Your purpose typically isn’t something fixed, like a GPS coordinate, the chemical composition of oxygen or adorableness of Reese Witherspoon. As you grow and change, it is going to evolve as well.
When I was in my early 20s, my purpose was all wrapped up in career aspirations. Maybe the big hair and Dynasty-inspired shoulder pads we all wore warped my brain, but I decided the key to happiness was becoming a Vice President at a big company by the time I was 32 years old. That oddly specific goal was completely based on ego and how others defined a successful career path. Ironically, I did get offered that very opportunity at that very age, and turned it down. Because I had outgrown it as my purpose started to expand.
In my 30s and early 40s, purpose was about using my powers of communication for good. Representing great companies and people I believed in, influencing corporations to explore corporate social responsibility programs and more that could make the world a better place. But I continued to place too much emphasis on what others thought. Racked up awards, had a PR firm with my name on the door and occupied a fancy office space — until the last recession brought it all crashing down.
By my 50th birthday, I learned to follow my inner compass over the voices of others. It was a relief to trust and listen to myself, getting clear about what mattered most. Today my purpose is to help people claim the life they deserve. To get unstuck, activate their full potential and unleash their inner rock star. This goes way beyond what I do for a living as a corporate communications executive. I’m passionate about serving as a catalyst for personal and professional growth and well-being, whether that impacts one individual who finally sees what is possible or a business that realizes a positive culture and employee engagement are equally as important as profits in defining their success.
The 30-year evolution of my purpose went from focusing on me to “we” — the well-being of others and the community overall. As a result, I am happier and more fulfilled.
Ready to embrace your evolving purpose? Here are three steps that may help:
Make time for reflection. Understanding yourself is key in becoming clear about your purpose. Get curious about what matters, who you are and why you are here. Post those questions to yourself and journal until you have answers from your authentic self that aren’t influenced by others. Consider partnering with a friend or a professional, like a coach or therapist, to help you explore what purpose means to you today and how it could potentially evolve.
Seek new challenges. Pushing yourself to try new things expands your self-image and belief in what you can achieve. For example, this year I’m focusing on finishing my book project; learning yin-yoga to counter-balance more intense strength training and cardio; and am figuring out how to use my smartphone for self-generated videos, despite a natural lack of tech-savviness.
Gravitate towards meaning. Getting older has made me treat time like the precious commodity it is. Rather than hang out at a cocktail party, I’d rather have deep conversations with a friend or two over dinner. When driving home from work, I listen to audio books that inspire me instead of music. In the same way that I used to crave a slab of chocolate cake, I now gravitate towards meaningful experiences and interactions. Determine what is meaningful for you and make more time for it.
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