Over the course of several years, not too long ago, I devoured a steady stream of books that focused on “finding your purpose”. As I read a particularly inspiring passage or story, I’d feel a momentary injection of hope, which would then quickly flip into frustration and despair. As much as I longed to find my elusive “purpose”, I worried that I was a rare and unfortunate exception, a “purpose”- less human being.
Yesterday, I had a coaching session with a new client. She told me that she had tried all kinds of different courses, activities, and therapy, and still “couldn’t find” her life’s passion and purpose. She envied an acquaintance who had become a world-renowned fly-fishing expert. He had started out drawing pictures of fish as a young child, and had steadfastly and happily followed a razor-focused life path ever since. She, by comparison, felt like she’d been chasing different dead-end routes all her life, without getting anywhere.
Most people who know me would find it hard to believe that I ever worried about my “purpose”. I’m living that purpose so passionately now, but rather than having encountered a single purpose-defining moment (which would divide my existence into “life before the moment I found my purpose”, and “life after I found it”), the discovery of that purpose has been more of a winding, baffling, nonsensical yet brilliantly perfect journey.
In my life I started out determined to become a Solid Gold Dancer, but later abandoned that dream and followed a largely unplanned and very windy path: I became a (rather inept) gymnast and gymnastics coach, studied physics, studied kinesiology/human mechanics, modeled (rather unsuccessfully) for a while, got a degree in Dietetics, became a medical doctor, got into an Emergency Medicine residency, quit that residency and became a GP, became a salsa dancer, became a flamenco dancer, started a photography business, almost completed my first novel, became a travel writer, became a health writer, became an inspirational writer, planned to move to Italy, moved to Mexico, began working as a life coach, became a professional speaker, became a non-fiction self-helpbook author…and that’s just a brief summary, missing lots of details and other equally improbable tangents.
When you look at everything I’ve sampled in life, you can imagine why I often thought I was hopelessly lost. Yet when I look back now, it’s all perfect. Each sudden change in direction made an important contribution to the person I am today, by providing me with a unique skill, knowledge or experience that I now use today to help myself and others. The twists and turns in my life set the stage for the contribution that I’m now making to the world, a contribution and a role that I now appreciate as being uniquely mine.
If you’re blessed with tons of different ideas or talents, celebrate them rather than bending to pressure to “just pick one”. If you’ve got lots of different interests, and almost as many diplomas or degrees, embrace all the different things you know. As you give each unique aspect of you room to be, to breathe and to express itself, you’ll find that some naturally fall away, while others stick and become an essential part of you and your path. Each of us is unique: don’t compare yourself to others, unless there’s something about a person or their life that resonates with and inspires you.
I’ve found that living my way into my passion and purpose has been a process and a journey, not a single “aha” moment. I do have those, but I usually think that a certain “aha” is going to take me to a certain destination, and I end up in another place entirely. There’s one thing I can always bet on, though: that unexpected destination turns out to be far better for me than the original one I might have planned. It may not always come in an appealing package, but it’s always good for my development and my life.
No matter what turns your road takes, remember to watch for the gifts that await you at each intersection, bend and look-out. Enjoy your journey!