Over the years, I have learned several things about finding one's purpose. However, this year, these are the things I have found more relevant or affirming to situations I have found myself.
Purpose is a right, but the knowledge of your purpose is a privilege you have to earn.
I want to believe that no one is made without a purpose on earth. Even those who just came to fill the spaces of time, maybe that was their purpose. Perhaps their purpose was to be a lesson for others to grow. However, people often think that because everyone has a purpose, they are automatically entitled to knowing it. You will be surprised how much hard work it takes to know and understand what you are created for or called to do. Don’t sit in an entitlement that will not let you realize what your purpose is. Until you know anything or everything about your purpose, keep doing something!
You won’t just read one book about purpose or do a masterclass series and have a ha-ha! Some may be lucky to discover it quickly, but it can take years. You are not a failure because the knowledge of your purpose didn’t come to you easily. You are not a failure because you have tried several things that didn’t work out. Keep trying as if you are almost there.
Your talent and purpose are two different things.
As a polymath, I struggled with determining in confidence what I wanted to do. Even when I dedicated my energy to one thing because I was good at it, I felt an immense sense of guilt, not fulfilling another thing I really wanted to do. It took me a while to realize that just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should do it.
Talent is what you can do well, and purpose is what you can’t be well without.
You have to be great at something and skilled at it to call it a talent, but you don’t have to be the best at something to have a purpose in it. That’s why you’ll find someone who doesn’t fit the perfect requirements for a specific opportunity, still succeeding at it even without effort. Some people are fortunate enough to have their talent and purpose aligned, but it isn’t everyone. However, I must say that talent can be a tool for your purpose. And sometimes, people lose sight of their purpose because they are too focused on the talent.
A practical example is Chadwick Boseman; May his soul rest in perfect peace. Until his death, when videos of him started resurfacing, I didn’t know that he was a talented singer. But his purpose was in acting, and the most excellent manifest of that purpose which impacted the world is Black Panther.
The fulfillment of purpose can be dependent on luxury, but it is not determined by it.
There was a time I stumbled on one of Issa Rae’s videos where she said something like ‘if you have a phone, you don’t have an excuse.’ Even learning more about the founding of great companies like Facebook and Amazon, they didn’t have then what they have now to fulfill their purpose.
Many times, because we are too focused on what would keep us going – we lose sight of what we have to get us started. The product's success can depend on the provision that comes along the way, but the start of the process isn’t determined by it. Instead of saying, “I don’t have this or that,” look at your camp, find and make use of what you have.
Your purpose may not be what got you started but once found, it gives a conviction that keep you going.
I am often wary of people who sit and wait until they have found their purpose before doing anything meaningful. I believe that doing is the best type of thinking – so even when I didn’t know my what or why, I made sure that I was always doing something to sharpen my skills all around until I could figure things out.
I remember starting college, and unlike other students who knew precisely what they wanted to be career-wise, I didn’t. But during that time of uncertainty, I did several internships, participated in trainings, volunteered when I had the time, and read books to see what has worked for others and how. The moment I found the particular things I was good at career-wise, I felt unstoppable. Then, I could now pick from the pool of skills or knowledge I earned during a period of uncertainty and channel them to specific directions.
Your purpose and calling aren’t always determined by your position or employment status.
A clue to your purpose is that thing you find yourself doing unstoppable even without position or promise.
For example, even when I was unemployed, I couldn’t get my hands-off training others career-wise, or academically and helping them with college applications, retention, and success. What I felt called to do wasn’t determined by my employment status.
Profit isn’t always what makes purpose valuable.
For a long time, I was adamant that I didn’t want to commercialize certain things I felt were aligned with my purpose despite the pressure to do so. Only recently did I decide to put out my services. And I did so because I had gotten to that point whereby in my heart, the presence of profit wasn’t a determinant of whether I should continue the pursuit of my purpose or not.
To some people it may be, but if it isn’t for you, that’s alright.
Purpose can be modified depending on timing and calling.
Purpose is the why, and calling is the where. People often combine the definition of purpose and calling; however, I think they are different. Where and when you are called to fulfill a purpose can change.
This part is just about keeping the faith. Life is not linear. Just because there is traffic doesn’t mean the road has ended. You probably have heard this too much – a disruption is a redirection to the right path.
When there is a disruption or problem, I do what my first mentor, Mr. C.J. Njoku, taught me. I ask myself: Can I do anything about it?
If the answer is No, I thank God, and I keep moving in whatever other directions I have.
If the answer is Yes, I thank God, and I list all the things I can do about the problem and act on them.
I saw a quote recently by John Lennon. He said, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.”
Purpose is comforting even when progress is inconvenient.
You ever wonder why some people are calm in their storm. Why some people, even when it looks like life, people, their job, or finances, has finished them, can say in confidence, “God is not done with me yet.”
When worry comes, I like to dwell in the knowledge that the person who created my purpose or my reason to breathe today isn’t an imperfect human or scientist just experimenting with my life. God is perfect, and regardless of how the progress looks, His intention and purpose for creating me on this earth are good.
Whenever there is a discomfort in my progress, I am training myself to understand that what’s a surprise to me on this path isn’t a surprise to God. He knew about it. This mentality just makes me more curious in my conversations with Him to ask, “What else do you see coming that I don’t know about?”
Sometimes purpose needs to be buried for it to be fruitful.
Every time we envision a purpose or daydream about it, we always imagine something that makes us famous and puts us in the spotlight. We don’t readily think of the timing in fulfilling our purpose that hides us where no one else can see or when people will even step on us – unknowing that what they meant to crush us is only an action item in our germination.
You have to plant a seed for it to germinate. The earth that we all see today and enjoy its beauty was once without form and void.
When you hear the stories of famous people or people who are basking in their purpose today, they share that they all had their dark times when they were buried, tired, and no one knew about it. While this is a lesson for you about your growth, it is also a lesson about your judgment of other people. Just because you see them flourishing in privilege and having the best sunshine experience now doesn’t mean there wasn’t a time in their lives when they had to be dug down deep.
A purpose without a project is like water without a vessel.
Have you ever met people who have found the thing they can’t stop doing yet are not making anything of it? Even when you can’t find a context for your purpose or what you envision hasn’t already been established, it is the time to get creative.
Purpose without a project is like water without a vessel or plan; it will just spill and flow aimlessly.
People are essential to your purpose.
No person is an island of their own. I can’t remember where I heard or saw these two quotes:
We live in a world that now encourages individualism or the “I can do bad all by myself” attitude. A world with “cancel culture” that allows us to make enemies out of anyone easily and sometimes, even without tangible reasons. A world that values being a strong independent person who doesn’t need anyone else.
I think that it won’t be the same set of people that will be there at different or all times when you are fulfilling your purpose. You’ll lose some along the way, you’ll gain new ones. You will lose sight of some who are even constant and present because they are irrelevant to your purpose and its current calling. Your meaning in relationships with people will change or end.
However, be careful not to demonize people because of their lack of relevance to your purpose. Just because a relationship wasn’t meant to be forever doesn’t mean it wasn’t meant to be at all. Cultivate the habit of saying, it was good when it was good and while it lasted. It is good to have people in your life who remind you of why you are here even if they can’t always be there for you.
Also, you don’t always need isolate yourself even when the journey makes you feel lonely. Some part of fulfilling your purpose will require you to do things alone; however, aim to identify at least five people in your life, maybe family, mentors, friends, or a board of directors that you can call, talk to, and rely on.