Happiness is a byproduct of purpose and there is a fair amount of research that connects an understanding of one’s purpose with better health, wellness and resiliency. Yet for years, I associated happiness with things I considered successes. As my career took me to new heights, I subconsciously conditioned myself to believe that my purpose involved speaking with a larger voice and taking on more responsibility. In reality, what I thought of as success and believed made me happy was ladder climbing.
But then I hit a wall.
I was chief of a great organization and had a majority of my board turnover in an election and their platform included getting rid of most of my team. Suddenly I was spending the majority of my time fending off those intentions. I also found myself constantly watching my back to make sure I didn’t become the next subject of ill content. I felt like I was spending more time trying to keep my job than doing anything worthwhile.
Fortunately, I persevered and moved on. However, the experience I had for that short time that I described above was intense. I was in a dark place–my entire perspective about my work and personal life narrowed. Not unlike experiencing a tragedy or sickness, the experience was so cathartic that it immediately changed my perspective about what was important. And it changed my trajectory.
Until what I had been believing was my purpose was threatened, I was really just meandering through life. I wasn’t sad and generally considered myself content, but I also don’t recall ever feeling joy. It was then that I realized that my purpose…and what I thought was the source of my happiness…was not the position I held or the ladder I was climbing.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until a few years later that I finally realized what my purpose was. But fortunately, that is ok. Just recognizing what our purpose is not is a huge first step in aligning the pieces that make up our lives.
Every once in a while it is a good idea to do a purpose check. That is, evaluate whether you’re living your purpose, and determine whether your living or your purpose needs to change.
Below is a tool I’ve created (credit to Diamond Innovations for allowing me to modify theirs) that might be useful as you evaluate your purpose. Good luck!