There have been many times in my life when I’ve felt adrift and uncertain of my purpose in life. I used to envy people who seemed to be so clear about their life purpose and could therefore pursue it with clarity and focus.
My most recent crisis over my life purpose began when the pandemic trampled all over my Portugal travel business. I found myself wondering, once again, what my true purpose might be.
I’ve learned a lot since then and now have a much better understanding of the role of meaning and purpose in our lives. I want to share what I’ve learned, as well as tips from expert life purpose coach, Maria Tucker, to help you find yours.
Your purpose will evolve over time
With the help of various coaches and mentors, including the brilliant Maria Tucker, I have come to realise that very few of us have one true, unwavering calling in life.
It was a relief to acknowledge this as it removed the pressure I was putting myself under to make sure I found the ONE THING. Until that penny dropped, I was stressing over getting it ‘right’ so that I didn’t waste time and energy going down false paths.
What’s more likely to happen, and my own career is an example of this, is that our purpose will shift over time. There’s also more to life purpose than work, as you’ll see when we get to Maria’s interview.
I’ve gone from a career in retail banking, which left me unfulfilled and convinced that there had to be more to life, to backpacking my way around the world doing temporary jobs in my late 20s. After getting my degree in Communications as a mature student, I embarked on a new career teaching English and training communication skills in various countries. In 2015, I quit teaching to build a business around my travel and expat blog.
Things were going really well, until Covid trampled all over international travel and put my business in a coma.
Finding the sweet spot for purposeful work
As I desperately tried to find my new purpose in life, I made lists of things I’m good at and that bring me joy, which is a useful exercise that I totally recommend you try if you’re looking for a new direction in your working life.
If you can hit the sweet spot of identifying something that a) you’re good at, b) you enjoy doing and c) people are willing to pay for, you’ve got the foundations of a fulfilling career/business.
I spent a lot of time soul searching and identified lots of things that I’m both good at and enjoy doing but nothing leapt off the page and screamed “This is what you’re meant to do!” to me.
Then I started working with Maria Tucker, who specialises in helping people find their purpose in life. She encouraged me to ask myself pertinent questions about how I’d like to spend my time if money wasn’t an issue.
I had been stressing about replacing my lost income so it really helped to take that out of the equation for a while and to focus on the a) and b) of the sweet spot equation so that I could focus on doing things that bring me joy and make me feel ‘in flow’.
My first response to Maria’s question was “Walking in nature and looking at flowers.”, even though I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly earn a living that way. But that honest answer sparked my journey to studying the science of wellbeing and nature connectedness.
As a result, I created Feel More Connected and have trained to be a forest bathing (nature connection for well-being) guide! Through this wellbeing project, I get to combine my passion for helping people thrive with my love of nature. It feels right on so many levels and I’m excited to see how it will develop over time.
How to find meaning and purpose in life
During the interview I did with Maria (full video below), she shared how a horrific accident had left her in a wheelchair and stripped her life of all the things that had mattered; her job, her home, her marriage and her horse.
After her recovery, she completely turned her life around and for over 20 years, she has found joy and fulfilment as a life purpose coach, helping other women move past overwhelm and confusion to connecting with what they truly want to do.
I’m going to quote or paraphrase her top tips for finding your purpose in life in case you don’t have time to watch the video.
The big myth about finding your life purpose
As Maria explained, “There’s a common misconception, I think, in people thinking that they have to find this one big purpose, this one … great drive in their life, that they have to change the world or something.
Life is full of ups and downs. There’s relationship breakdowns, there’s loss of jobs, and generally life just doesn’t behave. Sometimes we have huge things that happen and little things. So it’s about finding the purpose in each given moment.
During the pandemic, many people’s purpose changed dramatically. Families that were suddenly homeschooling had to decide: do I go to work, or do I sort the children out? For some parents, their purpose at that time was to be a teacher. Or, if it was more important that they brought the money in, their purpose was to be the bread winner and then the schooling can come later.”
Finding meaning in the small stuff gives you purpose
Whether you’re in a temporarily challenging situation or a relatively routine one, all the little things you do are meaningful, from washing the dishes to managing a challenging project.
Think about why you do the things you do, e.g. you brush your teeth in order to care for your oral health so that you can feel confident about your smile and fresh breath as well as chew your food properly. You clean the bathroom so that your family have a nice, clean, safe space to look after their own personal hygiene.
