One of my clients woke up a few months ago on her 40th birthday and decided to call me for coaching, as she put it, “so I can get some things sorted out.” She explained that she had been feeling adrift and unsure about what direction to go with her life. She had decided that it was time to discover her life purpose and to explore what was most meaningful to her.
Maybe you can relate; a milestone birthday can be a great motivator for facing the Big Picture questions of life– such as “What do I stand for?”, and “What do I want to be remembered for?” and “How do I want to live?”
Over the course of the next few months we covered a lot of ground, and what came out of it are 10 questions whose answers helped her see her life purpose clearly, and affirm what is meaningful to her. If you would like to try them on for size, here they are:
How well have you loved? Count everyone you’ve loved – did you love even when it hurt? When you were a fool for love? When you let yourself be deeply generous of spirit and compassionate even when it wasn’t returned? At the end of your days, you will look back on your relationships and be richer for them and for what they taught you.
What do you love doing that you aren’t doing now? The willingness to live out our dreams and express our heart’s longing takes courage and a deep commitment to Spirit. It’s your birthright to feel and be fully alive every moment of every day; you are not meant to be chained to a job, for example, that provides only a paycheck and leaves your soul starving. Bring what you love into your life and enjoy being happy.
Where do you want to call home? Yes, you can be at home anywhere but could you be happier, more in tune with your life purpose in a particular part of the country or the world? A place from which you can source your life in its fullest beauty and creativity. A place that makes you happy to wake up there and where you fall asleep contented.
What kind of people inspire you? Look around your networks, your companions, your community’s leaders; are they people who think big, do good in the world and earn your admiration? Do they encourage your heart, inspire your imagination and urge your own greatness to emerge? Reach out to them, hang out with them, learn from them, grow with them and reap the benefits of their example.
What kind of people make you feel criticized, dumb and bad about yourself? End those negative relationships as soon as possible because they deplete you; get away from them and stay away. They are not your fans, your friends or worth your time and love. Take responsibility for the investments you make with your heart and choose wisely. Don’t let unworthy people sit in the front row of your life.
What worries you and makes you afraid to take on the full adventure of life? This question is big and your age has nothing to do with it; your age is only how long you have lasted, and lasting is not enough. Fear is based on what you imagine, and what you are willing to risk, and it’s wise to understand how you approach fear. Do you bully or shame yourself, cajole or argue with your logic, or numb your fear in overwork, alcohol, or continual drama? Fear is part of being human; it can be life-saving if you are in actual danger; it can be life affirming if you recognize that risk is part of the cycle of change and growth. Each time you follow your deepest desires, fear will be there waiting, cautioning you with ‘what-ifs’ and it doesn’t help to pretend to be unafraid. You must move ahead, a step at a time, doing things that will keep fear at a level that lets you feel it, yet continue to keep moving toward your goals.
What are you most proud of in your life? We are all afraid that we won’t be “enough” especially when we compare ourselves with others. We sometimes cling to a belief in our own powerlessness, a way of letting ourselves off the hook of listening to our heart’s desires. Stop and look at your life’s work to date. Take pride in your achievements and give yourself a hug for what you have already done. Celebrate your accomplishments and know that each one opens up the capacity to fall more deeply in love with your life every day. Never apologize for what you do well – when you remember that, then no risk seems too great, and no goal seems too challenging.
What kind of life makes you envious? And why do you feel that way? Consider this: if you could start again, what would your life look like today? What kind of adventures would you build in and who would you take with you? Would you laugh until your sides hurt? Would you let yourself lose control and let joy carry you? Would you experience the elation that comes with knowing that you belong – to yourself, to the world, and to the great Mystery of life? Why not choose to reinvent yourself and start living that life today?
What does your body need to be healthy? With all that you know about health and your particular body, what do you think you should be eating that you are not? What does your body want that brings it pleasure and at the same time, makes it feel respected and nourished? What foods ignite your brain and fuel your creativity and your energy to accomplish your dreams? Are there people around you who set examples of good health habits that you can emulate? If you are not eating in a way that honors your body and your health, why not? Feeding your body well is a reward for all it does to serve you.
What will your obituary say about you? An obituary is a special version of your life story and it highlights the choices you made for what you valued, what you gave to make the world a better place, and how you chose to live. So begin with the end in mind and make today the first day of the rest of the life you want to live. There’s an Indian mother’s lullaby I have always loved that speaks to this: “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”
You live in a world that is continuously changing just as you are continuously evolving. You belong in this world and it’s up to you to live the life you were born to live – this is your unique purpose and your sacred obligation. You belong to the stars in the evening sky, and to the seedlings that grow in the ground warmed by the sun, and to the mirrored surface of the lake at dusk, and to the love that shines in the eyes of those you hold dear, now and forever. You belong to the talents you have been given, and to the passions and causes that receive your devotion. When you discover your life purpose you will come home to yourself and the world will be glad.