A good friend called me the other day and asked for some advice. She told me she’s not fulfilled with the way her life is right now. She’s underperforming by her own standards. She said it’s not sustainable. She feels stuck and confused. She wants to be on a mission, doing something rewarding and meaningful that contributes to the world. She wants to find her purpose. But she doesn’t know what it is yet and she can’t figure out how to find it.
It’s a question I hear a lot: How do I find my purpose? How do I know what I’m here to become? How do I find that intersection of what I love and what serves the world?
It’s a high-stakes question so it’s intimidating. What if you get it wrong? What if you never discover your calling? What if you never become what you were born to become?
And I’ve seen it answered a million [often contradictory] ways: Work hard. Follow your highest excitement. Remember back to what you always wanted to be as a child. Think outside the box. Say yes more. Say no more. Try everything once. Go 100% all in on one thing. Simplify your life. Overhaul your life. Invest in your friendships. Build new friendships. Etc.
There are as many paths as there are people.
I’m not going to tell you how to find your purpose. I wouldn’t know what to say. I know that what worked for me isn’t relevant for everyone. Advice I would give to one friend is not the same advice I would give to another. I’ve seen lots of folks transform their lives from monotonous to meaningful in ways that surprise me. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all formula or a universally useful how-to guide.
But there is one thing that applies to everyone. One piece of advice that isn’t negotiable:
Honor your calling.
I got that phrasing from Oprah. Here’s her quote:
“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor you calling. It is why you were born, and how you become most truly alive.” — Oprah Winfrey
There are two important parts to this advice: Your calling and honor. Let me explain.
Part I: Your Calling
Your calling is your higher self. Your future self. Your truest self. It’s your intuition. Your alignment. Your wisest, happiest, most generous self. It’s God. It’s your gut instinct. It’s those deep insights you get before you fall asleep. It’s your truth. Your must. It’s the inner voice that gives you relief and clarity and confidence. When something resonates with your or brings you to tears or excites you, that’s a gentle nudge from your calling.
We all have access to it. But many of us deny it or undervalue it or mistrust it. We think it’s impulsive or misguided or risky. We try to contain it and define it in a way that lets us manage it and keep it under control.
Part 2: Honor
To honor something is to revere it. To honor is to respect something deeply and hold it in high esteem. To interact with or experience something that you honor is a pleasure; a privilege.
Too many of us treat our calling like a misbehaved child. We ignore it and micromanage it. We distance ourselves from it. We reason with it and argue with it.
“I know I want to quit my job and move to Hawaii but it would be stupid to do that before I get my raise.”
“I keep feeling like I should volunteer at the children’s hospital but that’s just a random thought, how do I know it’s best for me?”
“I know we’re going to break up eventually but I’m not in the place to deal with that right now.”
The main difference between me and people who are frustrated or unhappy with the trajectory of their lives is that I honor the fuck out of my calling. I trust and respect this internal guidance more than anything else. When I get an intuitive hit about something, I lean in, silence my personal biases as best I can, and listen closely. Even if it takes me a few days to integrate the insight or sort through my attachments and get reoriented, I honor it. I think of it like a private, custom telepathic message to me from my future self. Even if it’s intimidating or confronting or I don’t know what it means, I treasure it and focus on it and commit to it.
This is important to clarify.
It’s not about always knowing what your calling is saying or knowing how to handle it or acting immediately. It’s not about your performance or speed or capacity. It’s about how you regard this inner voice. Like any relationship, the way you treat it is the foundation for how well it can communicate with you. If you ignore it or argue with it or deny it, you’re cutting yourself off from its wisdom. But if you seek it out and meditate on it and trust it and respect it and appreciate it, you open the channel for more of it to flow to you.
How do you treat your calling? Do you reject it or do you engage it? Do you reason with it or do you open up to it? Do you resist it or do you honor it?
Here are a few practices for honoring you calling:
Relax your brain. Give your higher self room to breath. When your mind is quiet, your calling is what remains.
Take advantage of your negative experiences »
When you feel bad / angry / hurt / irritated / frustrated by anything, you don’t understand it yet. Your calling doesn’t perceive things the way your petty human thoughts do. Use any negative experience as a springboard to summon your calling: Ask yourself what higher perspective you’re missing. Open up to the bigger picture. Seek the point of view that feels like relief and opportunity and gratitude. You’ll know it when you’re shaking your head in appreciation and awe.
Neutralize contractions »
When something big comes up, hold off on defining it. Say the thought crosses your mind to end your relationship or apologize to someone or admit you were wrong, and you feel an instant surge of resistance or anxiety. Instead of defining that contraction, neutralize it. Remember that ALL circumstances are inherently neutral; there is no intrinsic meaning aside from the definitions you give. Do this repeatedly until the contraction doesn’t accompany the thought.
Or in other words, Imagineer. From a state of excitement and anticipation and gratitude and joy, imagine yourself at your best. Imagine possibilities that enliven you. Thank your higher self / the universe / God. Feel receptive.
I did this drawing-painting about a year ago. It still inspires me. It’s worth zooming in and reading the quotes : )
If it resonates, you can ask me for advice too. It helps me structure my thoughts and essays in relevant, accessible ways. I’m happy to keep you anonymous like I did for my friend who inspired this article. Up to you.