How to Develop Clarity of Purpose
Talent, Interest, Values
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During a recent virtual event hosted by NetSquared of Adelaide, I facilitated a workshop on The Three Pillars of Positivity: Mindset, Purpose, and Relationships. The most pressing question that arose from this discussion was how to identify your purpose.
This is a valuable question, because having a sense of purpose in life can provide the direction we need to enjoy where we are on our path while also looking forward to where we’re going with anticipation and excitement. Having a clear sense of direction can mean the difference between waking up every day excited rather than regrettably.
Yet, this is also a challenging question to answer, because no two people are alike so there is no clear-cut objective answer to this question. However, there are questions you can ask to coach yourself to find a clear answer that’s specific and meaningful for you.
Three Positivity Coaching Questions to Identify Purpose
What follows are three specific questions that I ask clients when working in a one-on-one coaching session or as part of a small-group coaching workshop to support them in uncovering their own clarity of purpose. I encourage you to reflect on your answers to these question and, when you’re ready, schedule a complimentary Positivity Consultation to explore your specific needs:
1. What Are Your Talents?
There are two approaches to personal and professional growth: focusing on your weaknesses (fixing the holes in your boat) and focusing on your strengths (setting the sails). Certainly both are valuable, however research shows that performance and productivity are enhanced most by setting the sails on our strengths. In other words, you may be able to plug up the holes of your weaknesses so you don’t sink, but your significance and success will only be found when you instead lean into your strengths.
For example, Luciano Pavarotti spent two year as an elementary school teacher and, though he was good enough, he quickly decided to instead focus on his natural talent for music, and he went on to become one of the most acclaimed operatic tenors of all time. Imagine how Pavarotti’s life would have been different if he had focused on his weaknesses rather than his strengths!
2. What Are Your Interests?
Interest can be seen as a psychological state that increases your tendency for attention and effort towards a particular activity, object, or topic, and can be thought of as a momentary experience of captivation, or as a more long-lasting feeling, giving you the sense that something is enjoyable and worth further exploration. Being genuinely interested in something empowers you with valuable mental resources to promote attention, recall, persistence, and overall effort, so by taking time to identify and reflect on your natural interests—what I like to refer to as the things that you often think about even when you should be thinking about other things—you’ll give yourself the best chance to chart a course for life that will genuinely make you happier and more resilient.
For example, the political leader Condoleezza Rice has made a career out of civil service, highlighting a clear interest in politics, yet she has also dedicated her life to studying music as a valued pastime. This is a sound reminder that even when interests conflict, you can still make space for them in your life by setting boundaries on what interests you want to engage in for money and what interests you want to engage in for creativity. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but it’s certainly okay if they are.
3. How Does What You Do Reflect Who You Are?
It’s said that we are human beings, not human doings, and this suggests that we actually have two purposes in life: an inner primary purpose that concerns who we are, and a secondary outer purpose that concerns what we do with who we are. The challenge is we often spend so much time thinking about what we do that we forget to ask the even more important question of who we actually are. At its core, your inner purpose is a matter of values. What are your values? And how do your actions express these values?
The following is a list of values as suggest by the psychologist Milton Rokeach. You may wish to use this list as a resource to help you get started thinking about what matters most to who you are, and as you do I encourage you to write down the ones that resonate with you while also adding values that are perhaps not on this list but which are deeply meaningful to you:
For example, my own personal core values include Responsibility, Responsiveness, Freedom, Stability, Love, Thoughtfulness, and Peace. Your own list may have an overlap with these lists, or they may look completely different. I encourage you to take this list that you’ve created and write down a few words about why these values are important to you and how your actions and goals express these values, along with how you might use your natural talents and interests to support them.
A sense of purpose can provide the direction you need to enjoy where you are on your path while also looking forward to where you’re going with anticipation and excitement and can mean the difference between waking up every day excited rather than regrettably. By engaging in the three questions provided here you’ll be empowered and encouraged to discover a clear sense of purpose that’s specific and meaningful for you.
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Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination on a mission to help you experience abiding joy.