The collision of what we are perceived as and what we perceive ourselves to be can be vastly different. There are many reasons our true selves might be held back from the surface – a job title, new surroundings, an attachment to a friendship, or maybe the story we tell ourselves. Whatever the reason, these images and perceptions are a major hurdle that we can overcome. We can bring our best self is brought forward. And in that process we can find our purpose.
When we moved to our current location, it was for my husband’s job. I was continually introduced to people in the following manner: “This is the new hand surgeon’s wife.” Those few words immediately projected me as the “doctor’s wife” and not even by my own name. Yes, he is a physician, but he is so much more than that. I am delighted beyond measure to be his wife, but I am certainly not just his wife. I found myself frustrated and uncomfortable every time it happened, but it really got me thinking about how I identify myself. How could I build my own path that included being a good wife, but not limit myself to the image associated with it? It quickly became clear that without more understanding of who I really am, I would have a difficult time detaching from how other people saw me. So began the journey of the last several years to connect to a deeper and more meaningful faith, more focused intention and attention on my family, and a physical quest to find the path.
Finding Out Who We Are
To know who we truly are, two components give us big clues. First, ask what do I know for certain about myself? Certain – that is a strong word. Not what do I hope, wish, or want. What do I know for certain? Truth be told there are very few things we know for certain about ourselves and the world around us. It is liberating and humbling to acknowledge only that which is certain. For myself there were three things I knew to be 100% true which made everything else up for discussion – changeable, pliable. Write down the things that are 100% certain which can act as an anchor while discovering the rest of the wide open terrain.
The Role of Purpose
The next component is purpose. Purpose is the force that drives a fulfilling life. Typically, our purpose is right in front of us but often in a whisper. So where can we find the clues?
There are a host of questions we can ask ourselves:
- What do I like to do in my free time?
- When do I feel the most satisfied?
- How can I use my talents to be of service?
- When I was a kid, what did I love to do?
- What values are most important to me?
- Are there specific experiences I feel have shaped me as a person?
These questions can guide us to more clarity. Take time to write the answers and review them periodically, which can provide more refinement.
Listen Beyond Our Own Thoughts
Turning inward is another critical tool for finding purpose. When we spend time in silence, meditation, or flow, much is revealed. This takes practice and patience. Connecting to source (God, universe) may not be a natural inclination but what shows up is life changing. Remember this simple three step pattern: 1) move your body, 2) breathe, and 3) practice silence. Purpose allows us to live more fulfilling and longer lives, so it is certainly worth the work.
The path is in front of us. Even the first step of recognizing and removing attachment to image and possessions is a powerful move forward. Then find a piece of the puzzle that has been missing. Can we start moving our body? Is there space for a daily prayer or reflection time? Can we simplify things at work or with the kids? The truth is that who we are perceived to be is always less than the true core of our being. Start peeling back the layers of perception and what shines through will change the game.