Essentially, when you can find meaning in your day to day tasks, it gives your life purpose, a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
And that can be enough. More than enough.
You don’t have to climb mountains, become a CEO, start a charity or win awards. Raising a family is a purpose; maintaining a clean, comfortable home is a purpose; growing vegetables is a purpose; becoming and staying healthy is a purpose.
Are vision and purpose the same thing?
Maria answered, “I think there’s a difference between your vision and your purpose. Your vision is something that you feel that at any given moment in time is your bigger picture. However, your purpose can change on that road towards your vision, because things happen that might change your course.”
I like this description because it allows for the dream of an ideal life (your vision) that you can work towards while creating space for the realities of life to influence your purpose as needed along the way.
Why do people get stuck in careers or roles they hate?
Maria told me, “If we’re in something that pays us a lot of money or that … maybe the family traditions say that we should go down that road, to actually stop that and take the risk of doing something completely different is really scary.”
So many people get stuck in jobs that are soul destroying, rather than soul fulfilling. I’ve been there myself, especially during my final year at the bank when I was working with bad debts. I still shudder now when I think of how miserable I felt.
When I announced that I was leaving what was generally considered to be a safe ‘job for life’, my family thought I had lost the plot and my colleagues declared that I was “brave”, which I interpreted as “stupid”.
I worried that I was making a huge mistake but leaving the bank to travel the world turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
What to do when you know things need to change
I asked Maria what we can do when we start to think that there must be more to life than what we’re currently experiencing, especially in our careers.
She said, “The first thing I would say is to stop. When we’re feeling like: I’m going to work, I’m coming home, I’m going to work, I’m coming home and doing the job… Stop.
And then listen, listen to what your inner self is saying to you, because that is the time when we need to get back into alignment with who we are, what we’re supposed to be doing in this moment in time… and so that we can be the person we were born to be.”
This advice applies to other non-work situations that leave you unfulfilled or numb.
How do you tune into your inner wisdom about your life purpose?
Maria: “Have you ever experienced just knowing that you need to do something. When there’s no rationalising or anything, but you just know, maybe you just need to go and visit someone or you need to ring someone, or that it’s quite important to do something that day?
That’s your inner being, having a conversation with you. It’s really important that we do pay attention to that because our intuition is immediate.
… then our brain kicks in and rationalises everything, saying: but I can’t do that because, because, because. That little voice in the head can get in the way of a lot of things.”
Know the difference between your intuition and your mental backchat
Maria: “You know because your mind has got 1,001 questions. If you’re questioning the insight, it’s not your inner being talking.”
In other words, when your intuition is telling you what’s right for you, there aren’t so many questions, it’s a more solid knowingness.
Maria talked about when she began her new journey, first as a Reiki teacher and then as a life coach, back when no one in the UK had heard of these things. She said, “You just know. Even if someone said to you, “Why are you doing that?” you probably wouldn’t be able to explain. You know, when I started doing the work that I’m doing, people asked me that very question and I said, “I have absolutely no idea, but I know it’s leading me on a fantastic journey!”.
Ditch your limiting beliefs
Most of the questions and doubts that your mind throws up when your intuition is trying to tell you something are really not helpful.
We all have some emotional baggage that has shaped our beliefs and stories that we tell ourselves about the way life is that are not necessarily true, e.g. “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” or “I’m not good/clever/pretty/young enough.”
It’s well worth spending time examining what limiting beliefs and behaviours might be holding you back from making the changes that will allow you to live your purpose. Investing in a coach can really help you dig deep into the underlying issues that play out in various aspects of your life.
Make space to listen to your intuition
Maria swears by taking time, every day, to tune into what your intuition wants to tell you. Give yourself 15-30 minutes during the day to sit quietly or perhaps meditate. This can be in one or two sittings or shorter chunks if that’s easier to fit in.
- Thank the mental chatter and send it gently away each time it pops up until your mind feels calmer and quiet.
- Allow yourself to relax into this space and then ask your inner being what it would like to do and achieve that day.
- Be alert for any fresh ideas or perspectives and a sense of knowingness about what is right for you, given where and who you are at that point in time.
- Listen to your body and respect your energy levels – if you’ve hardly slept, there’s little point trying to do something that’s immensely challenging and complex.
- Pick three intentions for the day that feel achievable.
- Set yourself up for success rather than failure and don’t forget to celebrate your achievements, however small.
Watch the full interview with Maria here: