How do I find my purpose in life?

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I was recently engaged in an interesting conversation.  The young person was just starting college, and was already a spiritual seeker.  He was looking for a good path in life, and was confused by the contradictory messages he was getting from different sources and teachings regarding life purpose.

Established spiritual traditions with long history, such as Buddhism, seemed to tell him that everyone pretty much had the same main purpose, which in the case of Buddhism is to awaken, or attain enlightenment.  While focusing on awakening, seekers often dismissed some of our normal everyday life experiences and human needs as "distractions on the path" or "that which causes suffering".

Modern nondual teachings, such as those of Eckhart Tolle and Adyashanti, seemed to tell the young guy that our purpose, or meaning of life, is to just Be.  Tolle says something to the effect of, "What meaning do you need when you have Being? The concept of and need for meaning fades when we're awakened and living from a place of Being rather than Doing."  Taking a more life-affirming stance, these teachings inspire us to treasure everyday life experiences equally as an expression of the same One Consciousness that we are.

Being a little more concrete, "soul-based" disciplines and various psychics insisted that each of us had special gifts, and some paths in life were better aligned with our soul purpose than others.  In Akashic studies in particular, it is taught that each of us carries a unique set of gifts, and the soul wants to express itself through its human experience mainly by using those gifts, which means our purpose in life is simply to live and work in such a way that allows us to use our unique soul qualities to the max.  To make matters even more confusing, some intuitives claimed that our purpose was divinely predetermined and everything was planned before we were born, while others insisted that we were free to choose whatever we wanted to do in life.

And life coaches and motivational speakers insisted that the young guy choose a path based on his unique, subjective interests and passions in this life, no matter how they were formed, while also taking into consideration the kind of lifestyle he wanted to live.

I could understand the guy's confusion as I myself have been exposed to a variety of different perspectives on purpose over the years.

So how could a spiritual person looking for their path and purpose reconcile those contradicting messages? 

Firstly, I think that these are not truly opposing statements, but are simply different perspectives that look at reality from different dimensions of our being.  All these perspectives can, in fact, coexist.  We may choose work that uses our soul's primary gifts and focuses on our subjective interests and passions, and at the same time realize that we are more connected to the Source while doing the work that our soul is cut out for, and we can certainly continue to pursue our spiritual development so we can awaken more and more.

While we don't really have to choose just one view on purpose and discard the rest - and I believe that no position is invalid - one view may serve you better at a certain stage of your personal development, while another may be helpful later on.

Walk me through the process

"I want to know my purpose" is one of the most common intentions folks bring to intuitive readings with me.  Most of the time, finding one's purpose translates into choosing a career or, at the very least, into a confirmation that one is on "the right path".  While purpose is not always about work, let's look at it from that angle for a moment.

Each of us may arrive at the realization of our purpose in a different way, ranging from a moment of deep insight to a lengthy process of consciously weighing our options and choosing one path.  For me personally, it was quite a struggle to find my path in life, and that process included both conscious deliberations and turning to the realm of Spirit for answers.

I'll offer my suggestions on how you can go about finding your purpose and choosing your path, based on my work with the Akashic Records and personal experience.

Our soul-level purpose

In Akashic studies, we believe that even though we all are expressions of the Divine, of the One Source, we are all unique expressions of it.  Each soul carries a set of very specific energetic qualities, or gifts, and it wants to express itself through its human experience mainly by using those gifts.

For majority of us, our purpose in life is simply to live and work in such a way that allows us to use our unique soul qualities and gifts to the max.  That deep sense of fulfillment comes when our soul gets to do what it's "designed for". 

On the energetic level, when we use our gifts in what we do and how we do it, a lot of creative energy from the Source flows to us, which ultimately leads to success and abundance, so that's a practical case for aligning to our soul's nature.  To give you an example, if at soul level you have the gift of authentic self-expression through language, you can have great abundance and fulfillment if the work you do involves a lot of writing or speaking, but if you choose to work as a builder or artist instead, which use very different energetic qualities, you may have to work very hard to create the same level of abundance that someone who's a builder or artist at soul level can achieve more easily.

Besides your energy qualities and gifts, in Akashic readings we also look at things like your soul's deeper drives and natural "skillsets".  You may be a charismatic leader by nature, or you may be very gifted at improving things, or you may be driven to work tirelessly to bring consciousness and empowerment into the darkest corners of society...  You may be a natural healer, or an explorer/pioneer, or a person who can easily see how all pieces work together in a system...  There are lots of helpful clues available to us at soul level!

