What Is My Purpose? Perhaps You’ve Known All Along

Inspirational Speaker Shawn Ellis at the top of the mountain - Yellowstone National Park

Inspirational Speaker Shawn Ellis at the top of the mountain - Yellowstone National Park

Have you been wrestling with questions like:

What is my purpose?

What is my calling?

What is my real passion?

What am I supposed to be doing?

I spent well over a decade asking myself those types of questions. And even after I felt certain I had found the answer, I still questioned myself—because my efforts to “live” my purpose weren’t going according to plan.

Today, I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing—and I’m doing it. And my hope is that by the time you finish reading here, you’ll have a much better sense of what you’re supposed to be doing, too.

Let’s Not Overcomplicate This

Before we dive deep into finding your “big” purpose, though, let’s make this super simple:

Your #1 purpose is always to be right here, right now, exactly where you are.

You have not missed the boat. You have not wasted time. You are not “so far behind.”

Often, when we talk about living our purpose, we talk about it as if it’s something “out there” or “over there”—far off in the distance. One day, hopefully, I’ll get there.

You know what that is a setup for, though? It’s a setup to (1) feel like you lived your entire life without knowing your purpose, and (2) miss this moment right here. Life is happening in this moment! Everything is happening in this moment. Always.

Your purpose right now is to be reading this blog post. No joke. In the next moment, your purpose is to be the person you’re with, or to attend to the project at hand—whatever the case may be. That’s it.

Too often we look at “this moment” like we look at the hallway in our home or office. The hallway is never a destination, right? It’s just something you take for granted, something you want to to “get through,” while the real destination is up ahead. The truth of the matter, though, is that a lot of life happens walking through hallways.

If you’re breathing, this moment matters, no matter where you are.

Is Your Purpose Staring You Right in the Face?

Now that we are “here,” let’s get back to talk of living your purpose, or passion, or calling…

As I’m working on a book project right now, I’ve been going through 15 years worth of journals where I captured my thoughts, feelings, and life lessons. What I see as I read my journal entries is a man who was struggling to find his purpose while it was staring him right in the face the whole time.

See, today, I am a speaker, author, and coach. I help people rise up and thrive in the face of uncertainty and adversity, to live the life they desire and are truly designed for. This is my purpose, and this has always been my purpose—although I didn’t start doing it until 2011, and I didn’t really find my groove until 2018.

Prior to 2011, my journals are littered with variations of, What am I supposed to do? What is my purpose?

At the very same time I was asking those questions, though—with great anxiety and frustration—I was also reading books, capturing notes, and spinning off with my own insights and perspective. This is what I love to do and have loved for years. You know what that’s called? Teaching! I was a teacher then, even though I didn’t have an audience yet. That’s a clue.

Going back to my college years, I thought about attending seminary to become a pastor after graduation. I didn’t—and today, I’m glad I didn’t—but there was the desire to inspire others. That’s a clue.

Going back even further to my high school years, I remember walking to the hospital to sit with my grandfather after school, while my friends went to the nearby college student union to play the Street Fighter arcade game. That’s a clue. (Anyone remember the button sequence for the special attacks in Street Fighter, by the way?!)

Even before that, at age 13, I remember laying beside my 7-year-old younger brother while he was in a full leg cast as his broken leg healed. That’s a clue. Coming alongside people in challenging times is in my DNA.

When I was even younger, I still remember my grandma calling me her “little preacher man.” We used to watch televangelists together and I sent Oral Roberts nickels and dimes. I used to shrug off that label the way kids shrug off having their cheeks pinched, but maybe she saw something even then. That’s a clue.

If you—knowing nothing about me beyond what you’ve read here—were to consider all of these clues, could you at least take a stab at guessing what my purpose is? I know you could.

It’s often easy to identify someone else’s purpose, but it’s harder to find your own. Often, you need to zoom out and look at the whole picture. Look at all the clues.

Stop Asking Paralyzing Questions, and Ask These Instead

That question—”what is my purpose?”—is too big, and it’s paralyzing. No wonder it has you feeling frazzled or stuck. Don’t ask yourself that! Instead, think back on your life and ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you love to do? Is there something you automatically gravitate toward?
  • When you think of all the things you’ve thought about doing, is there a “through-line”—something that they all have in common?
  • What has it always been in your nature to do? Are you consistently a giver? Are you the first person to raise your hand when someone has a need? Are you the first person to visit a friend in the hospital? Are you the best at finding a solution to a problem?
  • What do others always say about you? What qualities do they highlight? Do people consistently say things like, “You would be a great XXXXXX?”

When you take inventory of all the “data” in your life, can you see evidence or clues that point you to the thing that you’re really supposed to be doing?

You Know the Answer

My guess is, in your deepest soul, you know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. There’s a good chance you keep asking the questions—What is my purpose? What is my passion? What am I supposed to do?—not because you don’t know, but because you’re actually too scared to own it and step into it.

In other words, what’s lacking is not the answer, but the courage to accept the answer.

Ouch… I know that may not feel good to hear. But I say that because that is exactly what I see looking back on my own life. My purpose was staring me right in the face the whole time. What was holding me back was fear.

Any chance this is resonating with you?

It’s totally normal, by the way. Your fear is just there to keep you safe.

We can talk more about working with fear another time, but for today, ask yourself those questions, and when all the clues point to an answer, accept it. Say, “I am a _________.” How does that feel? (Really, how does that feel in your body? Does it energize you? Does it bring you joy? Does it scare the shit out of you? Then you’re onto something!)

Now What?

Once you find and own your purpose, you don’t have to change jobs. You don’t have to turn your entire life upside down. Not yet, anyway! But what you can do is start showing up in more of the moments of your life–starting with this moment–being who you know you are.

Imagine: If you’re an orthopedic surgeon, you don’t show up to every conversation with a bone saw! But you do know in every conversation that, “I am an orthopedic surgeon.”

That’s what I want you to know and feel in every moment of your life. This is who I am. 

You can be a “wise spiritual teacher” and show up to make copies or drive for Uber.

And guess what? When you start being who you are, and feeling who you are, you just might find that your outer world starts to align without any forcing or striving or chasing or hustling on your part. Wouldn’t that be amazing?!

Are you ready? Now it’s over to you. It’s time to rise and thrive!

Need more help finding your purpose and the courage to live it? Come see Shawn at the upcoming Trailhead Conference in St. Charles, Missouri, on September 20, 2019. Get more info and register at https://www.trailheadconference.com/.

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