ll never do anything like that. No one does anything like that. I would guess, though, that this reaction is not an uncommon one. When you develop an indirect relationship with your Self, you compare yourself to others and unrealistic ideals . . . and often end up feeling like a failure. Negative self-talk sets in . . . and the inner critic steals the show.

But Wonder Woman enjoys something that most of us do not: an innate sense of purpose. Everything she’s worked for has been in the name of a singular goal. And she’s always known what that goal was.

But for mere mortals like us, cultivating a purpose-driven life can be difficult.

It’s even more challenging when you are laden with the baggage of ego-references and chart your life’s course based not what you truly want to do, but on what will earn you approval from others.

Defining and fulfilling your true purpose in life is an advanced step on the path toward a restored Sense of Self. But that doesn’t mean you have to put off thinking about it. If you’re struggling with how to find your true purpose, know that it won’t hit you like a lightning strike. Learning your purpose is a gradual and multi-layered process.

Ready to overcome your addiction to approval?

Here’s an “addiction to approval” example that happens all too often. Patrick is a talented musician. He loves to write and play music. But Patrick’s father always wanted his son to be a surgeon. So instead of pursuing a musical career, he set out to become a doctor . . . to please his father. 

And although Patrick thought he was on the right path . . . following his “purpose,”  in reality, his only aim was to gain his father’s approval. Patrick needed to feel like a “real” and worthy person and believed he was accomplishing this by dedicated his life to being a top notch surgeon.

Sadly, Patrick’s musical ambitions fell by the wayside, and he felt empty . . . like something was missing. And it was. He was out of touch with his true Self and highest purpose.

So what’s having a true purpose really about?

Is it finding personal happiness and satisfaction? Yes, but not entirely. Is it making a meaningful impact on the world around you? Yes, but not on its own.

Decide what’s important to you, and stick with it . . . even if others don’t approve. Our true purpose lies at the intersection of personal enjoyment and collective interest, and above all, hinges on intention. It may help you to actually write your own statement of purpose to make sure that your actions and decisions are on track with your objectives.

From an early age, there’s pressure on us to decide upon our one true calling.  As writer and author Emilie Wapnick points out, “The notion of the narrowly focused life is highly romanticized in our culture.” Don’t be afraid to experiment in your quest to live with purpose. Cultivating your identity capital through sustained, directed exploration of your interests can help you clarify your purpose in the long run.

Passion is not the same thing as purpose.

Many of us mistake passion for purpose. We’re virtually commanded to pursue our passions or follow our bliss, and it’s reached the point where passion has become such a ubiquitous term we’ve lost sight of what it really is: not the be all and end all, but one essential ingredient in a bigger recipe.

Perhaps most frightening is when we feel we have no passions and are therefore doomed to mediocrity and discontent: a true mark of shame in a culture where demonstrated success and happiness are the primary indicators of your intrinsic worth.

If you’re lucky, your passion and your purpose will intersect. But most of the time, our passion gets swept under the rug when necessity—or perceived necessity, in the form of hidden goalscomes knocking. Don’t neglect your passions, if you know what they are; but understand that purpose is more holistic than passion.

Grit is more important than talent or luck.

Grit is another quality that encompasses and transcends passion. In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, psychology professor Angela Duckworth explains that grit is a greater predictor of success than intelligence or talent alone. When you’re able to sustain interest in a project, despite the frustrations of slow progress and setbacks, you demonstrate a level of dedication that many people don’t have.

If you know you’re not the grittiest person, that’s okay. (If you’re into numbers, you can take Duckworth’s grit scale questionnaire to assess how gritty you perceive yourself to be.) You can learn and develop grit, just like any other skill. Grit, though, demands a certain level of self-awareness that your Substitute Sense of Self may be clouding from view.

Remember Patrick from earlier? And his need for his father’s approval? It made him a seemingly hardworking student and a decent doctor, however, all his hard work was not aimed at getting to satisfy his curiosity, help people, or contribute to medical science. Instead, his career choice only made him feel like “he had a right to exist” rather than the right to thrive as his true Self.

True purpose comes from within, not without.

When you finally reach your full potential, you’re bound to disappoint someone out there. But not even Wonder Woman could keep everyone happy. So don’t use that excuse to avoid building a purpose-driven life.

Let us know how gritty you are in the space for comments below. Have you found your true purpose? We’d love to hear from you! And if you’re ready to assess the state of your entire Sense of Self, take the Healthy Sense of Self Quiz.

 

About the Author: Lindsay takes pride in crafting content that is clear, conversational and draws people in with what we all want to hear: a good story. Her love for compelling narrative and rigorous research led her to pursue a history degree in college, the equivalent of Spartan military training for reading and writing.

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