I do believe that even when we consciously don't remember our soul purpose, or are even confused as to our true identity, deep inside we somehow know our own gifts and drives (which may be very different from what we currently do for work or fun!).  You can figure them out on your own by contemplating what you're effortlessly good at and what activities make you get "in the flow" and lose track of time, asking friends and family what you're most gifted at, and writing lists of what abstract qualities and activities your work must involve in order for you to feel satisfied.  By the way, listing what you don't want in your work is just as revealing! 

Just recently I was shocked to find a list like that, which I wrote long before I knew anything about Akashic readings, and the list expressed exactly what my work needed to include in order for my soul's gifts to be expressed.  Even though I struggled for the longest time to find my path, apparently something deep inside always knew, in very abstract terms, who I really was.  

Narrow it down

Now, does your soul or your Akashic Record tell you what kind of books you need to write, what topics you need to focus on as an inspirational speaker, or what kind of art you need to create?  For majority of us, it doesn't!  It's totally up to you how to use your gift of language (or healing, or building...)

This brings us to the second step of finding your path, and that is choosing exactly how to use your gifts, because there are so many different things you can do with the same gift!

This is where I would suggest looking at your unique, subjective interests and passions.  Would you be more excited about writing fiction or blogging on metaphysical topics or maybe even writing news articles about the latest technology?  Which idea makes you feel more enthusiastic?

Notice that earlier I said that majority of us are free to choose how to use our gifts.  There's a small percentage of souls who are born into this life with a very specific mission.  They don't have time for playful self-expression: they have a job to do on the planet.  These folks will usually be very driven by something specific (and mostly likely won't be reading this article!), but I just wanted to mention that for these rare souls, we can actually "read" exactly what their purpose is.  But for the rest of us, neither our Akashic Record nor our Spirit Guides will tell us what exactly to do with our life, so we still have some choosing to do!

Another thing to consider here is the work environment and "mode" of work that would suit you best: do you thrive when surrounded by chatty coworkers all day or do you need lots of space?  Do you have to be able to set your own hours and work on short-term projects (entrepreneur/freelancer) or are you happy with a regular schedule and consistent workload (employee)?  Do you want to go deeper in a single direction or do you crave variety in whatever you do?

And then there's real life

I'm sure you've heard plenty of statements like "follow your heart and it will all work out", although recently there's been a few folks speaking out in favor of being a little more practical in our approach to choosing our career path.  While I do see how things tend to work out for those who are well aligned to their purpose and work really hard, even if they start out as starving artists, I see value in taking into account practical considerations when choosing our path, because we do want to set ourselves up for success and avoid unnecessary struggle.

Firstly, if you're considering several paths that look equally appealing, why not choose one for which there's a greater need in the society and one that promises higher or more stable income?  Someone said that our purpose lies at the intersection of our gifts/passions and what other people need - I think that's a good way to look at it! 

That's the obvious consideration.  A less obvious one is, what do you want your day to look like, and how much time and energy do you want to allocate to family, hobbies, travel, cooking, and other life areas and activities that are important to you?

What helped me tremendously with this is a class developed by two professional designers at Stanford University called "Designing Your Life", which I will link at the bottom.  They apply methodology called design thinking to the process of choosing a fulfilling path in life.  A novel idea, you're probably thinking.  Being a design junkie, I happily jumped in to try it, and it didn't disappoint!  The instructors walk us through the process of considering everything that matters to us in life and assigning priorities to those activities, and then we prototype what our day would look like and what our next 5 years would look like in great detail, and we do that for each of the several paths we are considering.

Trust me, when you actually map out your daily schedule and your realistic 5-year plan, the number of options (which all looked so great at the idea stage) will shrink significantly!  You may find that one path will put you in school and part-time work for 14 hours a day for the next 3 years, and you won't have nearly enough time for your family, will have to outsource most of your house chores, and will be left with virtually zero time to be alone, which is not a healthy option for an empath or someone who needs lots of time and space to be alone and unwind and has a family to take care of!

Thinking through your options realistically and visualizing what they'll look like as your everyday reality will definitely highlight the benefits and flaws of various paths you're considering that you may have overlooked until now.

Interestingly, following this methodical-sounding process ends up bringing up what we subconsciously already know but may not consciously realize, as well as what we truly feel about our options, and we are encouraged to make our final choice based on that gut feeling that tells the truth about which path is really "the one". 

