Post On: December 4, 2019
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Hey friends, I'm really excited about this month's topic, but before we dive in, I just want you to consider that you are only ever five steps away from a sustainable solution for any life situation when you approach it using the principles of a gap year mindset. And it's my hope that you'll come and visit us at thegapyeargirls.com to learn more!
So, now with that wonderful sponsor info out of the way….
I'm your host, Celeste, and you are listening to episode number 5, your relationship to Life Purpose.
After researching and preparing for the ways we will dive deeper into this idea in our membership site for The Gap Year Girls, it's become pretty obvious to me that there are empowering ways, and there are more disempowering ways to think about the idea of having a life purpose.
In this podcast I'm going to help make a clearer distinction between these two so you can identify what yours presently is, and then with that awareness, be supported with ideas and tools to walk away more confident and feeling like "YES, I can step into this upcoming new year, and new DECADE, so much more clear on what having a life purpose means to me, so that I can make empowering choices for my life that align with that understanding.
Are you ready? Awesome. Let's dive in.
SO, how do you define a life purpose? That's probably a good place to start right.
Maybe your definition for a life purpose is……
For me, I like to define a life purpose as simply "the path I choose when I am my most authentic self"
It can seem like such a vague or intangible concept, but we make it more tangible through creating our own definition of it. So I'm curious, what are your stories about having a life purpose, and what does that mean to you?
Unattainable, or accessible now:
You get to decide whether your life purpose is something "out there" to discover or, something that is understandable now, to you at this exact moment.
I'm sure you've probably seen a Buzz Feed article headline promising you that you can take their quiz and discover what your life purpose is in 3 easy steps.
Or maybe you've seen an inspiring Ted Talks or motivational speaker share about what it means to live your life purpose according to the point of view.
Maybe you're into astrology, and so you're turning to your chart to interpret what your life purpose is.
I want you to notice the subtlety of approaching this question from the perspective of searching "out there" for undisclosed pieces of information or outside insight into who you are, to feel confident and self-assured about who you should be, and what you should do with the time you have here on earth.
Why would someone believe that the answers to those questions are 'out there'?
Well, in my own personal experience, I remember the first time I bumped up against western astrology, I felt this immediate pull towards wanting to "know" what other astrologists claimed to be able to tell me about myself and my destiny, through interpreting the information of my chart.
I've seen it claimed with schools of astrology that the 'purpose of your life is written in the stars.' And, if you are someone who doesn't know how to read the language of the cosmos, it can feel like someone else holds hidden answers about who you really are that you're going to be incomplete without!
When people put something like astrology on a pedestal, it perpetuates this idea that someone else outside of you knows something about you, that you don't already on some level know about yourself, and has people doubting the validity of their own experience.
When we doubt our own senses as a trustworthy source of insight into who we are, then we continue to search out the messages, advice, and opinions of others, who let's be real, are only able to speak from a place of authority on the matter because they've been studying themselves and are sharing insights from personal experiences.
Point is, you don't need to speak the language of astrology fluently IN ORDER TO one day see your life purpose disclosed to you. Astrology, just like any other personal development tool or modality, offers ways to be more focused in your approach to studying yourself, and can, therefore, can more easily recognize your own desires for what you want your life to be about.
The rabbit hole I can see people getting into with something like astrology, or self-development work in general, is that because the nature of what we can learn through studying the stars (and ourselves) is infinite, we can get trapped and tormented by this idea that we will never truly know the full picture of our life and therefore never fully know our life purpose. So we discredit the validity of who we are and what we know now by labeling it as incomplete.
Sure, it's a valid perspective. But is it empowering?
Here's the alternative that I see and what I've come to adopt through my own experience of asking the question over and over again: Does it serve me to choose this perspective? And is there a more empowering story that I can tell in this situation?
From this point of view, defining my life purpose comes as the result of my increasing self-awareness and what I know to be true from direct experience, and is acted upon by making the conscious choice to use self-sourced information to guide the decisions I make and the direction I take my life moving forward.
