Finding Purpose in Life: The Long Guide to Finding Your Life’s Work

It was an earnest request: “I’d like to know how to find your vocation.”

We were sitting in one of Seattle’s finest coffee establishments. It was a sunny May morning— the best kind of day that you could hope for.

And I suddenly found myself unsure of where to start.

This is what I do! This is how I love to help people, but to answer the question so directly is challenging!

This is because the answer is usually pretty nuanced. It has to address who you, where you are, what you’re looking for in that question, and how you think of yourself, work, and life.

Here’s the trick about it: finding purpose in life is both beautifully simple and as complex as every person.

Finding your calling, vocation, and life’s work are about finding your identity. It’s about living into a deeper expression of who you are as a human.

As I expressed in the Meaning Manifesto, you were made to make something. If there’s one message for you to take away from that, it’s that you have something to say. So the question of finding your life’s work in essence is the question: “What do you want to say?”

And by say, I don’t mean actually say with words (though it could mean that), I mean create. Basically, what’s the impact you want to have on the world around you?

In this post, I’m going to lay out how you answer the question.

Expectations and a Promise

Before we really get into it, let me offer some expectations and a promise. This isn’t one of those click-bait posts on “How to Find You Calling in Three Easy Steps”. As I’ve written about before, those don’t work. If there was an easy way to find your life’s work, you would have found it by now. Give yourself some credit! You’re smarter than that!

Easy answers are too easy. So I want to peel back a few more layers of the process. Teach you more about how to think about where you are and where you are going in a helpful and productive way, and then (spoiler alert!) hear from you what else you need to know.

It’s also important to note that I think of the words calling, vocation, passion, and life’s work as all referring to the same things: what makes work meaningful.  I find that most of treatments that separate out those words are splitting hairs, and are not very helpful in a practical sense.  You are welcome to feel otherwise, I just want to make sure we all have the same expectations for this article.

Here’s my promise: I will not offer you cliches. I will not give you some thin advice that makes you feel good and get excited and then an hour later you’re right back where you started.

If you want cliches, try BuzzFeed or Hallmark.

Finally, this article is long.  It is divided into two major sections to make it easier to navigate: How to Think About Your Life’s Work and How to Find Your Life’s Work.

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