I spent a quarter of a century pursuing a life that I thought I had to follow. I made choices because I thought that I should make those choices.
I went to the college my parents picked out for me and majored in something that everyone told me I should major in because it was practical. I made good grades to fulfill my family’s expectations and I graduated in four years. I started working in a well-paying white-collar office job right out of school.
I was doing everything I was supposed to do. And I was so unhappy.
My motivation didn’t come from within. Like many young women, the picture of my life had been painted for me. I was following the rules even though they were out of line with what I truly needed.
After a couple of years working in the office job, the best thing that could happen to me did — I got laid off. Instead of feeling upset or anxious about the future I felt relieved.
I needed an “excuse” to quit. I needed to be pushed because at 24-years-old I still didn’t understand how much power existed within me.
I took time off. I traveled and worked at a seasonal hostel on the beach cleaning toilets and making friends with people from around the world.
Many of these people were drifters. They’d stay in a place for a few months doing odd jobs and then continue their grand adventure.
Before working in the hostel, I thought these sort of people had no sense of purpose. I thought purpose meant knowing exactly what you’re next step in life would be.
Many of these people understood purpose more deeply than I did.
Purpose to them was not about having a life mapped out and inching closer to the next pre-set destination (I’m talking about the school, marriage, family, retirement, death path that social norms say we all should be following).
For many of these travelers, their purpose was much greater.
Just as I had been forced from the 9-5 world, many of the people I met were also pushed toward a nomadic, entrepreneurial or otherwise non-conventional lifestyle because they lost a job, a partner a child, or something else that completely turned their life upside down.
It’s easy to see how much life lacks purpose when everything is pulled out from underneath you. When your partner leaves you or when you don’t have a penny to your name, it becomes easier to understand that the meaning of life is not a white-picket fence.
But here’s the thing — you don’t have to lose everything to find your purpose. You don’t have to wait around for life to force you to dig deeper and uncover what truly lifts your soul.
Purpose doesn’t come from material things. And no, it doesn’t even come from our relationships.
Only you can uncover the reason for which you exist.
Contrary to popular belief, no online course or self-help book will help you “find” your purpose. Understanding your purpose takes work.
It takes truly understanding yourself — your fears, your motivations, your desires. It takes unwrapping years of repressed emotions and slowly healing wounds you may not even realize exist.
Maybe you’re stuck in a job you hate or a less-than-desirable relationship. Or maybe you feel like you haven’t truly started life yet. Maybe you’re 18 or 81 and still trying to figure out what to be when you grow up.
For the past eight years, I’ve studied and written about personality psychology as a way to understand myself more deeply and make sense of the world we live in. I’ve consumed theory after theory, read dozens of self-help books, attended seminars and talked with experts from around the world.
What I’ve learned is that 99% of the information out there is geared toward making you feel better about yourself, but not the hard work that it takes to truly discover your purpose.
There is a difference between psychology-based growth and self-help. Self-help makes you feel better about yourself for a short period of time, much like a glass of wine, a bubble bath or the infatuation at the beginning of a relationship.
Psychology-based growth doesn’t always make you feel good in the short term. In fact, it can make you feel really bad. You face demons you’d rather avoid and you have to take actions that may temporarily hurt you and people who care about you.
Many people prefer to avoid making hard decisions until they’re “forced” to do so.
Life makes sure that we’re all forced to do hard things every once in a while. But the more we push ourselves to do the things that scare us, to unearth our true fears and motivations and to come out on the other side acknowledging our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, the stronger we become.
Many communities around the world still view women as second-class citizens. In these communities, women are expected to marry and bear children. Women face extremely high rates of domestic abuse and many countries do not protect women from this sort of violence.
Even in countries that promote values such as equality for all citizens, women face immense pressures from the media, the church and society at large to look, think and act in certain ways.
It becomes easy for us as women to play the part we think we’re supposed to play. It’s easier than going against the rules and opening ourselves up to disapproval, hate or — even worse — violence.
Our goal is to help women around the world to not only understand their inherent value but to make even the smallest changes that can lead to a purpose-driven life.
You’ll find a library of information and resources designed to help you understand yourself better and guide you toward a healthy personal growth journey.
Have questions or want to chat? You can reach me anytime on Twitter @meganmmalone or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.