Last week, I posted here about purpose, dispelling the myths that it must be onerous, weighty, flashy, life-altering and world-changing. Experience, research and reality has convinced me to settle on a far less lofty understanding of purpose:
“The central, defining theme that guides all aspects of your life – across all areas – and at each stage of your life.” Five Institute.
Which means, necessarily, that our purpose will be unique to each of us, as unique as all the aspects, areas, and stages of our life.
Purpose is intensely personal, and yet it’s not inherently obvious. There are copious amounts of literature, tools and training on “how to find your purpose.” Where do you even begin?
Is there a test?
With so many personality tests on the market – Myers Briggs, DISC, The Fascination Report, Talent Dynamics, Genius U, CultureTalk to name a handful – there is no shortage of tools to help us understand more about ourselves, at least in theory.
These tests give us insight into our predispositions, thought processes and emotions. When we consider them with curiosity, an open mind and an open heart they can be validating and revealing. Your results might reveal patterns that are keeping you stuck, or shine a light on how to strengthen relationships. Ideally you can use the information to grow, evolve and be the best person you can be.
But do these tests go deep enough? Do they give us enough information to chart a path? Can they really help us navigate our lives, fulfil our purpose, and ultimately make us happier?
My concern about personality and aptitude tests is that for as much as they reveal, they can constrict too. These tests put us in boxes, and boxes are nice and tidy. It’s easy to accept the box, dig in our heels and stick with “Ah, well, I’m an X; that’s why I behave this way in Y situations.”
Tests, types and boxes can offer shortcuts; but it takes a deeper dive and longer look to understand what really makes us tick.
I used to love watching Time Team on Sunday evenings. From a collection of treasures unearthed from a site, archaeologists would construct 3D images and maps, photo-fits of people who lived there, and re-enactments of how they lived.
‘Purpose’ isn’t a thing you’ll extract, wholly formed like a clay pot, from within you. It’s a rich experience you create from the clues revealed from your digging. We discover purpose once we’ve found the right fragments, once we’ve gained a profound understanding of the past (who we are and how we lived) in a way that we can make sense of the present, and piece it all together to understand our future.
Piecing it together
Rather than a “thing” to find or uncover, purpose is that sweet spot linking several key life elements.
The Japanese concept of Ikigai explores the intersections of what we do for fun, for meaning and for remuneration. Ikigai – your reason for being – resides at the convergence of what:
- you love
- the world needs
- you are good at, and
- you can get paid for
The concept of purpose as the centre of a very human Venn Diagram is well illustrated in this short video, too.
In his seminal book Finding Your Element, Sir Ken Robinson provides another multi-faceted way to ensure we align our lives with what truly sets us alight. He recommends we examine our:
What each of these schools of thought have in common is a focus on elements in our lives that give value and meaning to us, as well as value and meaning to those around us.
Finding my purpose
For me, finding purpose began with a test, and expanded with an inward-looking, and outward-looking, approach.
The Vitality Test is the most insightful personality test I’ve ever experienced. It was developed by Nick Haines of the Five Institute. Nick has devoted his life to piecing together the ancient wisdom of Chinese Energy as a framework for understanding. His Five Institute teaches the art of choosing kindness as the route to truly changing the world. Their holistic work supports mindset and behavioural change, healthy relationships, kind and inclusive cultures as well as empowering physical, mental and emotional health. I find it hugely comforting applying these guiding principles to my life, love, relationships, work, business, and making a difference.
“Follow your bliss. Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it.”
My personal path to finding my purpose came from understanding my highest value to others, cross-checked against my values and my greatest sources of joy. It was not about dwelling on what makes me different, but rather embracing the difference I make and how I am uniquely capable of making it happen. Purpose enables me to show up in the world in my own distinct way!
Finding purpose brings a settled, centred feeling of knowing and owning who we are. It is the conviction that we were born with the perfect skills and gifts we need to make something happen, fundamental to guiding our lives and business.