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“The two most important days of your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” ~ Mark Twain
In 2015, I quit a corporate job with no plans other than to find my purpose and share my gifts.
Learning what that work is and how to support myself doing it has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve done.
I experienced a roller-coaster of fears, failures, tears, triumphs, and most importantly, the spine-chilling magnificence of the grace I met when I followed my true path.
“Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”
My hope is that you find the desire in your heart and let it lead your life. In doing so, you’ll access greater fulfillment, joy, and freedom with how you spend your days.
Here are six insights that will help you find and do the work you love.
1. You don’t find a purpose—you become purposeful.
I admit I’ve fallen into the trap of promoting “finding” our purpose as if it’s this magical thing we discover outside of ourselves.
While some may find a definite outer purpose, for most of us, the shift begins not by obtaining something outside, but by becoming purposeful inside.
Inner purpose is about choosing how we want to show up in the world and strive to serve the moment in front of us. By living with positive intentions, we shift our state of being, which then creates a ripples effect that impacts those we come across. But we don’t have to quit our job to do this—we can become purposeful now.
The early days of my self-improvement included meditating and reading before work. These practices filled me with energy. Then I showed up to work radiating this positivity. People noticed my energy was different and asked what I was doing. I shared with them the books and other tools I used, which inspired others to grow.
It was in this way that I became a force for the good. I didn’t have to change the world to have a purpose—I just had to change myself.
Before you quit your job to find your purpose, ask yourself, “How can I bring purpose to this day? How can I make a positive impact on where I am now?”
By deciding to bring purpose into our lives, we build a foundation to take with us no matter what we do.
2. Follow your excitement.
After becoming purposeful, it’s time to explore the next step. Following our excitement is a practical way to find outer purpose.
We can inflate intuition as this mysterious experience that makes it difficult to connect with. I’ve found that intuition can sometimes speak through excitement, and we all know what that feels like.
Ask yourself, “What excites me?” or, “What excited me as a kid?” The answers to these questions should give us a spark to move forward.
While we may not find an exact correlation, there’s an essence of our child self that may give clues to our current self. For example, what excited me as a kid was to have the ball when the game was on the line. As a seven-year-old boy, I played pretend championship games where it came down to me to make the winning hit or score the final basket. I loved the thrill of performance and pressure.
Fast-forward to now, and while I’m no LeBron James, the essence of what excited me manifested through my love of public speaking. The pressure I feel is similar, only this time, my goal is to inspire others rather than win the game.
As we find what makes us excited, we should see how it translates into other areas of interest.
3. Follow your fears.
“The cave you fear holds the treasure you seek.” ~ Joseph Campbell
You may be thinking, “Lou, I understand that I should follow my excitement, but how can I follow my fears? That sounds terrible!”
Yes, we should follow our fears, but only if doing so helps us get closer to our goals. If we feel afraid and excited, that is a sign that we are on the right path.
It is an act of courage to do the work we love, and tiptoeing the line of fear and excitement helps us grow out of our comfort zone and expand our potential.
People don’t often take the step in front of them because they’re afraid of what might happen years down the road. We must look at following fear, despite uncertainty, like a marathon runner who gets the last minute call to run a big race. Of course, the runner is afraid, but he’s likely also excited that he gets the opportunity to do it. He can’t know how he’ll feel at mile 20—he just has to answer the call and get himself to the starting line.
We can’t know five steps ahead. We just have to keep showing up to take the action right in front of us.
As Joseph Campbell would say, once we find the courage to step forward, doors will open where there were none before. Then we enter the next door and continue the journey. Step-by-step, we conquer new fears and embrace the challenges as our teacher.
4. Serve others, but make sure you love it.
“Work is love made visible.” ~ Khalil Gibran
After I quit my job, there were two years of soul-searching and trying to figure out my purpose. During this time, I journaled repeatedly and asked one simple question, “How can I serve?”
When we ask this to ourselves, we should stay with the question even if no answers come. I find that it acts more of a proclamation to the universe that we are looking for ways to serve. As we proclaim, we open up channels to be guided toward our service.
However, service does not mean sacrifice. Many are misguided and think that in order to serve, we have to sacrifice our happiness. For example, let’s say we work for a nonprofit with a great mission, yet hate our job. We stay there because we think we’re doing it out of greater service. Our work has a purpose in a broader sense, but we’re not happy.
Remember, we talked about purpose more as a “state of being” rather than an act of doing. No one wants to be around someone who is unhappy, as they will feel it.
We’ll be doing a good thing for ourselves and others if we follow what fills us, rather than be an unhappy martyr.
5. Welcome imposter syndrome.
Even the most successful people in the world grapple with feelings of insecurities and think that eventually, they will be found out for the fraud that they are.
I found it reassuring that feeling like an imposter was actually a sign that I was doing purposeful work.
As Seth Godin writes:
“Everyone who is doing important work is working on something that might not work. And it’s extremely likely that they’re also not the very best qualified person on the planet to be doing that work. Time spent fretting about our status as impostors is time away from dancing with our fear, from leading and from doing work that matters.”
It’s our fears and unworthiness that lead us to feel this way. To grow in our self-belief, it helps to stay grateful and keep a beginner’s mindset. It also helps to see our life as a practice.
No one is judging when we’re practicing—we’re just learning new skills. As we exercise our gifts, we grow in competence. As we grow in competence, we become more confident.
A saying in the entrepreneurial world is, “Jump and build your parachute on the way down.” We can’t let the fear of being a fraud stop us from trying something new. The best learning comes from jumping in and trying to save ourselves as we fall.
6. Make work your spiritual practice.
Michael Singer wrote a great book called The Surrender Experiment. He talks about how early in his spiritual journey all he wanted to do was meditate alone in the woods.
Michael found that life had a different plan for him. Instead, it led him to start a construction business and create a no joke, billion-dollar software company. He explains that through this process, he never separated his spiritual practice from running a business. He saw every experience as a practice in letting go and serving the moment the best he could. As he surrendered, amazing things happened.
While we may not start billion-dollar companies, we can take Michaels’s wisdom.
You may ask, “If we are spiritual beings, wouldn’t the entirety of our life constitute the arena for spiritual practice?”
We don’t need to be meditating or chanting mantras to feel connected to our divine source. As we start pursuing the work we love, we see that it’s all playing a role in making us grow into the best version of ourselves.
There are times when I read a comment on how I helped someone, and I fill up with tears. It’s a divine moment, as I feel I’m playing my role in the cosmos. This fulfillment is the treasure that Joseph Campbell talked about when he mentioned entering the cave we fear.
As they say, with most goals, it’s not about the achievement, rather the person we become in the process. The journey is the reward. We must remember to find gratitude and appreciation for each step we’re on.
Now, it is time for you to uncover your purpose and find and do the work you love.
I hope this offers some new perspectives to explore. Finding and doing the work we love is a lifelong journey on which we need constant support.
I’ve found it invaluable to work privately with a coach or to join a group of people who are pursuing their passion. Especially early on, we need to surround ourselves with those who help us realize that yes, it’s not just a dream, it’s possible.
It is my sincere wish that you uncover your purpose and bring your contribution to the world. Sure, you’ll make an impact on others. But do you know who will benefit most? You.
I send you love and blessings on your journey.