What is my true purpose? What have I been put here to DO and what is the meaning of my life? These questions used to eat me up inside as I agonized over whether I was truly living the life I was born to live and expressing my unique talents and gifts. For many years it weighed heavily on my shoulders until I had a deep realization that helped me to find joy, clarity and ease around this whole concept of my life-purpose.
When I was younger though, and studying naturopathy, I was convinced I was meant to be a “healer” and that I was to go forth and heal as many people as possible – a rather daunting prospect, really! Looking back, I see a young woman who was taking herself far too seriously and perhaps projecting subconsciously that which she needed most – healing for herself. Deep down, she was also trying hard to prove her own worth as a human being by defining herself by her contributions.
After graduating as a naturopath in my mid-20s, I set off travelling around the world and worked stints as a live-in carer so I could earn money quickly and then travel again. Despite choosing this lifestyle, I felt frustrated that I was “just” a carer when I could have been working as a trained naturopath, and really helping people. I felt like I wasn’t living my true purpose and that my real life hadn’t begun yet.
But I vividly remember one day at work, I happened to just be in the moment, peacefully brushing the hair of my terminally-ill young client, and she looked up at me with such gratitude, and I realized how fortunate I was to just be right there in that special moment…I started to drop all my rigid notions and “shoulds” around purpose, and began to wonder if we really even have one.
Our Desire For Meaning and Recognition
The thing is though, I now believe that we are conditioned to want to have a purpose.
Partly this stems from a fear of the natural ambiguity of life. Life itself is deeply mysterious, we are such a tiny part of something unfathomably larger than us, and we don’t truly know how we ended up here or where we are going after we die. So we try to hold on to a tangible sense of purpose as a way of coping with this inherent mystery.
Secondly, in Western culture at least, from the time we are three or four we are constantly asked by the adults around us what we want to do or be when we grow up. Our culture values ambition, drive and productivity and our worth is determined by extrinsic contributions rather than intrinsic selfhood. In fact, it is very telling that people who lack ambition or drive are referred to as losers – as if life is a game that can be won or lost.
The World Is Inherently Playful
During my travels, I read and did the exercises in the wonderful book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. At its heart, this very spiritual book teaches that the nature of God/The Universe/All-That-Is is wildly creative and that essentially, we are too.
This resonated deeply with me, in fact one of my favourite Sanskrit words I learned while studying yoga is leela which means “God’s play” and refers to the notion that all of this beautiful, crazy world we see around us is just the play of God. It’s all just a wildly whimsical creative expression…just for fun. Flowers, stars, lemurs, bumble bees, rainbows…do you think they were put here for a purpose?
The late spiritual teacher Alan Watts described life as more like a piece of music or a dance than a journey with an inherent purpose. It is essentially playful and reaching a particular destination is not the point of it at all. You are simply supposed to sing, or dance while the music is being played.
How Do You Want To Dance?
So if we see life as a dance rather than a purposeful journey, perhaps a better question to ask ourselves is not ‘what is my purpose’, but ‘how do I want to dance?’ In other words, ‘what am I most passionate about?’ ‘What lights me up from within and excites me more than anything?’
Unlike the seriousness of purpose, passions are fun, light, changeable and exciting… Purpose comes from a sense of obligation and self-importance. Passion comes from a sense of natural joy and self-expression. You can also have more than one passion, and they may not have anything to with your work.
And for those of you I can just hear saying “But I don’t know what I am passionate about” or “I don’t have any passions” then I believe either you have been starving your soul for too long and have been too caught up in the “race” that you have become disconnected from your true self or deep down you do know what you are passionate about, but you are too scared to really express it.
Perhaps you are holding yourself to some limiting script like “I’m too old for that” or “I’ll never be truly good at this”. (I highly recommend The Artist’s Way if you want help getting in touch with your passions or getting over the fear of expressing them – even if you don’t think of yourself as an “artist”.)
Remember the point with passions is that there is no point at all, other than joy – you are not to trying to accomplish anything or achieve mastery or accolades. They’re just your uniquely favorite way of dancing to life’s music.
Passions are just your uniquely favorite way of dancing to life’s music. @AshimaLiving (Click to Tweet!)
So now I would love to hear from you in the comments section below: Have you felt pressure to figure out your true purpose? Have you discovered you favourite way to dance to life’s music?
Sharee James is a naturopath and a yoga and meditation teacher dedicated to helping people like you to live your life with more calm and less struggle. You can start now by downloading her free cheat sheet: Stress-Less: 10 Quick & Easy tips to Help You Slow Down, Find Calm & Enjoy the Moment. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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