When it comes to exploring who I am through something like astrology, for example, discovering that my sun sign is in Taurus, is purely an invitation to explore the qualities of that symbol, within the context of my chart and give me a more focused direction to vself-reflect with, in order to add more dimensionality to the way I view who I know myself to be.
That way, I am not seeking validation or outside answers from others, and instead continue to affirm that I am the expert on myself, who can use these different modalities for self-reflection as tools to deepen my own inquiry and understanding of who I've been, who I am now, and who I can choose to be moving forward.
Chosen for you, or chosen by you:
Which leads me to my next ideas about life purpose, which is whether you believe that having a life purpose is chosen FOR you, or chosen BY you. Feel into this one for a moment, and I want you to take a guess at which one is more personally empowering.
If you guessed that choosing your own life purpose is more empowering than having some external force or system of cultural, societal, or religious conditioning, assign it to you… then you'd be right!
But why do you think that is?
One of these ideas has you give your power away to others when you believe that you DON'T have a choice, that your desires are the wrong or invalidated if they go against the will of a greater power outside of you (be it the will of society, the will of your culture, or the will of a supreme being), and that because of this, it is not your responsibility to decide what is made of your life because the external world has already decided who you are, what you should do, and where you'll end up.
The other, empowers you to believe that you have a CHOICE, that your opinions and desires for what you want that choice to be MATTERS, and that ultimately it is your responsibility to create your life and make decisions that are reflective of what is most authentic for you, based on your own present understanding of what that is.
Juxtaposed together like this, it seems pretty obvious how limiting one perspective is, and how liberating another one is, right?
Think back to ancient times, when there was no internet, and the options you had for the lenses with which you viewed the world, was contained within the families and religious or political figures of your small community. And that was it.
But this is 2019, and more than any other time in history, we can hear the stories of literally billions of people who are offering billions of perspectives about how to see the world and make sense of their own place within it.
So why inside anyone's right mind would someone choose to believe a perspective that gives all their power away and abdicates full responsibility for the meaning and outcome of their life?
Well, the way I see it, it always comes down to fear. How conditioned have we become to fear the version of ourselves that we would be if we truly reclaimed our power? What seemingly "bad things" might happen if we actually took full responsibility for our lives, started expressing ourselves unapologetically?
First of all, we'd likely upset anyone else who has convinced themselves that they don't have power or an ability to change. We also might receive pushback from people we care about because they won't recognize the version of us that no longer puts pleasing people, censoring our truth, or apologizing for existing ahead of being true to ourselves.
The transformation we experience through the reclamation of our own personal power is the result of walking through the fire of criticism and scrutiny from others as they reflect back to us the insecurity and limiting beliefs that we are in the process of letting go of within ourselves.
Can you do this? Absolutely. And living an authentic life depends on it.
If you have those lingering questions about what the purpose of your life is, this is your invitation to take responsibility for finding your own answers. I see it as one of my greatest privileges to embody the possibility of viewing our life purpose as something completely chosen by us, and that our direct life experiences are enough to inform the most meaningful, expansive and impactful decisions, we can make for ourselves moving forward.
Fixed or fluid:
The final thing I wanted to address before we wrap up together today, is distinguishing between seeing the idea of a life purpose as something that is fixed or something that is fluid.
If you're still with me, then you're starting to get the hang of tuning into how an idea feels for you to see if it is an empowering perspective to choose or a disempowering one. So go ahead, I'll give you a second to decide for yourself. What feels more empowering to believe that your life purpose is fixed? Or something that is fluid?
For me, fluid is certainly the answer. Because what comes to mind when you think about something being fixed? I think of things that are rigid, unchangeable, locked in. This conjures up an image for me of being, like, locked into a contract or something. And I don't know about you, but imagining my life purpose like being locked into the contract I didn't choose that can and will never change makes me feel kind of helpless and trapped.
