Finding your purpose in order to live a more balanced life can be a journey, and can change depending on the phase of life you are in. As a holistic health coach, I work with clients to help them reach their goals by taking a 360 degree approach to wellness, working through all the pillars of health as seen in the diagram below. One important pillar of wellness is having a sense of purpose in your life. Surprisingly enough (or maybe not), it is strongly correlated to overall happiness and research also shows that having a strong sense of purpose gives you more positive health outcomes.
Dr. Dhruv Khullar writes in this New York Times piece, that only 25% of Americans report having a clear sense of purpose, while nearly 40 percent either feel neutral or say they don’t. "This is both a social and a public health problem: Research increasingly suggests that purpose is important for a meaningful life — but also for a healthy life."
He points to research showing that a strong sense of purpose is linked to a number of positive health outcomes, including better sleep, fewer strokes and heart attacks, and a lower risk of dementia, disability and premature death.
So how do we all find our purpose in life? In all honesty, I tell my clients there is no simple formula. It can be a tedious process that requires introspection, connection with others, and then a commitment to act. In the day to day rush of life, it's not a topic we usually dedicate a lot of energy to. But here are 3 small ways you can start.
1. Write down 3-4 interests outside of your day job (and your kids don't count).
Ask yourself what are your hobbies and what do you like to do for fun? Begin exploring these interests by starting small. If it feels hard and you aren't excited about it, then it's probably not a true interest. Maybe you like art, go to an art museum or take a art history class at your local community college. Maybe you like watching cooking shows, start tinkering around in your kitchen with different recipes. They should be easy and relatively inexpensive when starting off. Maybe you can even turn your hobby into a small side business to give yourself a creative outlet.
2. Listen to inspiring podcasts or read an auto/biography about an influential person that you are interested in.
I'm a huge fan of How I Built This With Guy Raz and have listened to many of his podcasts. One of my all time favorites is this interview with the founder of Barre3, Sadie Lincoln. I found her story to be super inspiring, and she describes that although she had checked off all the boxes of what most would determine as being "successful," (ie: a husband, 2 kids, a great job that earned her a high salary in the Bay Area, etc), she felt burnout and empty inside which contributed to a whole host of other issues in her her life. In other words she had lost her purpose in life and she had to do some serious self reflection to find it again. A few other inspiring reads I liked: Glennon Doyle's Love Warrior and Untamed follow her journey to find her true self. I also found Michelle Obama's Becoming a huge inspiration as she highlights her struggles with work/life balance issues, and being a mother in a high pressure environment.
3. Surround yourself with positive people that leave you feeling good about yourself.
It's hard to find passion and purpose when you are surrounded by negative people who continuously drag you down. Spend some time thinking about your relationships and what they bring into your life. If you find yourself in one sided relationships constantly giving, but not receiving anything back, it may be time to re-evaluate. Find your village, and then spend some time talking about the interests you identified about with these confidants. When you put out into the universe that your interested in something it can lead to amazing things!