What's My Purpose? Steinem Quote

Career counseling for high school and college students these days often consists of sitting down in front of a computer and logging onto a site that offers screen after screen of multiple choice questions (like one of those personality quizzes in fashion magazines) that are scored to determine what that student’s ideal career path would be.

The Big Dream of Your Life

Those tests are fairly accurate as far as matching skills and jobs go. But there’s more to finding one’s dharma, true purpose, or vocation than that.

The best guidance I ever received in this regard came from my karate sensei when I was in my early twenties. She told me: “Find the place where your talents and the world’s need intersect.”

Now that was good advice.

That question rang in my mind for decades, through many career trajectories and changes. Since that time I’ve been a lifeguard, a baker, a co-op grocery store manager, a journalist, a poetry teacher in a school for teen moms, an English professor, an author, a workshop leader, a dreamworker and the director of the Institute for Dream Studies.

Looking back, I could say I’ve done it: I’ve found the career path that’s unique to me and to what I felt the world, or at least the part I occupy, was in need of.

But now I see that running alongside my career path, there was another path, too. During all those years of striving toward defining my place in the world of work, doing, and achieving, there were other job descriptions and accomplishments I was experiencing, too, though they didn’t fit on my resume. I was a daughter, a sister, friend, partner, spouse, and mother. I was doing the work of loving, accepting, forgiving, asking forgiveness, becoming courageous, humble, confident, and resilient. Sadly, though, at many times along the way, these roles and projects of the heart seemed like distractions from what I considered to be the big work of my life: achieving career success.

So, the answer to the question, “What is my life’s purpose?” has evolved over the years. In the end, I have come to believe that my life’s purpose is not unique. In fact it is simple, ordinary, and universal: It is to love.

Sure, the world needs dreams, and poetry, and teachers, too. (And doctors, taxi drivers, accountants, custodians, and brick-layers ….) But everything, it turns out, can be fueled by our love for the people and the world around us. Perhaps our greatest purpose of all is to learn to love ourselves and to accept love that is offered, even when it doesn’t arrive in the form we thought we needed.

It won’t necessarily show up on your resume or LinkedIn profile, but putting love into action as we follow our chosen career path—that for me is the essence of finding one’s true purpose.

Combine that love-mission with a new career path that suits your talents, or the career path that you are already on, and you will have truly accomplished something big and grand—no matter the size of your paycheck or the number of impressive bullet points on your resume.


Finding Your Dream Job

To find your dream job, or your life’s purpose, call on the power of your subconscious mind, including your dreams, imagination, and creativity. Here are some web sites that offer fun and engaging techniques for discovering, defining and/or refining your true calling: