We all need a purpose — something that fulfills us from the inside out, motivates us to get out of bed in the morning, lets us stand on our own two feet throughout the day and fall asleep wrapped in the warm hug of contentment.
But here’s the kicker: your purpose, or at least part of it, must resonate only for you. Your PERSONAL purpose is different from your role as a mother, wife or daughter, and it’s different from your profession. Because, while worthy, if the entirety of your fulfillment is intricately linked to the needs of another, you’re leaving yourself open to the risk of one day waking up, purposeless.
I’ve known many women who have lost their sense of purpose once their children had grown or they left their careers. I’ve experienced it too, and its an aimless (and suffocating) feeling that, in the words of Bart Simpson, “both sucks and blows”.
We women, nurturers at heart, tend to be chameleons — in our desire to make other people happy, we arrange our days (perhaps our lives) to support THEIR likes, needs, and hobbies, often at the expense of our own fulfillment.
But to be our best selves, and live our best lives, we to achieve things that are just for us. This personal purpose is what keeps our lives meaningful on the individual level, but also gives us more to contribute to the world at large.
So it begs to ask, what does your personal purpose look like?
Read on for my simple four-step framework that will help you reconnect with your purpose this week.
Step One: choose your purposeful adjective
Before setting a specific goal or making a to-do list, I want you to describe how you will feel at the end of a purposeful day. This will help you separate the tasks that are meaningful to you — those that will move the needle forward on your purpose-driven life — from the ones that you think you SHOULD do (such as folding the laundry or wiping out the refrigerator).
Here are some words to get you started: healthy, content, feminine, thoughtful, grateful, courageous, organized, kind, relaxed, energized, satisfied…
Step Two: pick a goal of purpose
What is one thing that you would like to learn, do or achieve, that would give you the feeling that you described in Step One? What goal would make you excited to jump out of bed in the morning (or at least feel keen to give it a go once the coffee has kicked in)?!
This might be something completely new, such as planning a trip, learning a skill or volunteering; or it might be following through on tasks and hobbies that you had started but never finished, such as completing a photo album or scrapbook, donating clothes to charity, or landscaping the garden.
Choose just ONE personal purpose goal for the week, and make sure that it’s something that will add meaning, satisfaction and joy to your life.
Step Three: decide your daily tasks
Now that you’ve narrowed down a weekly goal, you’ll choose one or two daily tasks that will help you achieve that goal, and give you the essential satisfaction of success.
Research has shown that consistent progress — achieving small bits every day — is more satisfying than completing everything in one big surge of effort. The daily progress makes us feel more fulfilled and motivated to follow through on our promises, and ultimately sows the seeds for a purposeful life.
After all, what is a purposeful life but thousands of purposeful days, quietly and consistently stacked one on top of the other?
Let me give you an example of the three-step process thus far:
I want to feel organized and artistic.
My weekly goal is to complete the family scrapbook from our trip to Italy. This is something that I’ve wanted to complete for months; it will spark my creativity and remind me of the joy that we had on that trip (that makes me feel grateful for the life that I live, and the memories that I’ve created).
Monday: print trip photos
Tuesday: decide on color theme and layout of scrapbook
Wednesday: buy materials and set up my working space
Thursday: set aside two hours to complete scrapbook
Friday: make any final adjustments and pack away crafts
Saturday: share it with the family and reminisce about the trip (Step Four)
Step Four: reflect and validate
Reflecting on a job well done is what separates a successful day with a busy day.
Many of us have a tendency to focus on what we need to do, or on what we didn’t get to, which makes contentment hard to come by; it’s very hard to feel satisfied and fulfilled when you always feel weighed down with the expectation of what comes next.
Instead, start acknowledging what you HAVE achieved by giving credit to your successes. In doing this you are creating a record of everything that you have accomplished, and staying connected to the meaningful life that you are creating, bit-by-bit, every single day.
I’ll leave you with the stirring words of Eleanor Roosevelt: The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
So please, go out today and live your purpose. And then as always, let me know how it goes.