Searching For Your Purpose? Ask Your Inner Child
Childhood is far from just nostalgia fuel. Therapists plumb its depths to help us understand how we came to be the way we are, and according to bestselling author, Robert Greene, it may hold the key to our adult happiness.
The Laws of Human Nature
The Laws of Human Nature
- 18 min reading time
- audio version available
In one chapter of his new book, The Laws of Human Nature, Greene states how a sense of higher purpose can contribute to greater overall life satisfaction. And according to Greene — along with many other authors such as Gretchen Rubin and Sir Ken Robinson — we’re likely to find it if we think back to what made us happy as children.
To find your purpose, focus on your motivations
A sense of being at a loss or feeling unfulfilled is something that a lot of us face at various points in our lives. Instead of resigning yourself to feeling completely at sea, it’s worth spending some time trying to figure out your purpose, a path that really means something to you. Try to recognize what motivates and matters to you.
Motivations come in two categories: extrinsic motivations and intrinsic motivations. Extrinsic motivations are measured by the external world and come in the form of things such as good grades, trophies, or high salaries. Intrinsic motivations are derived from your own sense of meaning in your life. Finding a balance of both is essential. If you find your intrinsic purpose, you will discover yourself rewarded extrinsically — but on your terms!
Fixed paths don’t exist
You are unique and so is your purpose. From your genetic makeup, to the timeframe and environment in which you were raised, no one will share your experiences, outlook, or skill set. However, sometimes your one-of-a-kind-ness can be dismissed or limited by societal expectations which can, in turn, dictate the paths you take early on in life. If these have led you to somewhere unfulfilling, it’s time to take a few risks, stop allowing fear of mistakes to stifle you, and allow yourself to discover your passions.
Challenging though it is, there are different approaches you can use to start identifying your purpose. Returning to Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature, think of an activity that you adored when you were a child but that you don’t do anymore? Start playing with these ideas or activities again and see how they make you feel. Have some conversations with people who know you well and talk through your story, share your feelings, and chat about your passions. They may see common themes that have escaped you. Lastly, picture your perfect day. Where are you? What are you doing? Include all your senses. This will also help you on your path to finding your purpose, and crucially get you motivated to reach that perfect day.
It won’t all be smooth sailing
Even if you’re pretty sure you know what you want to do with your life, you can all reach points where you question it. If you’re still searching for what that is, you need to prepare to make some big changes. Becoming who you were meant to be will require effort.
As with those early life choices, people will try to influence your decisions and will often disagree with you. It is important to keep in mind that your definition of success won’t be the same as other people’s. Finding ways to cope with personal doubts and shake off negative, limiting beliefs. If you feel like you have wasted time not having a purpose, let your prior experiences carry you forward to create something better for yourself.
Purpose will help you gain perspective
Instead of powering through life with regrets, having a sense of purpose can help you to gain perspective and clarity, and to prioritize sustainable, long-term goals over short-term results. Making meaningful contributions, even on a small scale, increases our sense of gratitude, which is a common trait to the world’s most fulfilled people. So, if you think you are ready to find your purpose, sit back and dream of your childhood.