If you’re at a point where you’re feeling like your career isn’t aligning with who you want to be in the world, it may be time to revisit your sense of purpose. This is something I need to do regularly to make sure I’m showing up as the best version of myself and making values-driven decisions, and it is the central theme of my book Purposeful Hustle.
We all have senses that we rely on to make decisions, choose different paths, and weigh options. Purpose is a way to name that inner feeling. It is a vehicle that brings together those senses into something cohesive. From my personal experience and witnessing others live out their purpose, I’ve observed that purpose provides direction, builds an innermost circle of people who can join you and support you in your work, and brings you an overarching sense of peace and joy.
I strongly believe that it is important to clarify and articulate your purpose into an actual written purpose statement. Having a purpose statement can serve as a filter when deciding which projects to take on, and it can help others understand your ambitions so they can better support you. People will ask you to do all kinds of things. Without a purpose filter on, you may find yourself headed down a path that was not meant for you.
So how do you find your purpose, and how do you use it to better inform your career decision-making? Four techniques - reflection, writing, testing, and iteration - have helped me refine my purpose, and hopefully, they will prove just as helpful to you!
Reflection is absolutely crucial to the Purposeful Hustler. It is a gift we can give to ourselves to help us process our experiences and more consciously choose who we want to be.
I STRONGLY recommend looking at your calendar and setting aside a full day of reflection when first trying to work through your purpose. Throughout this day, spend time with yourself and ask questions like, “What are my passions?” and “How have my experiences uniquely positioned me to make an impact?” Look closely and maybe even list out all of your significant experiences, different sets of knowledge, and skills that you possess.
In addition to your day of reflection, it is so helpful for a Purposeful Hustler to have regular self-reflection practices to stay in touch with who they are and the person they want to be. These could include meditations, daily journaling, talking it out with someone you trust, exercising and getting in your body, or prayer.
During your day of reflection or perhaps shortly after, write out some drafts of what you think could be your personal purpose statement. This should combine some of the most prominent ideas from your lists of passions and how you can make an impact.
Start using a straightforward format like, “My purpose is ________,” and get more creative from there if you want. Play around and try some different options. Just get your ideas on the page!
Moving your thoughts from your brain to the paper is an essential step in the reflection process. This will allow you to take something that can be amorphous and make it tangible.
Now that you have a purpose statement, it is a tool that you can use to make decisions that are more aligned with your values. The statement should help you open and close doors. It should help you articulate to others who you are and what you believe.
There are four different kinds of checks that I use to test my purpose statement to ensure that it is truly reflective of my values and to ensure that my life is truly reflective of my purpose.
- Intuitive check
- Does it feel right to you? Does your purpose statement align with your passions and the time you feel joy? Does it provide direction for you?
- Support network check
- Do your family and friends see how your purpose statement makes sense for what you care about and the impact you want to have in the world? Do the people who know you best see your purpose statement within you?
- Calendar check
- Look at your calendar. How much time a day do you spend doing activities aligned with your purpose statement? Does that mean you need to adjust your purpose statement to better fit your life, or adjust the way you spend your time to better fit your purpose statement?
- Decision check
- Can you use your purpose statement to filter decisions you have to make? Employing your purpose statement should make the decision-making process easier if your purpose statement is accurately defined.
This last step may need to happen over and over again to make sure that your career decisions are aligned with your values.
Don’t be afraid to continue checking in with yourself and your purpose statement and revising it when you need to.
This should be something that evolves! This is a process that never ends as you continue to grow and live into your purpose.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.