Finding your purpose can often feel like an overwhelming or intimidating thought, especially whilst you’re in school being limited in the environments and situations you have found yourself in. However, it really doesn’t have to be this big scary thing! Finding your purpose simply means finding the thing you want to do, not because you’re forced or obliged but because it makes you feel alive.
Having a sense of purpose makes you clear on what matters most and gives you a ‘why’- a reason when times are tough. As German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once said, ‘He who has a why can endure any how.’ Without a purpose, we can find ourselves lost once we leave school, conforming to what we think we should be doing based on what other people are doing and ultimately ending up living an unfulfilled life for other people.
Finding your purpose, also known as knowing your ‘why’ is the first step to figuring out how to achieve the goals that excite you and create a life you enjoy living. Once you have your why, you are willing to endure any obstacles, take risks, stay motivated even when you can’t see progress and keep belief even when it seems pointless. It is both challenging and rewarding in tenfold. While there is no one way to find your purpose, there are lots of ways to find out more about who you are, what you enjoy and gain a larger perspective on what it is that you offer to the world.
The “Ikigai Diagram” is a common method used to find the ‘sweet spot’ between what you care about, what you are good at, and what will be valuable to the world. Divide a piece of paper into four quadrants and label each quadrant with one of:
- What are you interested in?
- What are you good at?
- What pays well?
- What does the world need?
Doing this exercise requires some introspection. The idea behind the exercise is to find a connection to a cause that is bigger than you are whilst still being in line with who you are and what you care about.
Sir Ken Robinson states in ‘The Element’ that our element is the point where natural talent meets personal passion. This stage involves asking questions about what the things are that you are naturally good at. What do you have a natural inclination towards? What comes without trying? When people are in their element, they are not only their most productive but they are also enjoying themselves and living an enriched personal and professional livelihood. Finally, you need to look at where and how you can add value. Reframe this question through the lens of solving problems. Ask yourself what problem in the world you want to help solve. What are you passionate about solving? What problem are you best placed (as a result of education, strengths, passions) to help solve? Knowing your greatest strengths and where you can add the most value will help you focus on the opportunities, roles and career paths that most likely to help you contribute to solving the problems that matter to you.
Ultimately, knowing your purpose is about living a life focusing on the things that matter to you. How you measure your life comes down to making a stand for something and then living your life in alignment with it. Knowing your purpose enriches your life as you live with more meaning, intention, and fulfillment. It compels you to take on risks that test you and challenge you as much as they inspire and motivate you. So…between passion and purpose lays a fine line of reason. Passion is about emotion. Purpose, on the other hand, is about the why. Why do you love it? Why is it important to you? Why does it need to be solved?
So alas, don’t worry if you have yet to find your purpose. Embrace it as a journey to embark on. It’s not something that will come to you overnight. Take it as an opportunity to learn about yourself and lean into the discovery of where your calling lies.