Dip your toes

And once you've narrowed it down to one or two paths that are a great fit, try to get a little taste before committing to something full-time, if that's possible: take a class, volunteer, work part-time in the target field.  See if you'll be happy doing this for the next few years.  Please don't plan for a whole lifetime: these days, an average person changes their career several times during their life anyway!  We shouldn't miss an opportunity to do something exciting now just because we don't see ourselves doing that 20 years later!  Some professions will cease to exist by then anyway. :)  Also, don't stay in the testing phase for too long - at some point you have to make a choice! 

Purpose is not always about career

Many of us look at purpose as almost synonymous with career path.  And for many of us, what we do professionally is a huge part of life and the primary way to express our nature and soul-level gifts.  However, that is not true for everyone.

At times, we'll fail to find one career path and end up doing many different jobs during our lifetime (raising kids, being a cook or nanny for other families, being a personal assistant to someone...), but if we look at the big picture, we may find that there's a common theme in all those seemingly random gigs.  That theme may be caring for others at the basic level, or improving everything we touch, or bringing harmony and a non-judgmental space of healing and clarity into situations and relationships.  We may be regretting not getting that college degree to pursue a high-flying career, all the while actually doing our exact soul purpose!

Sometimes the purpose of our life is to go through a tough challenge.  It is believed that while the future is not predetermined, our soul does plan its upcoming incarnation, including major life events, who our family members will be, and the lessons we want to learn, or rather the themes we want to experience during this incarnation (abundance, confidence, tenacity, etc).  It could be that in this life our soul chose to go through a very traumatic event for the sake of our spiritual growth, and that event and the ensuing path to healing (and possibly later helping others in the same boat heal) will be the "purpose" of this incarnation, rather than the profession we happened to acquire during this lifetime.  The soul may still use its primary soul gifts (language, visual arts, healing, caring for others) in how it deals with the situation.

There are whole soul groups out there whose overall mission is to promote consciousness, which they do by going to the "darkest places" in our society and trying to spread light from inside of very desperate situations.  These souls will often incarnate into situations of abuse, drug addiction, poverty, human trafficking and so on, and so the person may not have the opportunity to contemplate their career choices – they'll be primarily working on dealing with the disempowering situation in which they ended up, getting out, healing, and then going back to create change or raising awareness of a specific issue in the society.  That will be the primary purpose of many of these souls' lifetimes, and what they choose to do for a living would be secondary to that.

Sorry, the choice is still yours

So let's say you've followed all the suggestions, you know your soul-level gifts and high-level purpose, but you either have several passions you refuse to let go of that cannot be easily combined in one path, or you're not particularly passionate about any of the potential paths you see for yourself.  What do you do?

What you should NOT do is wait – wait for the Universe to give you a sign or wait for someone else to make the decision for you.

Avoidance of making a decision can take many forms.  Here are some common traps:

  1. Asking your family and friends what they think you should do.  While it can be very helpful to hear others' insights on your gifts and strengths, asking them to make the final decision for you is an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for your life.  If we're honest with ourselves, we may see that what we really want to avoid is responsibility for choosing our path knowing that there's a chance it may not work out and we may regret our decision.  Trust me on this: when you find yourself miserable in your career, it's a much more bitter pill to swallow when you know that you allowed someone else to choose this wrong path for you.
     
  2. Getting 10 readings from 10 different psychics, asking them what you should do with your life.  An input from one reputable psychic is great, from two is okay.  When you get more and they all differ, this can leave you very confused!  There's a peculiar thing about psychic readings: our intention (conscious and unconscious) often influences the information we receive.  If you've heard the same thing from three psychics and you're going to yet another one, your intention is "I'm not sure I believe the first three", which the Universe can interpret as "I want to hear something different this time".  Chances are, you will hear something different, it will create doubt in all the guidance you have previously received, and will not get you any closer to making a decision.
     

  3. Asking your Spirit Guides what you should do.  Not productive!  Your Guides won't tell you what to do, because they cannot interfere with your Free Will.  They operate based on your intention, so they'll be waiting patiently for you to make a decision on where you want to go, and then they'll help guide you to that goal.

    They can, however, put helpful hints and resources in your way if you stray far from your soul's general plan for this life, to kind of seed an idea of another possible path in your mind.  You are still free not to act on those hints, and your Guides will just have to accept whatever decision you make.

    A productive way to get help from your Guides in this matter would be to ask them how congruent each of the paths you're considering is to your soul's nature and your life plan.
     

