The #1 thing creative entrepreneurs and freelancers tell me matters most to them is doing meaningful work that has a positive impact in the world (for the record, freedom and money are #2 and #3!).
They want their work and life to have purpose. Can you relate?
If you can, you probably also relate the incredible challenge that comes with aligning with that purpose and building a life and business around it.
I know I can. For so many years, I feared my lack of clear purpose would inevitably lead to a mediocre life. Purpose felt like something people who were smarter, more charismatic, more everything possessed. Not something for “ordinary” people like me.
But it turns out, wanting to find my purpose was enough. Without appreciating at the time what was happening, life provided me with the stepping-stones I needed to align more fully with who I am and who I am becoming. Those stepping-stones came in the form of opportunities and my intuitive responses to those opportunities, revealing my purpose to me little by little.
In this (admittedly unlikely) reference, Ashton Kutcher gave a speech at the Teen Choice Awards where he shared his own journey from regular Joe Schmo to successful actor.
He said, “I believe opportunity looks a lot like hard work….everything around us that we call life was made up by someone no smarter than you.”
I think one of the reasons this speech resonated with me is that Kutcher takes the mystery out of purpose and breaks it down into a mindset and way of showing up that’s available to anyone.
If you’ve ever thought your work and life aren’t as impactful, meaningful, or purpose-driven as you’d like, I’d like to share 3 ways you can lean into the positive impact you are here to make.
1) Take purpose off its pedestal
Purpose has been put on such a high pedestal. We could be forgiven for believing it’s something bestowed on a chosen few, leaving the rest of us to live hum drum lives. Purpose is about paying attention and doing the work. Just wanting and being open to it is a great first step. If the term feels too weighty, try calling it by another name such as direction (which we’re probably more comfortable with changing as a matter of course).
Invitation: Rather than look at purpose as something outside of you to be achieved, start to think of it as something that lives within you. What dreams do you harbor? Where do you see an opportunity for you to make a difference, no matter how small? Write down what comes up for you.
2) Lean into extreme challenges
In my experience (because it’s the only one I have), I’ve learned my biggest growth spurts in the purpose department have been a direct result of going through something really, really hard. From moving to NYC, sight-unseen with a boyfriend, only to find myself single and alone 8 months later, to leaving my full-time job to start my own business just before the 2008 recession crippled our industry. Extreme challenge has forced me to ask (and answer!) some really tough questions about my assumptions, beliefs, and biases and do things I never would have thought myself capable of.
Invitation: Get still and listen to what’s coming up for you right now, particularly as we’re going through the crisis of the Coronavirus pandemic. Is there an idea that won’t leave you alone, an injustice you can no longer ignore, a desire to express yourself more authentically? Write down what comes up and think about what action might be the next step in this discovery. Maybe it’s researching and reading a book or article on the topic, following an expert or teacher in your area of interest. Just identify one next step.
3) Ask better questions
I used to think a good coach was one who knew all the answers. Thankfully, I learned that was not the case (it’s neither my right or my job) and my role was to ask better questions so my clients could access their inner wisdom and find the right answer for themselves.
When it comes to allowing your purpose to reveal itself, it turns out that asking yourself some straightforward, yet powerful questions goes a long way.
Invitation: Here are a few questions you might ask yourself. Again, I’d recommend journaling your answers:
- What have you been ignoring for too long?
- What have you been too busy to acknowledge?
- Where do you step up?
- How do you love to help people?
- What’s easy for you to figure out, but a nightmare for others?
- How do you put people’s minds at ease?
- How do you connect them to hope?
- How do you help them become more of who they truly are? To be seen and understood?
- What are you doing when you feel most at ease in your skin?
This is the work of our lives. We can’t get it wrong. How do you feel? I’d love to hear what came up for you, so please do leave a comment below if you feel comfortable.