I remember it well. Sitting on the floor opposite me, across a small sea of jumbled toys, Stef had made a plane from red and yellow stickle bricks. He was making it zoom through the air-space around him. ‘I want to fly planes when I’m grown up’, he said. We were 4 years old, and it must have been one of our first days at primary school.
21 years later, Stef is a pilot, flying for one of the world’s most prestigious airlines.
This sense of destiny, a certainty about what we were made for persisting throughout our lives from a young age, is rare. Whenever I think about Stef’s journey so far, I am shocked by the level of his focus; the way in which he has lived driven by one very specific goal inside of him. Many of us in fact, have the opposite experience. We attend further education, courses, seminars, spend hours looking at jobs online, only becoming more perplexed about what we should do. Even after years of working, some feel like they’re not on a path to where they want to get to.
If you are in this place, there is hope. You are not destined to a live a life without a purpose. Here are 5 encouragements for you, to help you get on track to living the life you thought was an empty dream.
1) Change the way you think
My last post was about the fact that, because of your uniqueness, you have the potential to bring things into the world and achieve things that no one else can. No matter your background, your failures, your hurt, health or your age, you have a crucial role to play in the world. Your potential only needs to be unleashed.
The first, most crucial step on the road to discovering your purpose is this: believe that you have one. This sounds obvious, but it’s likely that a lot of us don’t believe that there is a significant purpose intended for our life. If we were able to see at the end of each day a chart displaying our thoughts over the previous 24 hours, for a lot of us, a large proportion would be negative thoughts about ourselves. Most of us don’t feel like we were born for significance.
Changing the way you think will change your life. The reality, is that you were born for significance, and the way you think is probably the biggest factor dictating whether you achieve this, or not.
So, when you catch yourself thinking badly about yourself, refuse to accept those thoughts, as you would when someone is lying to you and you know it. Do it by telling yourself the opposite. For example, I often struggle to believe that I have what it takes to be a good husband. I’ve decided to deal with those thoughts, because I know they will harm my relationship. So, I say something like this to myself out loud (if no one is around!), ‘I am a great husband, and you know what? I am getting better and better every single day. I was born to have an outrageously positive effect on my family.’
Some of the positive things you say to yourself may not be a reality yet. You may feel like you are lying to yourself. But by saying them, you will start to speak them into being. Recognising your potential for you to progress and improve in that area will create a fertile, empowering environment inside of you, where things will grow you never thought possible. It is a bold step to believe in yourself and see past your shortcoming, but I encourage you to go for it.
Continuing to think negatively about yourself will prevent you from becoming the person that you were born to be. Be kind to yourself.
2) Be nothing more than yourself
To live in your purpose is not to be a policeman, palaeontologist or a pilot; it is not what you do, but who you are. It is to truly be yourself.
You do not fit yourself to a role, or a purpose. I do not believe that my friend thought being a pilot was a good, practical thing to be, so spent 20 years trying to shape himself to be more like a pilot. I believe that flying planes just flows out of who he is, and it just so happens that it’s possible to make a great career our of it.
So, don’t try to imagine whether you would fit into a certain job role, your purpose is far bigger than a career. To do what you are designed to do, it must flow out of who you are. So start with you.
Give yourself the luxury of not being practical. Don’t think about how much you would need to earn for something to be viable. Think about the things you love, things that move you, things that make you incredibly happy, things that make you angry. Don’t think about whether jobs exist in any area related to those things. Let yourself be drawn naturally to something that you would like to do with your time, something that would mean a lot to you. Perhaps there is a dream you had long ago, but you have put it away because it’s not practical. Bring it out again! Give it air to breath in your heart once more. Is there something that you feel an ache for deep in your bones? That’s probably the thing you are looking for.
Children often know what they want to be when they are older. This is because they feel moved, or excited by that profession, not because it’s a safe choice. Let yourself become like a child again and be led by your intuition.
From a young age, I was moved by extreme poverty. The sight of hungry people on TV moved me to a point at which I didn’t know what to do with myself; it made me so angry that such gross inequality existed on my planet. As I got older I realised that perhaps this meant part of my purpose was to help people who were living in poverty. That realisation guided my subject choices at school and led me to do a degree in International Development. I knew very well that job prospects wouldn’t be great, that I would be very lucky ever to be paid to help people like that. But that didn’t deter me, I knew that if I let my purpose guide me, everything else would fall into place. I am now working for four days a week for an organisation whose vision is to alleviate communities from extreme poverty in east Africa, and I am paid enough for it to get by.
3) Take little steps; it’s all about the journey
Being paid to do what I feel I was born for didn’t happen overnight. It was a process to get where I am; studying, taking risks, doing jobs I didn’t like so that I could volunteer. I am still very near to the start of that journey, and I’m enjoying it.
If you have discovered the thing you think you might be destined to do, start by taking one, small, step towards it. Find a free online course, volunteer, save a little money and buy some beaten-up, used equipment. Just do something, put twigs on that little flame. Enjoy this process, don’t be hard on yourself if nothing comes of it. Just keep looking, and you will find it.
The people who seem most content, almost continually peaceful and joyful, are those who value the process they are going through as much as their vision (the place they are trying to get to). Delighting in the everyday and celebrating small amounts of progress will stop you getting frustrated, and consumed with seeing immediate results.
It was Winston Churchill who is thought to have defined success as, ‘going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.’ The fact that you were destined to do something doesn’t mean you will always find it easy. You will need perseverance. You will need to practice. You will need to pick yourself up a good number of times, dust yourself down and go at it again. Learn to celebrate your own failures and of those of people close to you; they are a real sign that you are stepping out and having a go, that you are moving forward. A life without failure will never experience growth. True failure is packing it in when you hit a bump. If you need help to push through, ask for it. Just never give up.
5) Take risks
Living out your purpose will without question, involve risk. Choosing whether to start that business, approach that person work less to gain new skills and experience, buy that equipment, will involve some courage. Become acquainted with the leap of faith and befriend uncertainty. Being led by your destiny will involve a bumpy ride. Don’t say it’s not for you; for you were born for this. The risks may be greater, but the rewards are infinitely more, for you and for the world.
Remember, you have what it takes. Your destiny flows out of your DNA; you have everything you need already. Most of all, know that you are valuable beyond measure, and be kind to yourself because of it.
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