  4. Dipping your toes into several things to see what sticks.  You may be considering several possibilities and are spending a little time on each here and there while keeping your day job, hoping that one of your hobbies will eventually start to shine brighter than the others, or even become an overnight success, and then that will be your answer.

    While nothing is impossible, here's the most likely outcome of this scenario: you'll receive a few positive signs for each of your endeavors, without achieving outstanding results (read: abundance) in any of them.  You may understand that as the Universe telling you that all those paths are open to you and maybe you should stay engaged in all of them, while promising no instant success in any one path.  That doesn't get you closer to a decision, does it?

    One of my teachers explained this situation in the following way: when we keep investing energy in several different (incompatible to each other) possible paths by taking action here and there, several possible futures are kept open for us on an energetic level.  However, imagine taking three steps right, two steps left, and maybe a step forward: you won't make much of a progress in any particular direction!

    When you scatter your energy that way, the Universe cannot support you that well in your efforts.  But once you make a choice, close the other possible paths, and commit your energy to the one chosen path (or two congruent paths that are going in the same general direction), then the Universe will be able to bring you the opportunities you need, as your focused actions work to shift your energetic state in one specific direction (successful writer, successful coach, etc).
     

  5. Waiting for a sign from the Universe while being stuck where you are.  You'll be waiting forever!  Why?  Because the Universe is waiting for you to make that decision!

    I am no stranger to this trap.  There was a time when I was torn between two possible paths to take in life.  I had quit my first career as an engineer and was considering two completely different new directions, where I would be starting pretty much from scratch.  It was a scary choice: I couldn't predict how things would work out in either case; there were pros and cons to each of the two; I had talents in both.  I was stuck, hoping and waiting for a sign from the Universe to tell me which way to go (while dabbling in both). 

    One day I received an intuitive reading, and was told that my main challenge in this life was actually to choose a path without being given much external guidance.  Apparently, the soul had set up a test for itself around a certain level of learning, and I had to use everything I'd learned so far to make that decision on my own.  Nothing was going to move until I made that choice, but once the choice was made, the Universe would be able to start helping me on that path. 

    Now, this is not everyone's life challenge, however I think this does apply to everyone to some degree.  We all have the gift of Free Will and we are here for the purpose of self-expression, so why would the Universe decide for you what path to take?  Wouldn't it be very limiting if everything was decided for us beforehand?  (As I mentioned earlier, there is one exception to this rule, and that is the rare souls who agree to incarnate with a very specific mission and are not here to play around.)
     

Don't put off making a decision because you're afraid to make "the wrong choice".  Any one of the possible paths that you have at this point carefully selected is a great choice, and that choice is way better than staying in a career you hate!  You will always have an opportunity to course-correct or even completely change your direction again at a later point.  And if down the road you find yourself unhappy with the path you chose, there will be a new set of options available to you, so stop waiting for the perfect answer: pick something now and let go of the rest of the options, or at least demote them to the hobby status. 

    A few words on passion

    We've been conditioned to believe that every person will find something they're passionate about, and their passion will point at their purpose.  That's actually another trap of sorts.  Not everyone will find a passion in this life.  Or ever.  And that's OK!

    It just happens that some souls have a very neutral, non-reactive nature, or don't really get attached to anything, including their own goals and interests.  For such souls, it's simply not natural to feel strongly about things.  If they don't understand that about themselves, they may think there's something wrong with them and run around trying to find something to be passionate about.  In fact, their neutrality or detachment may be the gift they bring into this world.  These souls should allow themselves to make their career choices based on logical and rational reasons rather than emotions. 

    On the other hand, one could be a Renaissance Personality with multiple passions or interests, none of which they're willing to uphold as "the one passion" and commit to, as all of them are equally important. 

    There are many reasons why you may not find that one passion in your life.  What's important is that this doesn't mean you have no purpose, so don't let this hold you back from finding something fulfilling to do in life! 

    Here's how it may work in practice.  Let's say your main soul-level gift is that of authentic self-expression through language (writing and speaking).  You may not be passionate about any particular subject or medium, but you know you enjoy writing in general and are good at that.  You can simply find work that mostly involves writing and will let you create original content (authenticity!), and comes with a pleasant work environment where you're happy and comfortable.  When you're in the process of writing, whatever the medium and subject is, your soul will be experiencing its divine nature, and you will naturally feel a sense of fulfillment, a state of flow... you'll feel like you're doing what you're meant to be doing.  That, frankly, is enough as far as fulfilling your purpose is concerned!  Even if you can't find something that feels like passion (or your idea of what passion should feel like), you will find joy and meaning in the process of performing your work, in experiencing your soul-level gifts in action.  

