When I was about 9 years old, I started designing dresses after school. I started bringing them to class and showing my classmates. One day, a classmate asked how much money I wanted for one of the designs. I was stunned, and in awe that someone was interested in buying my creation. But I sold him a dress design for about 5 cents. Soon, everyone wanted one, or multiples. Even teachers were making purchases!
Within a few weeks I was able to make enough money to purchase my brother a birthday gift with my own money. I was doing something I loved, and I was making money!
Like most childhood dreams, I moved on and forgot about my days as an elementary school entrepreneur. I started to approach life in a pragmatic and practical way, I was too focused on being an adult and doing grown up things.
Fast forward to entering my 40s and I started to re-evaluate life. Sure, I had a great career and a job I loved. But I wasn’t feeling fulfilled, something was missing. I’d often read stories of people who gave the middle finger to their current career and life and embarked on a completely different path. I could not quite do that, but what if I started small.
I began a three year journey of searching for my purpose. I journaled, I kept lists, I read. As the years went on, I began to see patterns emerge. My passions centered around helping others, being a storyteller and ocean conservation. How was this going to translate these into a purpose while also re-igniting my love for designing clothes?
I can’t exactly say that I had a plan or how it all started coming together. All I know is that I started with a website and a blog, then I bought a podcasting microphone, and one evening after reading Dr. Stewart Brown’s book, “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul”, I started designing leggings. I was learning, I was excited, and I was making lots of mistakes!
In the Feisty Mermaids podcast #13 I talk about finding your purpose. There is a helpful quiz I found that will point out areas that may be preventing you from finding your purpose. And I also found some articles with tips to help you in this journey. One article is from Verywellmind and the other is from Jeremy Adam Smith at UC Berkley.
For me the journey to finding my purpose has developed organically by reflecting and looking inwards. It is a process I have come to learn is constantly evolving and changing. However, here are my seven takeaways inspired by the articles I read:
Explore your interests, passions and things you love to do - Pay attention to the things that excite you and bring about passion, they are not random, they are your calling. When I read Dr. Brown’s book, he said you need to look at how and what you played with when you were a child, especially between the ages of 7-10. He says it is an indication where your passion lies. My passion towards designing clothes is something I’ve decided to pursue as part of my brand.
Read - Reading connects us to people we will never know across time and space, an experience research says connects you to meaning and purpose.
Explore injustices that bother you - Is there anything that makes you deeply unhappy or brothers you to the core? I am often vocal about injustices I’ve seen and experienced. Through my brand, I am working towards creating awareness about ocean conservation and women and girl issues. More deeply, having gone through the experience of a difficult divorce with a challenging co-parent, I am exploring how to help women in the same situation and make parenting coordination services available regardless of income.
Turn hurt into healing for others - Finding purpose is something you need to feel, which is why suffering often leads to growth. It can be your own experience or someone else's that helps you find purpose.
Awe, Gratitude and altruism - There are emotions that foster health and wellbeing, especially awe, gratitude and altruism. I’ve spoken before about how gratitude helped me find my peace and center, but when we are in awe, we have a sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves. Awe is the emotional foundation for a sense of purpose. Gratitude for me has allowed me to appreciate everything in my life which has led to giving to others and contribute to a world beyond myself. I want to help create a better world and always leave things better than I found them.
Listen to what people appreciate and provide positive feedback about you - People will often pay you compliments or highlight something you are good at. Keep a list of these things and start to notice patterns. You may not see a quality that others see, this may help highlight your purpose. I’ve often had people highlight my ability to communicate to large groups and to inspire them to action - for a long time I ignored that feedback, and now I see it’s a gift.
Tell your story - A study from 2018 found that those who see meaning and purpose in their lives were able to tell a story of change and growth. By telling our narrative about how we managed to overcome obstacles and barriers we begin to see our strengths and find ways to make a difference in the world - which drives purpose.
If you are starting the journey towards finding your purpose, be patient and be kind to yourself. I would sometimes get frustrated, but found the more self-love I developed, the clearer I was able to see my purpose. I am also flexible in knowing that my purpose may change and evolve overtime. Nothing in life is static, and my purpose may become much bigger than I ever dreamed of.