I used to devour self-help and personal development material. I did this for well over 20 years, though you'll be pleased to know I've been in recovery for a while now.
During my 'addiction', I always noticed how much material there is on finding your life’s purpose.
Have you ever noticed this?
It's a very seductive idea, because we associate having a meaningful purpose with a greater sense of being alive.
We have all seen people and businesses that, with a grand purpose, accomplish amazing things and have extraordinary levels of inspiration, passion and energy.
If you reflect on your own life, I am sure you have experienced times when your life was rich with meaning and purpose; times when you were at your very best and felt unstoppable.
It was Steve Jobs who, in a much publicised address to students at Stanford University, said:
“You’ve got to find what you love… The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle.”
Countless others have said something similar. We are led to believe that our purpose, the thing that will light us up, is somewhere ‘out there’ and independent of us, and that we must keep looking until we find it.
Just like Steve Jobs did. Or Ellen MacArthur, J K Rowling or Lewis Hamilton.
But hold on a moment. What if you keep looking and do not find ‘it’? What then?
There must be millions of people who listen to this kind of advice, fail to find ‘the thing’ and conclude they have just not been fortunate enough to come across it. So they end up with a sense of something missing in their life.
Yet it turns out all this helpful advice was pointing us in the wrong direction.
Your purpose is not ‘out there’.
The problem is while finding your purpose may seem like good idea, it points you away from your true sense of purpose because it is making 'purpose' into a thing.
The idea of our purpose being external and independent of us is exactly what gets in the way of that which is more important, that is, a feeling or sense of purpose.
The fact is, our inner world and our outer world have no connection to each other whatsoever (even though this concept can be initially difficult to grasp).
A circumstance, cause or activity does not give you the feeling. Our purpose is not floating around in the world somewhere, just waiting for us and ‘it’ to be united, so we can disappear off into the sunset together.
This is not how life works.
We work from the inside-out, not the outside-in. Purpose is realised, not found.
A sense of purpose, of being alive and engaged in life, is the natural consequence of a free and present mind.
It is only ever one thought away. And consequently, that sense of purpose is available to you right now.