When my executive clients tell me they can’t find their purpose in life, I ask them two questions:
1. As a person, are you more optimistic or pessimistic?
We all carry the illumination of our life purpose within us. If that illumination is excessively dark, and we suffer from a lack of self-awareness, it can mean a propensity toward aimlessness. In other words, if you don’t know your purpose in life, you are like a rudderless ship at sea, buffeting this way and that way by capricious winds and waves.
Unless you know and act on your purpose and put some direction in your actions, you stand little chance of living the optimistic, well-lived life you no doubt desire.
Most people are not pessimistic by nature. They become that way because of past events. To become more optimistic:
• Be aware of your negative “no, I cannot” thoughts and replace them with “yes, I can.”
• Every day, reaffirm your commitment to changing your negative attitude.
• Avoid negative people.
• Practice gratitude.
2. What is the majority of your internal dialogue (self-talk) about? The future or the past?
Your internal dialogue is influenced by your subconscious mind and reveals how you process thoughts, justify actions, categorize beliefs, create ideas and engage with your curiosity. All of these are done in thoughts of the future or of the past, not of the present.
Let’s use fear as an example of a feeling that is grounded in the future and is not useful for determining purpose.
When your self-talk dwells on fears, including the fear that you will never find your purpose, it is because of concern about what might happen in the future. You have no certainty about what the future holds. Thus, you are unable to formulate rational coping mechanisms. You are likely to devolve into aimlessness.
Fear can foster self-doubt and allow your self-talk to sabotage you. This takes you even further from the discovery of your true purpose in life.
Leave your comfort zone and enter the learning zone, which is situated in between comfort and fear. It is in this learning zone that you can objectively evaluate what’s in front of you and decide on appropriate conduct. If you instead allow yourself to enter the fear zone, it’s too late. You will have already been taken over by your worst concerns. In the learning zone, you will have the confidence to replace fear with a “can-do” attitude.
Now let’s turn to the past and consider how your past deeds and actions, either positive or negative, keep you from creating positive outcomes for yourself or others. Living with your self-talk in the past keeps you from generating something new. Instead, you just waste your time indulging in what was.
You only have a finite amount of creative energy, and you shouldn’t squander it on things that don’t matter, or worse, things that actually hold you back from achieving a meaningful life.
To be a purposeful leader rather than drifting aimlessly, you must constantly be checking yourself in order to make sure that you are living in the present. When you are in the present, you can be fully engaged with tasks that are meaningful, creative and fulfilling. And, you can create something that is uniquely you — something that only you can give to others.
• Be aware of the timeframe where your self-talk is taking place.
• Focus only on things in the present moment.
• Have clear intentions as to why you are focusing on something.
• Believe in yourself.
The prerequisite skill set required to discover your purpose includes being acutely aware of the nature of your positive attitude as well as the timeframe of your self-talk. Then, by continuing to be in the present and being positively aware of what your goals are, you can discover and fulfill your life purpose.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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