Steps for Pursuing Purpose

More Art than Science

If we were created for purpose, why do we struggle recognizing it?

Finding my purpose hasn’t been easy and I don’t think I’m completely there. Instead of knowing my purpose, I feel like I pursing it.

Many excellent resources are available both online and offline to help with purpose and values discovery. Some of the resources can be quite expensive, even offering retreat experiences. Other resources, such as blogs and online articles, are free. Coaches and gurus will help us as well.

Finding resources will only get us so far. Our environment plays a vital role as well. We can have the best resources, but being able to focus and limit distractions can make or break our ability to discern our purpose.

Here are some important steps which aid in our pursuit of purpose:

Find Time

We live in in a time compressed culture. Schedules burst at the seams with work, family, church, social gatherings, entertainment, and other activities. With so many opportunities given to us, saying no can be difficult.

When we don’t know our purpose, we say yes to too many activities, tasks, and appointments. An over-full schedule leaves no time for discovery. Not setting appropriate time inhibits uninterrupted time for thinking and reflection.

One challenge is finding time to step back from the busyness and get a broader view of life. We have to step aside, get off the merry-go-round, and set aside time to reflect and think. Our first purposeful exercise must be setting aside time.

Quiet the Noise

Blocks of uninterrupted time are essential because our minds are as full as our schedules. We are filled with so much noise, we have trouble listening. When we schedule large blocks of uninterrupted time, we are create space for thought, reflection, listening to our life, and discernment.

Voices, internal and external, swirl around us, telling us who we should be and what we should do. Our sense of purpose gets lost in the cacophony. With so many voices, we can’t hear the still small voice deep within us calling us to purpose.

Silencing our internal chatter brings clarity. We do not create silence, we enter into it. Entering into silence is simple, but not easy. Quieting internal noise is more difficult than quieting external noise. Our mind continues non-stop.

The only way to combat our inner voices is through focus. Once we notice that we have lost focus, we bring ourselves back to the task at hand; finding clarity about our purpose.

David Allen’s Six Horizons of Focus may be helpful in finding focus. We begin at the “runway” since runway issues are take most of our focus, and move through each level, ending with our ultimate question; Why are we here?

The Six Horizons of Focus

  • Runway: We are usually stuck on the runway. The “runway” is our current schedule and everything we have to get done. Feel free to write down anything that comes to mind while thinking at this level. One of David Allen’s principles is to get everything out of your head. Once runway projects are out of our head, their “chatter” stops bringing focus.
  • 10,000 Feet: The 10,000 foot level are projects. What must be finished? What are we working on? Again, writing these projects down, whether they are current projects or “someday/maybe” projects will help our focus at other levels.
  • 20,000 Feet: The 20,000 foot level is job responsibilities. What are we required to do right now? What is creating all our projects? Sometimes we have five, six, or more responsibilities. Our responsibilities feed our projects. Knowing our responsibilities gives us clarity in our job.
  • 30,000 Feet: The 30,0000 foot level is our future job or role. Over the next next year or two, how will our job and role change? Roles within our job change over time. Where are we going?
  • 40,000 Feet: The 40,000 foot level is address the industry or company. Culture changes. The climate where we operate changes. Where are things heading for our company or industry? Are changes needed today, to be prepared for the future?
  • 50,000 Feet: Finally, Allen describes the 50,000 foot level as your ultimate bigger picture. What are you on the earth to do? This, my friend, is your purpose.

This outline is only a brief overview. These horizons move us toward a bigger picture of our life. As we write down our tasks, projects, thoughts, and reflections, focus comes. Chatter quiets down and we begin seeing our purpose.

Pursue Your Purpose

Perhaps you are beginning to sense that discovering your purpose will take some time. Yes. Yes, it will.

We don’t end up at the 50,000 foot level by accident. We must be intentional and set aside time. Strategic questions can help (see below), but in order to answer these questions, we must have time to think and reflect.

I’m not convinced even sitting aside a weekend is enough time to gain clarity. Clarity comes over time. Finding purpose is a pursuit that we may never finish.

Live Your Purpose

One of my coaching goals is to help clients discover their “why” because knowing their why helps them to know their purpose. Sadly, many people go through life never knowing their why or even caring. When we don’t know our why, we don’t know what to do and what to leave undone. We react to life rather than prepare for life. If we don’t know what our purpose, there’s a good chance we are living a life of quiet desperation.

While I have focused on setting time aside for thinking and reflection, in the end, action moves us into our purpose. We think and reflect to see connections between our actions and our passions. We ask question such as, “I feel most alive when I…?” or, “If money wasn’t an issue and I could do anything, I would…”

Our actions are key indicators of our passion and values, both vital in discerning our “why”. Some may argue that doing is more important than reflection, however, as Socrates said, “The unexamined life isn’t worth living.”

Remaining Open

Clarity unfolds over time. After spending focused time in reflection, we may believe we have found our purpose and it will never change. We must remain open to new discoveries. Each experience we have shapes us and draws us further into purpose. We must not assume that after a day or two we know our unchanging purpose.

While I want a map that shows my purpose, I’m given a compass that points toward purpose. Bill George’s classic Discover Your True North discusses purpose as finding our “true north”. A map would be nice, but we don’t get one.

Creating space in our lives to think, reflect, and pray, we are able to discover and begin following our “True North.”

Questions

Here are some questions while pursuing purpose.

1) What excites me?
2) What brings me pleasure?
3) What makes me angry?
4) What am I willing to sacrifice for?
5) What can I do with my time that is important?
6) If I didn’t have a job, what would I do?
7) What was I passionate about as a child?

Action Steps

  • Take control of your schedule by creating space to pursue purpose.
  • Set aside time for the Six Horizons of Focus.
  • Do a search on the web for questions to help with finding purpose.
  • Schedule some time to _do_ your purpose.
  • Experiment.
  • Live life.

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