Many of us go through periods in life feeling uncertain about who we are and what we want to achieve. It can be tough to find your mojo when you can’t even find your car keys. While ambiguity can be a source of anxiety (Hello 3am sheep-counting sessions! 🐑), it can also propel us forward.
Feeling uncertain about the “next step” in any aspect of life can actually motivate you to deeply explore your purpose and find meaning in your world. It can also lead you to question your assumptions and beliefs, prompting you to search for truth in a more open-minded way.
Man, if I had a dollar for every moment I’ve felt uncertain about what the hell I’m doing, or who I’m supposed to be, I’d be Kardashian-rich. When I decided it was time to quit mainstream living and chase my lifelong dream of working for myself, I had every voice of reason (in my head and the community) urging me to reconsider.
Even after I planned out my time-frame and exit strategy for leaving my financially-stable but soul-destroying “safe” job, I endured months of sleepless nights – rationalising and second-guessing and inventing alternative scenarios that would allow me to be satisfied with playing small and ordinary.
But even though it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done (besides trying to cross the road in Ho Chi Minh during peak hour – IYKYK!), quitting my job in the middle of a pandemic, without knowing exactly where I’d land, was the absolute making of me.
So, after figuring out the secret recipe that allowed me to finally feel emboldened to live my life on my own terms, I thought I’d share the 5 things that helped me ditch indecision and take off in hot pursuit of who I actually want to be in this world.
You ready to find your moxie without losing your footing? Let’s go!
I. IF IN DOUBT, WRITE IT OUT
A few months back, I stumbled across a manila folder full of handwritten material I wrote while I lived in London in my early 20s. There were a few writing exercises about “Fears for Tomorrow” and “Bucket Lists for the Next Life”, but there was also a letter entitled “Breakup Letter Draft #1”.
I took a deep breath, gave myself a little pep-talk about the importance of acknowledging the impact of the past on the present, and began to read what felt like a diary entry of a girl I haven’t seen in years. Here’s an extract:
At least now I can cry whenever the f*ck I want to – and I don’t have to feel like I’m being pathetic.
I want to say I’m sorry but I know this isn’t my fault. This is all you.
And yes, I’m argumentative and outspoken and I seem to argue every single point to the nth, but that is who I am. Know that.
If you want someone dumb to smile on cue and nod and agree with every word you utter, keep moving, because she is not me. I never want to be that girl, not even if it means I’m “good” by the world’s standards.
We’re done here. I’ve had enough. I AM enough!
I’m grinning on the re-read My inner voice is doing a little jig – a way cooler dance than I could ever do in real life – and high-fiving the sisterhood, because even though I was a heartbroken, dejected mess after that break-up, at least I had the courage to purge it onto the page before taking action.
I keep a lot of mantras in my wheelhouse, but the one that has helped me workshop any challenge, in any facet of my life has alway been this:
IF IN DOUBT, WRITE IT OUT.
If you’re struggling to initiate a difficult conversation that just has to be had, if you’re trying to figure out the next thing you need to do to create a meaningful change, if you’re stuck in the quagmire somewhere between failure and flight, or if you just can’t settle on how to spend your day with no plans or obligations – the resolution is the same: if in doubt, write it out.
Find your momentum, your clarity and your why by writing it down and working through it. That way it’s not just a ball of clusterf*ckery building fear and apprehension inside your beautiful brain. Purge the emotions from your body by pouring them onto the page, and in doing so, let the chaos melt to calm.
II. THE OPPOSITE OF DEPRESSION IS PURPOSE
Trying to fit the mould of what your family, or society expects of you can feel life-leeching. Your world bleeds out of colour over time, gradually and insidiously.
In a nutshell, wearing a façade of composure all day, every day, is exhausting. It’s also inevitable that the tightly controlled turmoil in your body will eventually surge out of you, via a rush of tears, in a draining, cathartic release. If you’re lucky, a wonderful friend will hold you while you sob, and not wig out when you get snot on their sweater. If you’re alone when the surge begins, you’ve got the freedom to snot unabashedly all over your own sweater. 🤷♀️
I stumbled across Cathy Heller’s podcast**, Don’t Keep Your Day Job, pre-pandemic. In the intro to each episode, Heller explains that the opposite of depression is not happiness, it’s purpose. This is such a powerful reframe because it emphasises just how critical it is to live an authentic and intentional life. When you have a sense of purpose, you’re more likely to:
- Set aspirational goals and work towards them.