But the traditional mindset that has guided society's expectations for becoming an adult certainly reflects this kind of fixed thinking. Our "get good grades, go to a good school, pick your major, start your career, retire 50 years later" mentality certainly puts a lot of pressure on 18-25-year-olds to know what they want for the rest of their life, set it in stone, and then work really hard on that path until they eventually get old and call it a day.-------------
But what is the alternative? In my experience, it's choosing a perspective where you relate to your life purpose, as being something that is fluid. "Fluid" has me imagine other words like flexible, evolving, flowing. It conjures up this image for me of a kaleidoscope constantly shifting colors and changing patterns, yet always a complete work of art in any given moment of its ongoing transformation.
When you see your life purpose as fluid, you guide yourself forward with curiosity by asking a question like:
What do I get excited about these days, and how can I give more of my energy to that?
I could connect with whatever answer is most resonant for me at the moment, and use that information to make the decision I'm faced with now, while also being free to change my mind in the future if I were to reexamine my choices and discover that my answer had changed.
I used to feel like my life purpose (again, the productive, powerful, and impactful thing I could choose to do with my life) was going to be doing conservation work to help endangered wildlife, restore degraded ecosystems and habitats, and raise awareness about the impacts of larger corporations on our environment.
For several years that guided me down the path of choosing to do conservation projects working with wildlife in both South Africa and the Amazon jungles of Peru, it guided me to join the honors program at UCSB to study environment science in hopes that I could use what I learned towards fulfilling and expanding into that purpose that most resonated for me at the time.
But along my journey, and along my path of inquiry, I learned new things that expanded my perspective on what I thought was the problem, and gained insight into deeper aspects of what I felt was the root cause of what I wanted to dedicate my life to address. That insight was into the inextricable link between human suffering and environmental suffering.
If you are in pain or you are living in fear, all of your attention is going to be focused on yourself and the simple act of just trying to survive by any means necessary. There isn't an ability to think different, or long term about the impact of your actions on others, your community, and certainly not the habitats of wildlife and larger ecosystems. When we don't think we have enough or are enough, then we take to fill the empty hole we feel inside. We take from a place of scarcity, and this level of taking without feeling satisfied to the point where we could give back to others or the land has on a global scale created a massive imbalance that is now demanding to be restored. The fate of humanity, as we know, it depends on this.
But it is my belief, from my own experiences, that this imbalance STARTS within the hearts and minds of individual people, and healing the world starts with empowering individual people to see themselves from a place of wholeness. Once balance gets restored within you, this allows there to be a foundation upon which you can now confidently direct your attention outside of yourself to ask empowering questions like "what does the world need?" and "how can I be of service?"
What I want you to walk away from today is this. Wandering and meandering along in your life without any clear sense of direction, or feeling trapped in a life purpose, career path, relationship, or gender role that feels assigned to, rather than chosen by you, in this day and age is completely unnecessary.
When you take full responsibility for becoming the expert on yourself, discovering what you truly desire and aligning your life choices to authentically reflect that, you are without a doubt living whatever you might define as your life purpose.
Now if you are looking for answers, if you want more clarity for the current situation you find yourself in, if you are seeking a deeper understanding of yourself and the best decisions you can be making to take you in the direction of your dreams, then you are in the right place. Because that is exactly what our Intentional Gap Year workshop helps women who want to become self-empowered to do.
This completely online program has been created to be your personal space to deep dive into yourself and emerge on the other side with a clear vision for where you want to go, and most importantly, the integrated understanding that you are your greatest guide to getting yourself there.
So if you're listening to this, and you've been facing intimidating unknowns in your life, like why don't I feel fulfilled by the supposed dream job I landed after graduation? Or, feeling stuck trying to decide whether to stay or leave your present relationship or wondering, "how do I make a plan to move out of my parent's house and start thriving as a young adult"? Then do yourself a favor, head on over to our website at thegapyeargirls.com, and we will be waiting there with the tools and the support for you to find your own answers, and be welcomed into the most empowered version of yourself.
Thanks for tuning in today, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I'm curious to know, what is your personal definition of a life purpose and how has it changed over time? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, and leave a review for this podcast to keep the empowering tips coming! I read every single one, and look forward to hearing from you, and having you join us at thegapyeargirls.com