…what I’m looking for” – U2
Many people go their whole lives without doing anything great or discovering why they were made. The greatest tragedy of human life would be to live it up until expiration without learning why God created you. Some people figure it out much later in life. Some near the end. If you are one of the lucky ones who made this discovery at an early age, my hat goes off to you. It took me almost 37 years to discover my purpose and I continue to learn how to improve upon that on a daily basis. For most of us, it takes a lot of searching and trial and error before we get to the point of living out our calling. So, if you have not figured it out, don’t worry as you are not alone. History is filled with people who did not make a worthwhile impact until later in life. Here are some ways that you can get on the path to discovering your purpose and I hope they are impactful.
1. Take risks
If you never get out of your comfort zone, you are going to stay comfortable. When you get comfortable, you don’t like to change. When you don’t make changes, you are probably going to live a life that takes whatever it is given. If life gives you lemons, you probably aren’t making lemonade…you are probably just getting bitter.
Is there anything that has been on your heart to try that you never have? A place you want to go but you have never made the plans? A career you wanted to start but never took the chance? What are you waiting for? The timing will never be just right. Now, I’m not saying quit your day job without any thought, plan, or idea in mind. But I am saying that we are all dying a slow death and none of us get out of here alive. We are all terminal, we just don’t know the date of our expiration.
Since you only live once, you should live life to the fullest. Live according to the manual you have been given, but utilize all the gifts and talents God has given you so that nothing is left on the table when you get called home.
The first time I went to serve the Homeless on my own, I took a big risk. But stepping in to that calling has been one of the greatest joys of my life and it has allowed me to discover so much more of what God has in store for me as I was obedient to Him. The relationships I have developed and the experiences I’ve had related to that one simple act of obedience are truly priceless.
Take risks and know that some will work out and some will not. At the end of the day, you will miss every shot you don’t take. The great Wayne Gretzky told us that.
2. Try and Try again
Failure is a great resource. With it, comes wisdom. If you have not failed in life in some aspect, you aren’t trying enough new things. No one is great at everything but everyone is great at something. That’s how we are designed. In order to determine what our strengths are, we have to learn our weaknesses and that comes from trial and error. I know that many don’t want to admit they have failed at anything. However, I have met enough successful people that are willing to admit that not only have they failed, they have done it more than once. Therefore, you probably need to fail more, and fail forward, if you want to find your true purpose in life. It doesn’t mean that it will be fun because it will certainly not be, but it is a necessity in growing beyond where you are today.
When I was in college, I failed public speaking. F. For Failure. My speeches weren’t bad. My topics were controversial though and I got on the wrong side of my professor. Then I made a tactical error in a discussion with him and he failed me. Now I have no problem speaking to anyone, one on one, or in a large crowd, and that situation fueled me to get better. But I also learned that you aren’t going to make everyone happy all of the time. And I learned what conversations I should have with professors, or anyone in power, and what I should not discuss. Lesson learned. In a class that should have been an easy A, I got the worst grade possible and I still got better from it.
Continue to get out of your comfort zone and don’t let one mistake or misstep deter you from trying again. If you get knocked down then you have truly failed. If you get beat but get back up and win the next time, then you have simply improved. Keep trying and keep getting better.
3. Get away from the noise
Sometimes you have to get away from the distractions. The news, negativity, and constant bombardment can beat you down in life. Every once and a while, you need to get to a quiet place without anyone else. Solitude can be isolating for a long period of time but it can also be refreshing in short doses. A trip to the beach, the mountains, a long hike or walk, or just sitting in silence gives you the opportunity to get close to God and determine what he is trying to say to you. A trip to a new place alone will give you the ability to see the World differently and you may discover something you never knew about yourself. Staying in the same place, around the same people, doing the same things, will net you the same results. If you are looking for something different, you have to do something different.
A trip to Southern California several years ago for a conference was life altering for me. I had meetings in San Diego but I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible and had time to think and take in all the beauty of the ocean and surroundings. A visit with a distant cousin, (now one of my favorite people), new ideas at the meetings, and then revelations in my hotel room lead me to changes in my business that I did not anticipate. Had I just gone to the meetings with the same mindset I always had, or stayed in close proximity to the venue, or not gone on the trip at all, the outcome would be very different. I didn’t plan on the trip changing my life, but I did plan to have some new experiences. I did that and the rest is history.
God has spoken to me in different places but it has always been when I sought after him intentionally. His voice is the one you want to listen to when it comes to discovering your purpose. At any point, you can hear from three voices: The Holy Spirit, the enemy, or your own conscience. Seek God’s voice and be determined to know the difference when you are making decisions in your life.
4. Seek Scripture
There are a lot of ways we can justify behavior. I used to justify everything for business. It’s just business. It’s for business. I could find a reason to do just about anything if it had a business purpose. Not anymore. Now I want to have a link to my life purpose and I want it backed up by what God’s word says. If my behavior conflicts with the Bible then I am on the wrong track. This may sound stringent or hokey but it’s the truth. His word is the truth and it is what we must pursue if we want to know what we are designed to do.
If you bought a car and had a problem, would you just try to figure out the issue or would you go to the owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer had to say? God is the creator of the Universe and He designed you with a purpose in mind. Why wouldn’t you go to your creator to determine the purpose He had for you? The Bible is the owner’s manual of your life.
Start with Proverbs and see how much wisdom is in that one book. There is so much great information throughout the Bible but a Proverb a day will start the process for you. At the same time, if you have a moral dilemma, seek guidance and scripture to determine whether you are trying to justify bad behavior with truth or lies. Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble. ~ Proverbs 13:20.
Yesterday, after a meeting downtown at a coffee shop, I had a conversation with 3 young people who were passing through town. All of them were homeless and they were looking for a ride to Jackson, Mississippi trying to get to another place to crash. I had a good conversation with them and I let them know that God had a plan for their life and that I hoped they found what they were searching for on their journey. They couldn’t have been more than 25 years old. Zoeyana was the name of one of them and she was a beautiful girl with a bright smile and blue eyes with a sparkle in them. Reality is, she could be doing anything she wants in life but this is the path she chose. The truth is, we are all searching for something. We are all trying to find a greater purpose for our lives and why we were created. I am living proof that you can pursue those things in the wrong places and you will come up empty over and over. Just like Zoeyana, we can float from place to place and always end up hollow on the inside. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are reading this, God has a plan for you. He designed you with a specific purpose. My prayer is that you seek him and determine what that is, then you start to walk it out. God bless you on your journey and I hope you find what you’re looking for.