The Surprising Way To Find Your Life Purpose Doesn't Come Externally

by Dan Cumberland

She was burnt out. I could see the pain in her eyes as we spoke. Her situation was tough; her supervisor was not supportive.

She could barely get out of the door in the mornings. She was having breakdowns on Sunday nights in anticipation of the week ahead.

It was heartbreaking to hear her talk about it. She shouldn’t have to endure such an intensely difficult situation, yet this is where she was at the time.

She needed to make some changes. It almost didn’t matter what she did next, so long as she could do something else.

Finding your life purpose begins with making space. Before you choose a specific way to make your impact — before you find your passion — you must create the space for possibilities.

In the face of impossibility, when life feels like a cage, no real movement can take place.

You must begin by seeking freedom from what keeps you bound. Once a sense of possibility begins to appear, you can explore options and choose the work that makes the most sense and has the most meaning.

If you try to answer the question, “What should I do with my life?” without a sense of possibility present, your answer will be mostly about what keeps you from feeling free.

Without space for possibility, you won’t have room to explore anything else.

Finding your passion is about who you are in the deepest parts of yourself. Your deepest desires won’t be discernible until you make room for them to show themselves.

Parker Palmer speaks of vocation as a wild animal. You may glimpse it here or there, but you can’t find it by crashing through the woods, calling its name.

This is because our purpose is a place of deep desire, and our desires are sensitive. They’re personal and connected to tender places in our lives. They won’t come out to play until there’s space for them. Your work is to make that space.

A gardener can’t force her plants to grow and bloom, but she can clear the weeds and tend to the soil. Our desires and passions need to be tended in such a way.

You may need to work on arranging your internal and external world to allow for some extra room.

Before you get your dream job, you need a good job. Before you know what you want to do, you need to know who you are.

Externally, that may look like a job that doesn’t suck the life out of you, yet still pays the bills. This doesn’t have to be the most meaningful work in the world, it just needs to sustain you while you answer bigger questions.

Or, it may look like finding people who are more supportive of you. You can’t dream if the people in your life are dream killers. Finding your passion is difficult, if not impossible, without a supportive environment.

Internally, this requires exploring the stories that keep you from feeling free. Write the stories. Tell your stories. Draw, paint, sculpt, sing or dance your stories.

The more you explore the meaningful scenes in your life, the more you’ll understand who you are. The more you understand who you are, the easier it will be for you to find your passion.

Start by making space.