    Your passion is not always your purpose...

    Those of you who do have a passion probably felt lucky while reading the previous section, but here's a word of caution for you guys as well.  And this is where life coaches (and some of you) may get very upset. :) 

    Of course, it's the best case scenario when a person is naturally aligned to their purpose, is very clear from an early age on what they love, go to school for it, make a career out of it, and live happily ever after enjoying their chosen field.  I suspect that if you're reading this article, you're not that person.  Neither am I, unfortunately!  So what I describe next doesn't apply to that perfect scenario. 

    Here's the thing.  Sometimes, what we feel most passionate about and enjoy doing the most is not our soul purpose, and making a career out of it won't be to our benefit and won't bring us abundance. 

    I'm not talking about that popular argument that you may not enjoy making art so much when it's no longer just a hobby but your whole livelihood depends on being able to sell that art, so now there's tremendous pressure attached to it, and you may have to cater to the tastes of potential buyers rather than being completely free in your artistic self-expression. 

    I'm talking about a case where you are emotionally attached to a particular activity that you consider your passion (art, music) because you have positive experiences or memories associated with it, while your actual soul-level gifts are harder for you to recognize and to express in practice, or maybe you weren't even allowed to express your true nature growing up, so your true gifts have been suppressed. 

    Since I was very little, I believed that visual arts (drawing, cartoons, design) was my one and only joy in life.  When I was choosing my second career and considering following that "true calling", I was shocked to find out that arts actually weren't among my main soul gifts at all!  How could this happen?  

    Eventually I understood: the nature of my main soul-level gifts was such that my malignant narcissist mother would never allow me to express them and would punish me if I tried (e.g. expressing self-determination is something a narcissist would never allow their child), and so over time those qualities got suppressed to the point that I couldn't even remember who I really was.  My mother didn't mind me drawing pictures though, that's one thing I never got in trouble for.  Drawing was the only way I was allowed to express my true self growing up, so to me, it felt like the only joy in life, even though it wasn't in fact my strongest gift at soul level. 

    (This doesn't mean I gave up on art - not only is it a hobby, I also found a way to give it a supporting role in my work!)

    Another reason for your passion could be social conditioning.  My friend John brings up a couple of good points around this in his own blog post on life purpose

    You might be interested [in an activity] because, say, your father had once told you, "This is what real men do"... 

    Or:

    Maybe you’ve unconsciously taken to accounting because your parents are both accountants and you’re still seeking to fulfill your inner-child’s need for your parents’ unconditional love and approval...

    Or maybe all the coolest guys at your high school happened to play the guitar, so in your mind being a musician is the only thing that can bring you attention, social status, and all the best things in life! :)

    So I think it's important to look at your passion with a critical eye and make sure it truly reflects your divine gifts and purpose and is not something you were merely conditioned to like or allowed to engage in. 

    You just have to start

    Once you know your purpose, I encourage you to jump in.  You don't need a perfect plan, and you don't have to have all the details figured out!

    Say, you know your purpose is to be a healer.  There are tons of healing modalities out there, and many focus areas.  Start with what you know.  Start with Reiki.  Pick up other skills along the way.  Inspiration, ideas, and opportunities will come to you as you're doing the work, and you'll naturally discover what you enjoy the most and find your niche or your calling within the healing field.

    You won't if you're still researching your options on the Internet and not getting your hands dirty!

    . . .

    We live during interesting times.  So many people feel a new urgency around finding their purpose.  Folks are desperate to leave their soul-sucking jobs, discover their true calling, and start doing work that is meaningful and feeds their soul. 

    If you feel that urge, I think the time is ripe, and you will be well supported in your effort to find and embody your soul's purpose, especially during these times of great shifts and awakening.

     

    Resources to help you find your purpose

    • Soul Profile Akashic Record reading
      Discover your divine gifts and what energetic qualities your soul seeks to express through its human experience.  Learn your soul origin and your soul group's purpose.  Learn what skillsets you are naturally wired for.  Aligning our path to our soul's nature brings fulfillment, success, and abundance, and, on the soul level, is equivalent to living our purpose.
       
    • Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life (an online or in-person class at CreativeLive)
      Use design thinking (and your subconscious mind!) to map out what matters to you, create realistic prototypes of the several paths you are considering, test them out, and choose one!
       
    • Finding Your Path, Finding Your Purpose 
      A different view on finding our path and purpose, by John from Zero Mindfulness blog.