Many people can identify with the struggle to discover what their personal passion and life path truly is. Whether they’re just starting college or experienced professionals, the question of understanding and following one’s purpose is difficult to clearly define and articulate, much less take action on it.

Ask someone “What do you want to do?” and you’re often met with a deer in the headlights look. On the surface what we love and want out of life seems like it is simple to answer, but it rarely is.

Often, we’re caught up in the “shoulds”: I should stay in this stable job, I should stay in this industry because it’s where I’ve spent my career, I should be happy with what I have instead after going after what I really want. The problem with this type of thinking is that you’re not living your truth. If you’re not being authentic and honest with yourself, you can’t get to the root of your purpose.

If you’re ready to create the life you want and shed the baggage about who you “should” be and what you “should” do, there are five steps that form a path to your purpose.

Get Through the Fog

In order to find your true calling, you have to get really clear on who you are, what are your strengths and what makes your heart sing. This means you have to get past what other people-your parents, spouse or others think you should be and start writing your own story. Instead of seeking external validation and advice, you must start to tune into your own inner voice. This is hard to do because often we do everything we can to avoid sitting quietly with ourselves and seeing what comes up. Meditation can be one way to access your authentic self if you’re having difficulties.

I’ve found that a few questions can provide a good starting point to getting a clearer picture of who you really are:

  • What am I good at?
  • What are my innate talents?
  • What do my friends and family come to me for help with?
  • What am I doing when I feel like I’m in the flow?

Face the Fear Factor

Fear. It’s a sneaky, often subtle emotion that keeps you stuck. Stuck in a job you dislike, a relationship that isn’t working or even from positive things in your life that you’re too afraid to grab the brass ring and run with. When fear is in the driver’s seat, you’re not in control of your life. Fear keeps you from believing that what you’re dreaming of is possible. It’s your inner critic saying you’re not enough and that you can’t achieve what you want.

In order to kick fear to the curb and get back in the driver’s seat, you have to confront the fear and look past the constraints it currently has on you.

Here are some questions to get you thinking about what could be possible if you can push past your fears:

  • What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
  • What have I wanted to do but been too afraid to do?
  • What do I believe is preventing me from following my dream?
  • What does my ideal day look like?

Make a Difference

A funny thing about our purpose is that it’s almost always tied to other people. What you’re meant to do on this earth isn’t just about making you happy, it’s about using your unique gifts to help others in some way. This sometimes deflates people because when they hear that, they feel like they have to do something on a national or global scale to have an impact. However, that is not the case. Helping one person is making a difference. And there are many ways that following your purpose can help others. Perhaps you are meant to inspire people through writing or maybe by designing beautiful spaces or cooking amazing food. Everyone’s purpose is different. What matters most is to understand and follow your own purpose and create impact using your own unique talents.

As you’re working through the questions to clarify your purpose, consider how you can make an impact on the world today and what kind of legacy you’d like to leave.

Define Your Mission

Once you’ve worked through the fog and fear and determined the type of impact you’d like to have on the world, it’s time to craft a personal mission statement. Take what you’ve discovered and see if you can put it into a few sentences – or even a drawing – something that sums it all up. It just needs to be something that you can reference and that can help keep you on track as you make changes to fulfill your purpose.

Don’t get hung up on feeling like it needs to be perfect. It’s not set in stone. Your mission statement is always a work in progress. As you move towards the purpose that you have defined, your statement will evolve. Your mission statement should be a high-level plan to help you transition from where you are now to fully living in your purpose.

Just Do It

Once you’ve done the work of determining your purpose, now it’s time to live it. This might mean you find a new career, start a business, find a new place to live, revitalize a relationship or leave a bad situation. Perhaps you can’t dive into your new life because you need time to save up money or plan for a future move and that’s ok. Just start wading in step by step.

Living your purpose isn’t confined to one area of your life. Being your authentic self means that your personal life and professional life are congruent with your purpose. Here’s an example: let’s say you’re super passionate about working in technology as well as working with high school kids and improving the education system. Your current job (that you love!) is at a tech company but you don’t get to work with kids. Here’s how you could solve that: You could add volunteer work mentoring high school kids in your community or join the board of a non-profit focused on education.

There are always ways to weave in your purpose. Sometimes it means a major life change, other times your purpose simply requires thinking outside the box and making small shifts.

You’ve only got one life, stop living it for anyone other than your authentic self.