“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” ~David Viscott
You are a seeker. Searching for more of life. More joy. More depth. More connection. More happiness.
Our generation is not willing to settle for meaningless existence. Just to get by, just to keep it all together. It doesn’t interest us any more.
We want more freedom. Especially in the realm of our work.
But it can seem like a long road between ‘here’ and ‘there.’ From this job, from this life into… the unknown.
We know there is deeper purpose to fulfill, so we start to ask ourselves the question…
What Would Make Me Happy?
Four years ago I started asking myself this question. And I was coming up with nothing. Silence. Not good.
I was working as a successful hospital pharmacist, moving up the ladder into management. I made great money and was well respected and efficient. But I was unhappy.
My professional dissatisfaction had become physical, and my body was speaking to me with symptoms of severe nausea. Sugar consumption was at an all time high and I had to get out.
But where to go? What would make me happy? What would I rather do?
I had no idea.
If you too are at career and life crossroads, you are likely asking yourself this question too. What would make you happy?
And perhaps, like me, you won’t be able to answer the question at first. Or, if you do dream up a solution it involves distant countries, foreign adventures, and escape. And in your heart you know that’s not the answer.
You desire a life that you don’t need a holiday to “escape from.”
You desire a life that is the destination.
When I first asked myself this question—what would make me happy?—the hospital pharmacist had no clue.
I was going through the motions of life and finding pleasure in its various pursuits, but there was nothing that really lit me up. Nothing that really sang to my heart.
And I was frustrated. How was I so numb to life that I couldn’t answer the simple question in a meaningful, not just fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of way?
So I rephrased the question from “What would make me happy?” to something more achievable. What am I curious about?
I removed the pressure for this next job to be “the thing that made me happy” and I created space for possibility.
Every single possibility that sparked a trace of passion or happiness was followed, and it looked like:
Could I sell antiques? Let me investigate… Perhaps organizing weddings? Or bake bliss balls?
Maybe I could be a yoga teacher? The list goes on…
And something remarkable began to happen. I found the more I explored, the more I got to know myself again.
The more I discovered what didn’t make me happy, the closer to joy I felt.
The more I became sensitized to what really lit me up, the clearer my direction felt.
By this stage the desire for change was relentless. The pain of going on, in the current incarnation of my work, was greater than the fear of stepping into the unknown.
And so I stepped. I reduced my pharmacy job hours and I created space for more possibility, more curiosity, and more purpose to flow into my life.
When we are busy, the sheer inertia of our day often takes over. Our habits of keeping everything on track, worshiping the goddess of busy, and forgetting to prioritize our pleasure become the norm.
And these are the same habits that we see to re-write.
But re-calibration needs space to occur.
Just like downloading new software to your computer, and waiting for the re-boot to happen, this upgrade takes time. And patience. And the screen will go black for a while.
We have to be open and willing to sit in the black void while the download is received, while the new paradigm is created. We have to create the space for desire to arrive.
And keeping busy doesn’t create space. It just creates more of the same.
Essentially, if you keep on doing what you’re doing, you will keep on getting what you’re getting.
Stop Reward Consuming and Clear Your Debt
At this point in my journey, and in the journey of so many others, money always comes up as ‘the thing.’
I have expenses. I have a mortgage. I couldn’t possibly live on any less income. It feels risky.
I hear you.
But what price do you place on your joy?
Consider this. The busy paradigm most us live in isn’t overflowing with joy or purpose. So we learn to compensate with treating ourselves to this restaurant, that holiday, this new wardrobe, and that green smoothie every time we are out.
We find rewards to compensate for our unhappiness, because our consumption increases proportional to our dissatisfaction with life.
These ‘rewards’ become just that. Rewards. To keep our heads above the surface in a career or life or relationship we don’t otherwise find joyful.
What if, with the creation of space and the following of your curiosities, you could create more joy, with less stuff?
I’m not saying that your new joy-filled job is going to pay less. In fact, I would argue that you will probably earn more (I do). But in the short term, your change of direction takes investment. Investment in yourself.
During my own transition period of creating more space and following my curiosities there were two essential and practical outcomes:
- I stopped mindlessly consuming. I started investing solely in myself and what nurtured me.
- I cleared my debts so I felt free to follow my desires, wherever they led.
And with time, space, and curiosity I felt ready to face the big question.
What Is My Purpose?
I started to feel into: What is this concept that we call purpose? How did she get it? And how can I get there?
So many nights I sat with this question.
During one of these soul-searching nights I read a quote from the Dali Lama where he said, “The purpose of life is to be happy,” and I realized the truth.
No one job can define my purpose. No one choice, or label, or career can be my purpose.
Purpose cannot be defined by one thing. Purpose is a choice that I make every day. A choice about how I show up in the world.
When I show up with my heart open and I follow my desires, my truth, my passion, my happiness and I share that with the world, I am living my purpose.
Purpose = sharing my passion with the world.
This definition of purpose isn’t restricted to one career or one choice. It’s a simple choice every day.
I can show up as pharmacist Jenna sharing my passion and live a life of purpose.
I can show up as kinesiologist Jenna sharing my passion and live a life of purpose.
Which means the more I open my heart, the more I follow my passion, the more I serve through that passion, the more purpose I find in life.
But following your passion might not manifest as a career at first. Because purpose is more than a job.
It’s a way of living.
And often when seeking transformation, the change has to happen within before it manifests out in the world.
Connecting with your deep passion, which knows how to answer the question “what would make me happy?” fills you up from within. And when that vessel is full, it overflows.
Into the service of others and into jobs and careers and meaning in the world.
Which is what we are seeking. More joy. More depth. More connection. More happiness.
You are the only one who can make the choice, the space, the commitment.
Man working on the beach image via Shutterstock