purpose path

“Sometimes you don’t know when you’re taking the
first step through a door until you’re already inside.”
– Ann Voskamp

There are several myths about what it takes to live one’s purpose that I’ve observed, both in my clients and popular media:

1. It requires a leap of faith.

2. You have to go all in or not do it at all.

3. If you believe enough it will work.

These myths may sound inspiring, but most often they have the opposite effect. Each emphasizes a feeling of enormity about purpose, and that it requires dramatic effort and change on your part.

The thing is, the bigger something sounds the more overwhelming it feels. A leap of faith may feel impossible to someone with kids, going all in may induce shame and guilt in chronic procrastinators, and the onus to have complete faith in your endeavors is frankly unnecessary.

Very successful people have had extreme doubts about what they were doing. In making Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said, “I didn’t think it would work. I never thought it would make money.”

My recommendation: in order to start living your purpose, don’t make it dramatic.

For example, I once had a client who came to me with what felt like an impossible choice. She was an artist and had a deep desire to create and sell art, with many dream projects she wanted to work on, and at the same time she had two children to support. She’d been offered a good paying job if she completed a certification program and she didn’t know how to choose between providing a stable home and following the passion that was clanging in her heart.

I suggested it wasn’t an either/or choice, and she could in fact do both. I recommended she take the job and devote a specific amount of time each week (3 – 5 hours, or more if reasonable) to her art.

This is a small example of how to make the path of purpose accessible regardless of circumstances. Essentially, if you phrase things in terms that make them seem like a Big Deal, your mind will run in circles around what a Big Deal it is, but if you phrase them simply they will seem easy, even if certain aspects require effort.

Below I’ve restated the myths in a way that is both more accurate and less prohibitive about the nature of purpose:

1. Create time for it every day and give it room in your life.

2. If you do something for long enough – no matter what it is – people will eventually start paying you money for it.

3. Don’t make the end result your reason for doing it. Do it because you want to, and the results will exceed what your mind imagined possible.

I call this the hidden path of purpose because it’s not shiny. It’s barely even visible. It’s me sitting down to write this newsletter, someone else spending her free time making puppets, another person making his first blog.

Purpose is lived one small step at a time. It’s spending your free time doing the thing you would do if you had time and money (which, in that moment, you do).

Embark on your dreams this way, and they will grow steadily until one day they can support you.