First up, what does life purpose mean?
Yes, this is deep stuff.
The Purpose of Life: Life’s purpose can be defined as the overarching reason for our existence, the driving force that gives our lives meaning and direction. It is the compass that guides our choices, actions, and interactions with the world around us. It isn´t necessarily our career or having a family, we can live our purpose through our hobbies, daily interactions or any combination of things.
It is also not a case of just make do and get through the day when we get to midlife or throw out everything and start again as I explore in my midlife myths post which may also be useful.
I have to admit that I have struggled over several years around the pressure of finding what my purpose was. This was compounded in ´midlife´ (I turned 50 last year, just so you know!) and having kids who are now teens and less dependent on me. I wanted to share a few of my reflections.
The Journey to Finding Your Purpose in Midlife and Motherhood
It may be obvious, but worth saying that the purpose of life can differ for midlife women, mums, carers due to the unique experiences and challenges they face. For midlife women, the purpose of life may shift from career and personal achievements to finding meaning and fulfillment in their relationships, work, spirituality, and personal growth. This can be a time of reflection and re-evaluation of priorities, as we may have already achieved many of their previous goals or have an altered perception on them and are now seeking deeper connections and purpose in life.
Part of my experience was that I had a successful and meaningful career before kids (particularly as I had kids later) which left me with a sense of, what now? Whilst I wanted to find meaning and purpose in my life (which I used to largely interpret as a job or business), I also didn´t want myself or my life to be taken over by it (as I had been in the past); I still wanted to be able to focus on my family and my own needs too.
For mums, particularly in the early years, the purpose of life may revolve around children and family, as we strive to provide love, support, and guidance to our loved ones. This can be a time of selflessness and sacrifice, as we prioritise the needs of family over our own desires (sometimes without even realising we are doing it!). As we reach midlife our kids can be less dependent on us or have left home which can result in a variety of reactions from questioning who we are to allowing ourselves to have more time to explore our interest and purpose.
Perhaps not surprisingly (but still sadly), more than 60% of women report feeling a lack of purpose in their lives. It may sound obvious, but happiness and fulfillment are integral to a purposeful life. By aligning our actions with our purpose, we can experience a deep sense of joy, contentment, and satisfaction during our days. It does not mean everything we do is always in alignment with this, but trying to maximise this feeling as much as we can throughout our daily life.
If that is not reason enough for us to seek out a purposeful life, research also shows that people who have a clear sense of purpose are more resilient in the face of challenges. So not only does it mean we have more fulfilment and satisfaction in life, it also helps us be stronger when we face any form of adversity.
So, how do we go about finding our life´s purpose?
How to find your purpose?
Firstly and most importantly I would recommend the following –
Don´t take the process too seriously and make it stressful for yourself.
If I could use the image of a tree to depict our lives (much like the one pictured above). Our lives are made up of many branches from relationships, to work, to nourishment to sex to cleaning the house. Personally I think it is best to view our lives as a very full and deep-rooted tree that grows and evolves over time. The branches that get attention or nourished and that flourish will change throughout our lives. It is up to us which ones we focus on at each point, but it also matters how we look after the other branches too. In midlife we may get the opportunity to revisit the branches that we may have left behind and tweak how we nurture them.
In case I have taken the analogy too far (!), it is not just the big things that make up our life purpose, but how we treat and live all parts of our lives, even the routine or mundane. The tree needs all the branches, just like we do, but we can even do the more rubbish stuff in a way that makes us feel more fulfilled.
Life purpose is not necessarily one big thing, it can be how we choose to live our lives day in day out.
Here´s some more concrete ideas………..
5 Tips to Finding your Life´s Purpose
There are countless blog posts, books, courses, etc to help find your life purpose. Here are some of the things I have explored in my journey to find my purpose/life satisfaction as a midlife mum of teens. Hopefully exploring some of these exercises may help support your journey too:
1 Values – consider your values and what is most important to you. I have found this list of values by Brene Brown to be very helpful.
First up – Write down 10 values that are most important to you and then gradually whittle in down to 3 or 4 max.
Give yourself a grade out of 10 for each value and how much you think you are living in line with it right now (1 for not great, 10 for amazing). Then give yourself a grade that you would like to achieve in the next 3-6 months.
Brainstorm some ways that you can increase the presence of your most important values in your life. For example, if you would like more fun or adventure write a list out of several activities that you would be inspired to do to fulfil being more fun or adventurousm, whether it is dancing daily or doing a bungee jump! Do this for all of your values and then start to build a manageable and exciting plan for what works for you in the coming months and (most importantly) write them in the diary. There only needs to be a few activities or ideas to work on in any fortnight or month, don´t overwhelm yourself and go for the ones that must excite you!
This final list of values can also help steer your day to day, big and small decisions as to how you want to live your life.
