There was one evening some time ago when I was pretty exhausted and all I wanted to do was sit down and watch a little mindless TV. I was flicking through the channels when I came across a programme about a Kiwi bloke in Ireland. Being from Ireland myself it immediately caught my attention. This particular series was about this Kiwi monitoring bottle-nose dolphins off the west coast of Ireland but that’s not the bit that interested me. On the show he was traveling back to his hotel when he stopped by a river to witness the annual migration of salmon swimming upstream to their place of birth…and death! At that moment I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to know what your purpose here on earth is all about?” Wouldn’t it be great to have some super-natural force pulling us in the direction we need to go? Wouldn’t it be great to be a salmon?
I currently have 2 coaching clients who are asking themselves the same question: What is my purpose in this life? Why am I here? Because let’s face it, you only get one shot at it! I’ve no doubt that the vast majority of people have asked themselves this same question, as I have myself, but very few take the time to explore the answer. Most never find the answer and “accept” whatever life has in store for them. We also hold the assumption that everyone else knows what their purpose is and “I’m the only one”. Don’t believe it for a second; the vast majority of people out there are simply being dragged along in the current of life with no conscious direction.
But why is having a purpose so important? A lot of the time when people want to achieve something they set goals for themselves. They start off with a hiss and a roar but more often than not those goals go unachieved. Those same people decide that goal setting simply doesn’t work or it’s not for them. But the primary reason people fail to achieve the big goals they set for themselves is because they haven’t identified the WHY they are doing them…what’s the purpose? Could you imagine the effort it takes for a salmon to navigate across the Atlantic Ocean, find the mouth of the river from which it was spawned, swim upstream against strong river currents, leaping over water falls, mindlessly facing the perils that lie in its path, burning off a large portion of its body weight to get to this sacred place with such unnatural determination to simply mate and die? Could you imagine yourself undertaking such a Herculean task without really knowing why you are doing it? Most people fail to achieve significant goals in life because they have to “push” themselves toward them. But here’s the difference! Those who have identified what their purpose is achieve their goals on a more consistent basis because they are “pulled” in that direction. For them, to do something else would lead to a miserable life, an unfulfilled life.
Knowing your purpose in life will give you that ferocious “salmon-like” determination to overcome any obstacle that lays in your path. You will feel for yourself that super-natural force literally pulling you in the direction you need to go. You will experience a laser-like focus from the moment you rise in the morning to when you rest your head at night. If you’ve ever seen the movie, Billy Elliot, you’ll know what I mean. Here was a young boy brought up in abject poverty in a tough miner town in Wales and all he wants to do is dance. In the movie, he gets an audition at the Royal Ballet School of London and a lady on the interview panel says, in a very posh English accent, “Just one last question. Can I ask you, Billy, what does it feel like when you’re dancing?” Billy, standing in scuffed shoes and disheveled hair, thinks deeply about the question and responds, “Dunno.” He thinks about it some more and says, “It sort of feels good. It’s sort of stiff ‘n’ that but once I get going I like, forget everything. I sort of disappear…I sort of disappear and I feel a change in my whole body, like there’s fire in my body. I’m just there…flying…like a bird…like electricity.”
So, how do you find your purpose? How do you find that electricity! Try this exercise and see what you come up with. Think back to when you were young, maybe around the age of 11 or 12 years old. What did you want to be then? Now, ask yourself this question, “What was it about that that attracted me towards it?” For example, when I was 11 years old I wanted to join the priesthood and I also wanted to be an Irish Ranger (the Irish equivalent of the SAS) and later on I wanted to be in the Gardaí (Irish police force). Being a priest and being in the Special Forces may appear contradictory and in a way they are but I didn’t really want to be a priest but what I did want was to help people, to give them strength, support them through tough times and help them find direction in their lives. What I wanted to experience from the Irish Rangers was to see if I had what it takes physically, to be the best, to push myself to my physical limits and beyond. As a Guard, it was a combination of both of the above…to give back to, and provide support for, the community and to be challenged on a daily basis. My career choice now as a Professional Coach certainly fulfills my need to provide support and guidance for people and I fulfill my need to push myself physically through different sporting activities.
A client of mine wanted to be motor-cross rider, a daredevil and a stuntman. Of course he doesn’t want to be any of those things now but he has identified in himself his need to experience the “thrill, excitement, speed, physical nature of the thing, the challenge, the fun and enjoyment”. He also wanted to be a scientist because he was always curious to “find out how things work”. He craved the “knowledge and learning”. He said he “was always the kid who loved to pull toys apart to find out how they work.” He’s now got a blueprint for what his purpose in life might look like.
People tend to ask this big question generally between the ages of 35 and 45. It must be engrained in our human psychology and, coincidentally (!), this is also the time in people’s lives when they start a new venture or go into business for themselves. Finding the answer to the question, “What is my purpose in life?” can seem monumental and people have often experienced huge frustration and confusion in trying to find the “one” true answer but the reality is it’s likely to change as you change. So I encourage you to find your purpose for the moment. You don’t have to come up with the ultimate vision for your life which you can never change! What can your purpose be for the moment?
And remember, it’s not having a purpose that is the ultimate. It’s who you become when you are fulfilling that purpose. Are you now, the type of person that it would take to achieve your purpose? Do you have the skills, the character traits, the resilience, the determination, the energy that it would take to truly live your dreams? Remember it’s a journey and the reward is living your life on your own terms, the reward is your own personal growth, your reward is being in control of your own destiny. Ultimately, your reward is happiness.
If you’d like to know more about how you can find your purpose in this life, or are just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.