“But as uncomfortable as the not knowing may be, there is value in the searching … When we sink into the questions, we grow.”
For many of us, welcoming in a new year goes hand-in-hand with taking stock, setting intentions and making plans for the future. We might spend time this month reflecting on where we’ve been and thinking about where we want to go. Perhaps as we said goodbye to 2012, we dug deep and asked ourselves this big picture question:
“What is my purpose?”
Our purpose might be rooted in serving others, creating art, or raising a family. We might have more than one purpose.
In my job as a counsellor, I meet with many people who believe their purpose is tied to a not-yet-cultivated career. They aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives, yet they feel pressure to pick “the right thing”–the right degree, the right job, the right future. It’s not uncommon for me to hear clients say, “I know as a counsellor you’re not supposed to tell me what to do, but Please, Just Tell Me What to Do!”
I feel for these individuals, for I remember what it was like to not know what I wanted to be when I grew up. My interests were varied and I didn’t feel drawn to any one career. Halfway through my bachelor’s degree, I decided to major in English Literature–not because it led to a particular job I wanted, but because I enjoyed it and my professors encouraged me to do so.
Oh why couldn’t I have been like the girl from high school who just always knew she wanted to be a massage therapist?!
When I was in a place of searching, I just wanted an answer: THIS is what you should do with your life and it’s going to be GREAT and you will have NO REGRETS.
I know from experience that being in the questions can be uncomfortable. The not knowing can be painful. It’s common for that old gremlin fear to set up shop in our minds, tossing “what ifs” our way at a fast and furious pace: What if we pick the wrong thing? What if we try and fail? What if we never amount to anything?
But as uncomfortable as the not knowing may be, there is value in the searching. Sometimes we learn by trial and error. We might find our calling (or callings) by process of elimination. When we sink into the questions, we grow. We learn more about who we are, what we value, and what we have to offer.
My road to becoming a counsellor wasn’t a direct one. When I left university with my English degree in hand, I had no idea that in the coming years I would travel and have a number of very different jobs (in the film industry, in the Middle East, running an office, being a mystery shopper, you name it).
I didn’t foresee the tragedy of 9/11, nor did I know that it would provide the final push I needed to leave a job that no longer matched my values. September 11, 2001, showed me that I wanted to be able to go to work with my heart. It taught me that helping others and connecting from an authentic place mattered to me.
For those of us feeling called to discover (or rediscover) our purpose this year, here’s a thought:
Pay attention to what gets your attention.
In our answers to these questions, we’ll likely find clues that nudge us in the direction of our purpose:
- What did you love to do as a kid?
- Is there something you’ve always been drawn to or curious about?
- What are you doing when you feel “in flow,” as if time has disappeared?
- When are you most happy?
- What gives your life meaning?
- What makes you feel like you’ve made a heart connection?
I truly believe there’s a reason we’re drawn to particular things–roles, hobbies and careers. I imagine God has planted these interests in us, like seeds that will grow and flourish, if we nurture them. We are all unique and we all have gifts and strengths. I can’t help but think that, in one way or another, we are meant to use them to bless the world.
Photo credit: AleXander Agopian