Think back on a time when you felt truly connected to what you were put on this earth to do. It could have been a moment, a week, or even six months when you woke up every day with a sense of peace, flow, and engagement with what you put your mind to. Remember it.
This is a critical clue — a breadcrumb — on your journey to finding your purpose. At Project X, we define purpose as a sense that you are contributing to others, that your work has a broader meaning. This means you can cultivate purpose through moments of connection and insight.
Your purpose will not be found in your cubicle, dorm room or Instagram feed.
That unnerving feeling in the pit of your stomach is reminding you that your calling is still hidden deep inside you, waiting to be explored. It is a journey and finding it opens up a million questions. It can be overwhelming to acknowledge the effort, time and money you have invested in a degree or that your career has run its course. But more often than not, it is a course that was set by someone else. Whose idea was it to define success as a six-figure income, a mortgage and a soulless job that comes with hollow bragging rights?
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver
But living your purpose can present as a huge obstacle. It feels overwhelming. We fear we may not find it or we're not worthy of it, or we don't have the time to discover it and earn a living. The truth, however, is that purpose is fundamental. It's the fuel that will keep you fighting the battles that seem impossible to win. When we operate from anger, frustration or fear, we eventually deplete ourselves and those around us. But when we lead from a vision that is greater than ourselves, it is energizing. It is what great teachers, entrepreneurs, civil leaders, and nurses do every day. It is unifying.
Here are five quick actions you can take to get you closer to your purpose:
1. Empty your suitcase
We all carry career baggage: misleading expectations about success, career, family and more. Spend a few minutes making a list of the expectations that hold you back. Maybe your parents only gave you two options: doctor or lawyer. Maybe television convinced you by the time you're 30 you're supposed to be a VP, have 2.5 children and a mortgage. Pile them on, and when your list is full, write the counter-argument to each.
2. Describe a time in your life when you felt truly connected to what you were put on this earth to do
Share this story in detail with someone or write it down. As described in the introduction, it could have been a moment, a month or even a year when your waking hours will be filled with a sense of peace, flow, and engagement with what you put your mind to. What was it? Design three one-hour moments to explore this experience again. Perhaps you remembered this feeling occurred when you were painting four years ago. Carve out three separate sessions to do that again. Perhaps you were helping two friends for months after they lost a relative. Designate three sessions to coffee with friends that are going through a difficult time.
3. Reach out to the Dalai Lama
Connect with someone that inspires you. It could be someone from your immediate network or even a famous person. I have a friend who emailed Arianna Huffington and actually got a response! The goal here is to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and create a connection that could lead to new, interesting places. If you want that person to be me, email me!
4. What's the story, morning glory?
Morning pages, described in detail in "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron, is a challenge to draft three pages of long-form, stream of consciousness writing, best done first thing in the morning. Jot down everything that comes to mind. It's not even about writing, it's about clearing your head and clarifying your thoughts.
5. Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro
That's just an example. Grab a piece of paper and number down the side 1 through 20. Then brainstorm 20 experiences you want to have over the next 10 years. They can be anything - from the mountain hike to dating someone in another language. Ideally, these experiences involve meeting, engaging, experiencing other people. These moments of connection are the breadcrumbs along your purpose journey.
We get closer to our purpose when we put ourselves out into the world. These activities are designed to help you do that. They'll provide you with breadcrumbs — little clues — about where your purposeful future lies, but they are only a first step.
We dive deep into this exploration in Project X programs. Our January 2019 Purpose Accelerator involves more than 25 experiential activities over the course of a month. Together we make progress on the journey to getting "unstuck" and finding more meaningful work. We commit to action, hold one another accountable, and start seeing progress right away. If we listen well, the seeds of our purpose can be found everywhere. Start collecting yours by signing up to our weekly Top 10 Purposeful Jobs newsletter.