Have you ever walked around your house looking for your keys? You retrace your steps, check the pockets of the pants you wore the day before, ask your family members, and just when you’re about to freak out you realize they’ve been in your hand the entire time?

This is how it is when you “discover” your purpose. Even though you may have read a book or ten on how to discover your purpose, the truth of the matter is that it was never hidden. Don’t feel bad though because most everyone goes through this. I know I did.

Sometimes it seems like finding your purpose is a never ending game of hide-and-seek. Everything in your life seems random and disconnected, but here’s what I’ve found; When you get to the place where you stop trying to force everything, and stop thinking “I have to make this happen”, things begin to change. It isn’t that you stop putting forth any effort, you just stop trying to control everything, which is something you could never do in the first place. That’s when the dots begin to appear. You begin to see commonalities in your life, things that you love and enjoy that are deeply meaningful to you. The more you look the more you notice these dots. When a new one appears you take notice immediately. Start connecting the dots and a picture begins to take form, and this picture is a clue about your purpose.

The way in which purpose is defined nowadays causes some confusion I think. It seems that the word has come to mean some kind of specialized mission that was determined for you before the dawn of time and is waiting to descend upon you from the sky above, but only after years of painful searching. I am happy to report that this is not the case.

Think of “Life Purpose” as meaning the particular set of skills, gifts and talents that you possess. It is also that “thing” that compels you, or that you feel inexplicably drawn toward. It excites you to the point that, when you’re doing it, you lose all track of time. It doesn’t even matter to you that you don’t get paid for it because it’s just a part of who you are. If you want to discover what your purpose is, you have to look beyond the roles (father, maid, scientist, truck driver, employee etc.) you play each day. 

The best way I know to explain this is to share from personal experience:

In my life I have played many roles. I have been a construction worker, mechanic, musician, salesman, parent, and writer. These are things I have done, but none of these things define who I am as a human being. They do not define how I think or feel. They do not define how I treat other people or view life. They are roles I have played and none of them were the motivating force behind my actions. Many people have played the same roles, but in very different ways. What defined me was how I played those roles, and how I influenced those I came into contact with.

What helped me to “discover my purpose” is that, over time, I began to recognize certain things about each role that got me excited and made me feel like I was making a difference. I began to see that I experienced the greatest sense of purpose and fulfillment when I was supporting another in some way. One of my strongest gifts is that of encouragement. Another is the ability to take a life principle and apply it to situations quickly. Still another is reconciliation. In these ways I have been able to help many people. This is my “life purpose”, or the particular set of gifts, skills and talents that enable me to support, encourage or guide those who need it. In this way I change the world around me. 

I take my purpose into every situation and I do it without even thinking about it. The role may change, and it may change often, but my mission remains constant. The different roles I play are simply a medium that I use to express my purpose. For example:  A guitar is a medium of expression. I can use a guitar to express the music that is inside of me and so can you. The music that I play will likely differ greatly from yours. The difference isn’t the guitar, it’s just a tool. The difference is the person playing it.

Many people live their lives every day without a thought as to what they can do to make the world a better place. It’s so easy to get caught up in yourself, your daily habits, your job, and never use your unique gifts. When you become intimately aware of the gifts, skills, and talents that you possess, everything changes. Every day becomes  important and so will every person you meet and every job you perform. Every day becomes joyous and filled with meaning. It will permeate every area of your life and it won’t matter what role you’re playing. 

When your role changes, you’ll find another way to use your gifts. You can live them out in a million different ways. The medium you use to express them isn’t that important, it’s what you express that matters.

“Purpose” can seem like a mysterious thing that is difficult to discover, but in the end it’s just who you are.

“The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.”

Richard Leider