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What To Do When You Can’t Figure Out Your Purpose

Aaron Kahlow July 31, 2019

Recently, the question “What am I supposed to be doing with the rest of my life?” has been top of mind. I have found myself revisiting the very nature of that question and exploring why we feel so compelled to ask it.

The first big step in this dialogue was asking: why do we want to find purpose? Why is this “purpose” thing such an important question?  

Following the initial “What’s my purpose?” question with “Why do I even want to find my purpose?” has helped me understand why I ask it in the first place and why I get deeply stuck looking for the answer.   

The short answer, after much inquiry and conversation with fellow conscious business leaders, was simply: to fill a human need. We need to feel like our lives have meaning. Seems reasonable enough, right? But why don’t we humans just innately know that our lives have meaning? 

Hint: Because of our loss of connection  connection to self, other, and something greater.

Connection to self: Most of us have gotten so caught up in the “story and drama” of our lives that we have lost the very essence of our human self. 

Connection to others: There is also the elemental need of being with other humans.  Loneliness, depression, and disconnection are epidemics upon us. As primates, we are built to be in connection to a community, a tribe, a cooperating group of people who create the safety, security, and roles we so need.  And those roles are our purpose. We need a community that provides a deep sense of belonging, an unbreakable connection to our identity inside the tribe.  

Note: This connection to others can be called “social wellness” and is critical to finding a life of meaning, one that takes us beyond our individual needs and connects us to the most basic of human needs: to belong and feel loved. 

Connection to something greater: Finally, we can’t avoid the sometimes taboo conversation of spirituality — or a belief in something greater than ourselves. With this comes a perspective that creates a sense of ease and peace in our role in the bigger picture, and allows us to get clear on our true values.

Without the connection to inner exploration, a communal identity, and strongly held beliefs, we are left feeling ungrounded, and we seek purpose to fill this void in our lives — one that makes us ask questions like:

  • Is this it? Is this all life is about?
  • Why does it feel like something is missing from my life?
  • How can I make a more positive impact on the world?
  • Why am I so tired, burnt out, and feeling like I am on the hamster wheel every day?

4 Ways to Cultivate Meaningful Inner Purpose

The purpose question is particularly acute during certain life transitions, when something in your career or relationships simply is not working or unsustainable. You feel a strong calling for change. In these times of change, there usually is one missing component: a change within you. We tend to think we can change our external environment without enduring any internal transformation. 

Purpose, as we know, is an inside job — one that takes a lot of effort and time. It is not done in one weekend retreat or one revelation from a book. Here are four ways to cultivate your true, inner purpose:

  1. Meditation and stillness: Mediation and mindfulness programs can help you get still, go beyond your thinking mind, and connect to a deeper place within.  
  2. Radical self-inquiry: Get really honest with yourself about how you are showing up in the world, especially to others. This won’t be pretty. 
  3. Find a community: You must make a deeper connection to others a priority. Go out of your way to find your tribe; Conscious Circles and conscious coaching are a great place to start.
  4. Surrender: Surrender to where life has taken you, and work on finding more acceptance of what is. Focus less on wanting more answers.

More Concepts to Ponder

As you explore that inevitable purpose question, these followup inquiries can make the process so much lighter, easier, and even enjoyable. 

  • What would it feel like to let go of needing purpose and meaning?
  • What do I really need” (ask this three times)
  • Why do I need this? (ask this three times)
  • How would I like to feel everyday?
  • What creates such a feeling?
  • What’s something I can explore and inquire about? 
  • Where can I break from my current routine to get clarity and stillness?
  • Am I willing to commit to that?

For anyone trying to find “purpose,”  we may want to ask the question of how to find stillness, which can lead to further clarity. With clarity comes a focus on fulfilling our needs of social wellness and connection, which then leads to connecting to something greater. Find your stillness, get connected, and see just how easily your purpose unfolds before you.  

Interested in this emerging movement around connection and social wellness? Feel free to email me AaronPKahlow3@gmail.com.

Stakeholder Capitalism
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