“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive , and go do it. Because the world needs more people who have come alive.”
– Howard Thurman
Why It’s Worth It…
Finding your life purpose does not always come easily. In fact, it often requires a concerted effort to figure out exactly what lights you up. Some people have a ballpark idea. Others have no clue. This is not unusual. There are exceptions. People who just know why they are here – but they are not common.
For some reason, people think that knowing their purpose should come automatically or easily. And when it doesn’t just appear on request, many people quickly give up. It seems the effort required to uncover their life purpose just feels too big and they quit before they even get started.
Not Knowing Feels Scary
Giving up allows us to avoid feelings of vulnerability, uncertainty and disappointment, which arise as soon as you begin to ponder the unknowns of your lurking passions.
The brain senses both importance and uncertainty and decides it’s better to remain in your comfort zone because it can feel scary to desire a purposeful life and then feel confused or unsure about what that would look like.
So the instinctive brain does its job and tries to protect you from any pain by shutting down your efforts to explore uncertain territory.
And that’s why we need to consciously employ our neocortex (our thinking brain) and reassure ourselves that we are not facing any real or serious danger – just feelings which we can easily learn to manage.
We need to manufacture confidence in the face of doubt. We need to hold onto hope when at times, it may feel hopeless. But we can use our big brain to help us with these tasks.
Here’s 3 ways to feel more confident as you face uncertainty:
1. Break the task down into more manageable steps (the smaller the better)
2. Identify what you stand to lose by remaining in your current situation
3. Identify what you stand to gain by making a change to your life
Yes, it will probably take some effort to discover what you want to do with the rest of your life, or how to turn your deepest passion into a fulfilling career. And you will likely feel some discomfort during the process.
Where There’s Effort, There’s Life…
Effort and discomfort exist in life anyway. In fact, I’d argue that doing a job you hate or living an uninspired life takes much more effort and brings much greater discomfort…and there are health issues too!
In fact, research studies have confirmed that people who don’t have a clear purpose are more likely to experience health issues such as heart attacks, strokes, dementia and alzheimers. Living without purpose also impacts your memory and has been linked with depression and suicide.
However, for some, these feelings of meaninglessness, frustration, boredom, dissatisfaction and depression are familiar, feel safer, and therefore, are preferable, over uncertainty and vulnerability.
Some people will always choose safety…and that’s their right to do so!
For the rest of us, it takes both courage and a willingness to be vulnerable to reap the rewards of a passionate, purposeful life. We cannot wait for courage to show up. We must engineer it for ourselves.
Effort vs Rewards
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing worth having comes easy.”
And a purposeful life definitely is “worth having”. There are just so many rewards that you experience as a result of spending your days engaged in things you are deeply passionate about, that align with your values and that you really enjoy.
We shouldn’t need science to tell us this – it’s obvious right? But for those who like proof…recent research does indeed confirm that people who do what they love are happier, healthier, more resilient and often achieve greater wealth than their unfulfilled counterparts.
These people have had the courage to look uncertainty in the face and say, “Any amount of discomfort is worth enduring for the possibility of living a meaningful and passionate existence.”