Zeroing in Gradually on Your Life Purpose

Over the years I have learned that one of the main functions I serve as a life purpose coach is to help people move gradually toward their ideal career or life purpose. Frequently people jump too fast into thinking about specific careers without carefully considering their deeper passion and purpose.

For example, Jean says that she really cares about community equity and development, so she starts thinking: Do I want to be a social worker, a social activist, a community organizer? She doesn’t want to be any of these things, so she decides that her life purpose can’t be about communities. Notice how she has jumped from  a general direction for her life purpose—community equity and development—to specific careers without considering more carefully what she would really like to do, who she wants to help, and what issues she cares about.

Let’s take Jean back a step. Before she even considers specific jobs, let’s have her explore three major questions: (1) What activities would she love to do in helping communities? (2) What kinds of communities or people would she love to help? (3) What impact would she love to have?

(1) What kind of activities would Jean like to engage in to help communities? Does she like to network with lots of people, work with people one on one, work with a team? Does she like to convene meetings of people and help them learn to work with each other? Does she like to lobby people in power? Does she like to do research, give presentations, organize events, nurture fledgling organizations, etc.?

(2) Who does Jean want to help? Communities in her local area, poor communities, communities of color, Third World communities? In those communities, who does she care deeply about–women, children, elderly people, youth, families, etc.?

(3) Which community issues are important to Jean? Housing, crime, jobs, neighborhood spaces, economic opportunity, political empowerment, etc.

Jean may not feel strongly about all of these questions. She might say, “I really want to help empower community people by helping them work together in groups. As long as I am doing this, it doesn’t matter which communities or which issues.” Or she might say, “I care deeply about helping poor women with job opportunities, and I like doing a wide variety of different things. As long as I am helping with that, any activity is fine.”

So it important to determine which of these three questions are important to you, which ones matter to your sense of passion and purpose. When you are clear on that, you can start thinking about specific career choices. With this clarity, you can ask more informed questions about various careers.

Most importantly, knowing what you care passionately about, you can be creative in finding a career that embodies it. For example, Jean did this exploration and realized that she deeply cares about health and nutrition of children in poor communities. And she loves to write, interview people, and do public speaking. So she is considering careers in journalism, radio, or writing non-fiction books where she could educate people about problems and solutions with respects to children’s health. If she had jumped too fast into thinking only about the obvious careers, she might have dismissed this whole area of concern.