It’s December 16th! The month is officially past the halfway point and we’ve reached Part Three of our 31 Days of Goal-Setting: Finding Your Purpose.
Purpose is a big scary word. Danielle LaPorte calls it “how you want to feel”; Laura Berman Fortgang calls it your “life blueprint” or “who you get to be”. I like that last one – what kind of person do you want to be?
This is still a really big question, so we’re going to take one more look at the past to get our bearings. Today’s question is: What can your history tell you about who you are?
There are a number of ways you can answer that question. Here are a few exercises I’ve found helpful. Exercise one comes from the Flower Petal Exercises in What Color Is Your Parachute; the rest come from Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction.
- Write out five to seven stories of different times in your life that you were faced with an obstacle or challenge and how you overcame it. Make them half a page to a page long; you don’t need every detail but be clear about the problem, what you did, what the result was. Once you’re done, look them over. Are there threads that show up again and again? Do you tend to physically make, repair, transform, etc. objects? Do you sort, prioritize, analyze data? Do you lead people, persuade them, resolve conflicts? You’re looking for skills that you use, particularly ones that you enjoy using. (This is a career-based exercise that comes from )
- Write out a brief history of your life. Go chronologically; write out each year and what you did or what happened to you that year. (You can compress this into five-year chunks if you must, but make sure you don’t miss anything important.) What patterns do you see? These can be good or bad. What in your previous life do you want to re-incorporate into your current life? What things do you want to change in the future?
- What do your friends, your coworkers, your loved ones, and other people in your life say about you? What do you come to you for? Again, you may discover positives or negatives; you might realize that everyone comes to you to vent and you HATE it and want to change it.
- When you were a child or young adult, what did you “want to be when you grow up”? Write each one down, then write down all of the reasons why you wanted to be each of those things. What commonalities do you see?
That last one was hilariously revealing for me; every single job I’d imagined myself in for any length of time, even as a little kid, had to do with my strengths of analysis, synthesis, and expert knowledge. Every single one!
They all had a strong communication component as well, which was an important thing for me to realize: I don’t want to figure out puzzles in a vacuum, I want to figure out important stuff and then get other people to see what I’ve figured out so that we can all do something about it.