O, The Oprah Magazine
1. Listen to your inner voice. It takes practice to hear your true desires. Your passion will often come as a whisper or serendipitous event that reminds you of what’s important and what makes you happy.
This is similar to what is meant by trusting your gut or listening to your intuition.Award-winning actress Sissy Spacek has attributed her success to an experience she had as a young girl, attending a student performance at a neighboring school. Upon seeing a group of girls dancing on the stage, twirling batons and marching in line, Sissy thought to herself, “I could do that.”
“Everyone has an inner voice; you just have to listen to it and trust it in order to be led by it,” Sissy says. “I did that, and it gave me the ability to live a life that’s true to who I am and what I really wanted.”
2. Recognize crisis. Does your job feel like a grind? Are you spending your free time on something you love? Take an opportunity to appraise your happiness. One of the keys to living a purposeful life is recognizing when you are unfulfilled.
Debrena Jackson Gandy, an author and success coach, recommends women ask themselves one question: What brings you joy? Often, participants at her lectures are unable to find the answer because the joy has been displaced by work, family and day-to-day demands. Debrena recommends that people set aside a half hour to write out at least three things that have brought them joy, and be specific. After a few days, she challenges people to ask themselves what is keeping them from joy and to identify ways to invest in that happiness and make small but immediate changes.
3. Dwell in possibilities. Your passions could lead you in a lot of different directions to find fulfillment. Explore your life and unearth of the things that bring you joy.
To begin, life coach Cheryl Richardson advises you to take better care of yourself. Cheryl suggests nurturing your body and mind with exercise, meditation and eating well. Next, be conscious when something excites you or frustrates you. For example, if you read a story in the newspaper that inspires you, take note of it! That story might lead you to your passion.
Cheryl recommends answering a series of questions:
- What interest, passion or desire are you most afraid of admitting to yourself and others?
- What do you love about yourself?
- Who do you know that’s doing something you’d like to do? Describe yourself doing it.
- How could you make the world a better place for yourself and others?
- What’s stopping you from moving forward with exploring your passion?
4. Tune out the voice of the world. Make the strongest voice in your life your own. Finding your purpose could mean going against the advice of close friends and family. Take a leap of faith and trust in your dreams.
Martha Beck calls this the “trust-o-meter,” the voice inside of you that has been with you since you were born but is programmed by outside influences. If your own trust-o-meter isn’t working as it should, Martha advises taking The Trust Test to check if you trust the voice inside you.
5. Decide what kind of person you want to be. Rather than concentrating on what you want to do, think in terms of what kind of person you want to be. Let that guide your choices.
“Life isn’t just about what you can have; it’s about what you have to give,” Oprah says. “What kind of person do you want to be?”
Living with integrity is a good start. Cheryl Richardson suggests making an Absolute Integrity List, which includes making three promises to yourself to restore your integrity. Next, construct your own vision statement to clarify what’s most important to you and the person you most want to become. The third step is to ask yourself in which aspects of your life you could be more truthful.
6. Bring your heart to your work. It takes passion and courage to find a profession that you love. Spending the time to discover that job is time well spent—it could make all the difference in your life!
If you don’t think you’re in the job you were born to do, there’s no time like the present. Read eight true stories from women who switched careers midstream and found their wildest dreams realized. Plus, Tamara Monosoff, author of Secrets of Millionaire Moms, shares three, one-page business plans to help bring your big ideas to life.
Even if you’re stymied about where to start, there’s still hope! Master career consultant Marcus Buckingham has created a printable worksheet for you to use to identify your strengths and help you find meaning in your work.
7. Trust transformation. Hard times are a natural part of life. Don’t be afraid to change because of your experiences. Instead, let them shape and steer your course.
Hardship goes hand in hand with tough times. Instead of ignoring difficult times, embrace them. Poet Nikki Giovanni tells the story of having been pulled over by a state trooper after having gotten herself and a friend lost on the drive to Princeton, New Jersey. She was certain she would be ticketed, but the trooper instead gave her directions and sent the two women on their way. “I realized that when the trooper looked into the car, he didn’t see what we thought he saw—two hip, young women going someplace,” Nikki says. “He saw his grandmother. It was a depressing moment.”
Nikki says that too many people resist change, which never lets them enjoy who they are.
“Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it,” she says. “You still bring to bear all your prior experience, but you’re riding on another level. It’s completely liberating.”
8. Have no regrets. According to the experts, it’s easy to regret the time you’ve spent being unhappy or unfulfilled. Realize that during that time you developed the skills you need to succeed!
Martha Beck has six steps you can take to live without regret. They include letting go, learning to compartmentalize certain feelings and reclaiming your dreams. As important as these steps are, Martha suggests thinking of regret as a tool, rather than an uncomfortable reminder of past mistakes.
“If you’ve grieved your losses, reclaimed your dreams and articulated your anger, regret will have made you the right kind of tough-and-tender: dauntless of spirit, soft of heart, convinced by experience that nothing based on fear—but everything based on love—is worth doing,” she says. “Living this way doesn’t guarantee an easy life; in fact, it will probably take you on a wondrously wild ride. But I promise, you won’t regret it.”
9. Take the first step. Destiny can’t help you until you are willing to step out of your comfort zone. Get prepared to make changes in your life…and start making them!
It takes courage to even think about changing your life, much less to put that plan into action. Dr. Robert Holden has dedicated his life to studying the pursuit of happiness. He says most people struggle to overcome “destination addiction,” which he defines as not living in the moment.
Try taking Dr. Holden’s Happiness Test for suggestions on where to make the first step in your life.
10. Be patient. Finding your life’s purpose won’t happen overnight. In every life, there’s a fast road and a slow road. Most of us take the slow road! Keep your commitment and take small steps to make it happen.