- Feel fulfilled in your daily life – even when doing the mundane essentials, like unstacking the dishwasher, or draining pasta.
- Persevere through the challenges – because you know why you’re doing it.
Make time to deeply consider these three powerful purpose questions:
1. What is it I want to accomplish?
2. What mark do I want to make on the world?
3. Who am I and who do I want to be?
Once you know the answer to these questions, you’ll be well on your way to leading a life full of passion, intention and joy.
** You can check out the podcast, HERE.
III. PURSUE YOUR PURPOSE DOGGEDLY
Last week, I had a long stroll along my local beach with Harriet, a wonderful woman who has tenaciously chased down her dreams of running a super-successful business. We talked fast and walked slow – enjoying occasional glimpses of the winter sun peeping out from the patchy clouds, pausing to observe windswept shell-collectors, and smiling at an exuberant, water-logged old chocolate lab.
Harriet is the poster girl for doggedly pursuing her purpose. She’s the first to admit that she gets swept up in the thrill of the new, only to lose interest once the polish wears off, but she credits her two default maxims (“try everything once” and “colour beyond the lines”) with achieving her aspirational goals, time and again.
If you choose to live this way, chances are, you’ll reach a tipping point where deciding to give up on being “the girl who stays in her lane” is a no-brainer.
If you dare to doggedly pursue your purpose – and if you forgo convention and the path of conformity – your life will be as rewarding as it is spontaneous, irreverent as it is inspirational, and fulfilling as it is purposeful.
IV. PERFORM A PERSONAL SWOT ANALYSIS
Ever taken an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses? As it turns out a SWOT analysis isn’t just for Hondo and the team after neutralising a threat (I know it’s a different S.W.A.T and all, but any opportunity to collectively swoon over Shemar Moore, I’m there! ).
A SWOT analysis is a fantastic tool for amplifying your personal or professional success. When done properly, it allows you to take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, identify opportunities and threats, so you can confidently chart a course for future growth.
The key to any successful SWOT analysis? Be HONEST with yourself! Be willing to confront your weaknesses and shortcomings, and recognise both the positive and negative factors that impact your ability to achieve your goals.
- Complete a personal SWOT analysis by following the MindTools prompts, HERE.
- Undertake a free assessment via PrinciplesYou (a fascinating self-awareness report created by Ray Dalio and Adam Grant) HERE.
V. CREATE SPACE TO RUMINATE ON YOUR WANTS & NEEDS
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and to lose sight of your larger goals or ambitions. It’s just as easy to succumb to the pressures and responsibilities on the home, work or social front, no matter where you’re at on your life path. If you find yourself expending all your energies on everything “other”, it’s critical to create space to ruminate on your most persistent wants and needs.
It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll wake up one day, suddenly having arrived in the skin of the person you want to be. Afterall, figuring out how to be the best version of yourself takes work. Establishing a plan of action takes work. Working out your why takes work.
As Desmond Tutu once said: “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” The very same logic applies to determining your wants and needs. Consciously take the time to explore your passions, talents and interests. What kinds of work give you a sense of purpose? If today were your last day on earth, how would you choose to spend it, and why?
Step back and reflect on what you really want out of this life.
Soak and steep.
Get mud on your shoes and paint in your hair figuring it all out.
By making the time and creating the space to really think about your wants and needs, you can pursue your ambitions with greater focus and feel better equipped to make choices that align with your goals.
Let’s be real for a sec…
It’s BEYOND frustrating when someone complains about the same thing (eleventy times over) and does absolutely nothing to change their situation. None of us want to be that person.
If you can’t find your sweet spot, your joy-generator, your authentic state of contentment, or your happy place, stop spinning in circles. Figure out what needs doing, fixing, finding or making, then create a plan of action and execute.
As if penned specifically for Hallmark, Larry McMurty wrote:
“If you wait, all that happens is you get older”.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
If you can sense it in your gut – the very fibre of your being – that you were put on this planet for a reason, figure out what that reason is and devote your whole world to it.
Ultimately, when you don’t know who you are or who you want to be, it’s easy to feel listless, perplexed, stranded and despondent. But when you know what you want out of life, you’re on a path to fulfilment.
Determine what it is that makes your heart sing, what sets your soul alight and what makes you lose yourself to its pursuit.
That, my friend, is Purpose and she will be the absolute making of you!
Radically and doggedly pursue purpose every day and you’ll unlock the door to a whole new realm of rapture. This is my promise to you.