2 Ideal day – what would be your ideal day or week? How would it look? How would you feel? Roughly what percentage of your time would you work, be alone, with friends or family? What would your dream look like? Can you visualise it right now? Give yourself time and space to do this and allow yourself to dream big!
I have always said I love the idea of early starts on my own/walking and then working followed by a leisurely lunch with family or friends followed by a siesta and then maybe working a bit more or doing exercise/family time/socialising in the evening. Obviously the ideal day is not always be achievable, but having an idea of what you would most like your day to look like can help you start to make changes in your day, starting today.
For example, I can prioritise getting up early to get my alone time and working mornings now my kids are older, I just need to be clear with myself and plan for that and make it clear to those around me. I have found that making small tweaks and changes and seeing how I feel about it is always a good way to experiment with life satisfaction and purpose.
What can you tweak or experiment with today that was part of your ideal day?
3 Back of mind ideas – is there anything whether it is a job, business, project that you have had at the back of your mind for some time but haven´t quite got around to doing yet? For example, I have had in my mind for many years that I want to write a book and over the last 6 years or so to become a life coach. Last year I finally took the plunge to become a coach and I am so glad I finally did! Next stop is the book! I just had to let myself explore the idea in a way that felt comfortable for me and take baby steps each day in that direction to see how it felt.
What projects or ideas have been at the back of your mind? What one baby step can you take today to explore it?
4 Go back in time – sorry, time travel still hasn´t been invented, but we can go back in time to remember what we used to love doing when we were a kid, teen or even before kids. It may be a sport or hobby you used to do, a different job or a creative project. Why not find a way to try it again and see what you think?
I used to love horseriding as a teen, but I tried it a few years back and it wasn´t for me anymore. I realised I loved the thrill of going fast and being out in nature, but now I would rather go for a walk or the occasional bike ride. On the other hand, I have also recently revisited my childhood love of playing football and have subsequently joined a women´s football team which I would never have anticipated in my 50´s! It definitely adds some extra joy into my life and has helped me connect with others too which is always great whatever our age!
What did you used to enjoy doing as a child, teen or before kids?
What could you do today to plan for trying it again?
5 What are you good at? Yes, time to write another list.
Write down all the things you are really good at (and don´t be shy!) Go one step further and ask a few other people too whether it is a friend, family member or co-worker. You might be surprised at their answers and it is always great to get positive feedback.
Reflect on the list you have and ask yourself whether you are playing to your strengths currently in your professional and private life. If not, what can you do to use your strengths more and build on these. As you may have noticed, it is always easier for us to think of what we can improve upon, but research shows that using and developing our strengths is the way to not only boost our performance, but also our life satisfaction and sense of purpose.
What strength could use more of today whether in a conversation, with a family member or at home?
Well, that is kind of up to you.
You may find doing some or all of the above useful. You may also find working directly with a coach helpful to explore and experiment further if you are feeling at a crossroads or a bit stuck (please feel free to get in touch for a zero obligation chat). It may help to discuss with friends, colleagues, family, journal, meditate, dabble in projects and ideas, read more books and blog posts.
Everyone is different. One thing is crucial to remember. We each have our own path and timeline!
I was in a desperate rush to find what my purpose was and felt it had to be a massive overhaul of my life. This resulted in a lot of fear and analysis paralysis. I felt there were too many options and that any decision I made would have to be the final one that I committed to. The reality I have found is that making small changes and seeing how I feel has made all the difference.
Committing to a new career and business was so much easier with me dipping my foot in the water, before I went all in. This is unlike me as I tend to be a bit all or nothing, but it has significantly reduced my fear and stress levels. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself and have some fun in the process.
Experimenting and observing is key.
The process cannot be rushed.
As Nelson Mandela said, I never lose. I either win or I learn. Such wise words and if we approach exploring our purpose in this way it will help us enrich our lives and enjoy the journey in the process.
Next week´s post will be exploring more ways of exploring our life purpose and fulfilment – more specifically about working with others and contribution (whilst still living in accordance with our values and being satisfied with life!)
In the meantime, discovering our life’s purpose is a profound journey that encompasses exploring ourselves and our values, personal growth and development, and making a positive impact in whatever we choose to do. By aligning our values and strengths with our actions and choices, we can create a life that feels rich in meaning, fulfillment, and contentment (most of the time!) It doesn´t mean we have to be Mother Theresa, a CEO of a Company, a mum, business woman or a world leader. We can choose to lead our lives day in day out aligned to who we are and what we can bring to the world. From my experience, it doesn´t have to be a job title or a big deal. If we can take the pressure off ourselves it makes it so much easier (and more enjoyable). Approaching any part of our lives as a fun experiment can really make all the difference.
Ready to get started?
As always I love to hear from you about your thoughts, experiences and ideas. Have you found your life purpose? How did you find it or are you on the journey? Do you think your purpose has changed at different stages of your life? Please do comment below and let me know, including any questions or feedback. Thank you for reading and please feel free to get in touch if you would like to chat further – firstname.lastname@example.org