As humans, we want to feel like our life is about more than just getting by. We want to feel like our life has meaning and that we are doing fulfilling work. This is our life purpose. Some people (lucky bastards!) seem to be aware of this from a young age, while many others struggle to find it long into adulthood. As a business coach, I’ve walked many clients through connecting with their purpose or “why” behind their work. Through this process, I’ve discovered common obstacles that block people from connecting with their intended path and living their best life. These are 5 reasons why people fail to find their life purpose.
1. Negative Attitude
Attitude is everything. Connecting with your purpose requires an open, positive mindset. Negative Nancys and victims are not going to hack it. Sure, it can be easy to get trapped in a spiral of negative thinking when you’re feeling unhappy and unfulfilled in life. It can be easy to feel like things are happening to you. Or that the odds are against you. However, this toxic train of thought only serves to keep you stuck. When you stay stuck in a negative mindset, you stay stuck in self. It’s like you’ve got blinders on. Even if your purpose came up and smacked you in the face, chances are, you wouldn’t recognize it.
Instead of looking at the downside of everything, start looking for the silver linings. I have a few mantras I like to use here. “Rejection is protection.” “This isn’t happening to me, it’s happening for me.” “The universe has got my back.” I’ve also found that taking a positive action can help change negative thinking. Conversely, if you wait around until you feel like you want to take that art class, then you may never take it. Leap and your feelings will follow.
2. Resistant to Trying New Things
When it comes to discovering your true purpose in life, your comfort zone isn’t your friend. If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, some experimentation is in order. Trying out new things is what helps us to determine what we like and don’t like. It opens us up to new connections, experiences, and inspiration that can lead us down the path toward our purpose. Trying new things can help us break down the walls of our old belief system that keeps us stuck.
To do this, we have to be willing to fail. To be bad at things. To laugh at ourselves. Give yourself permission! How will you know what you like, or don’t like, unless you give it a try. As children, many of us were much more bold when it came to trying something new. As adults now, we don’t want to look silly. I highly recommend getting back in touch with that playful child side. Approach new activities with this part of yourself.
3. Refuse to Ask for or Accept Help
I didn’t get where I am today on my own. I stand on the shoulders of many mentors, teachers, and friends. The key was I had to ask for help and learn to accept it. Asking for help is easier than it sounds. Many of us would rather pretend we know what we’re doing, then admit we don’t get it. This is ego friends. If you don’t have a mentor or someone who you check in with for guidance, I highly suggest finding someone.
Looking for someone who has a strong connection to their purpose. Ask them how they got there. Mine the gold of people’s life experience. People aren’t going to just walk up to you and start offering advice. It’s up to you to make it known that you need help by asking for it. Don’t worry about bothering people or being a burden. If they don’t have time, they’ll let you know. But in my experience, people are often flattered to be asked for their perspective. You can say something as simple as:
“Hey, I really admire your life/career/relationship/ etc…how did you do it?”
“You seem to have such a strong purpose driving your work. How did you connect with that?”
“I’d love to talk with you more about this. Let me know if you’d be open to that.”
4. Don’t Want to Put in the Work
There’s a difference between a microwave TV dinner and a gourmet meal. The preparation is different, as are the results. You get to choose when it comes to your life. Do you want salisbury steak or filet mignon with all the trimmings? The truth is, most good things in life aren’t easy. They take work. Connecting with your purpose when it comes to work is no different. It takes some inner soul searching, writing, and time invested. It takes courage and the willingness to be vulnerable.
I’ve taught workshops for years on finding your purpose or “why” behind your work. I make my clients do a bunch of writing. We go deep. The ones that really surrender to the process and do the work are the ones who emerge with the deepest understanding and connection to themselves. The deeper you are willing to dig, the more life-changing the results.
5. Numbing Out
Getting in touch with your purpose requires that you be present and learn to connect to yourself. If you’re frequently checking out with alcohol, drugs, sex, toxic relationships, shopping, work, or another compulsive behavior, then you’re not present. This can be a tough pill to swallow, because when we aren’t happy or fulfilled in our lives we want to numb out. Let’s face it, escape is easier than dealing with the sh*$t. But escape is only temporary. When we come back to reality, we are still where we are.
I strongly encourage putting down the diversions and doubling down on positive self-care behaviors while you soul-search for your purpose. This is a real gift to give yourself. Note: when we put down the things we use to numb ourselves, feelings tend to come up! My advice is: lean in. Go to therapy if you need to. The things we might be running from inside ourselves often hold an important key to our life purpose – but you need to get them up and out in the light!
Do you recognize any of these blocks in your life? Good! Awareness is the first step in making some positive changes. For me, finding one’s life purpose is all about feeling more connection, love, and enjoyment. It doesn’t mean life is suddenly a piece of cake. It means that you have something that keeps your fire going when challenges arise.