You may be absolutely certain what you’re meant to do in this life. Or maybe you’re still wondering. Maybe you’re not even sure people really have a Life Purpose, much less how to figure out what yours might be.

Purpose has been on my mind since I listened to a podcast from my friends at One Complete Business.  It was one of those experiences where I wanted to jump into my iPad and join Marc Hertz and Barb Morgan-Browning’s conversation.

Apparently, I have opinions about Purpose.

A lot of us feel purpose-LESS when it comes to our work.

Otherwise, how could two thirds of Americans feel disengaged or even unhappy with their jobs? (And that’s an improvement over years past.) 

The One Complete Business podcasters had a lot to say about the “purpose industry”—people who will happily sell you some formula to find your Purpose and shame you if you don’t have one.

They’re also vocal about jobs and careers as they connect to Purpose. Growing food, writing, plumbing…could those be a person’s Purpose? This is where I wanted to jump into the exchange.

Plumbing is not a purpose. Plumbing is a career. A trade. A valuable service to humanity. And … Purpose is more than a career, a trade, or even a specific service.

I was nodding in agreement when Marc and Barb got to the notion that a Purpose is not a job. Your Purpose, they said, can actualize in different jobs. Exactly!

Okay. What is this Purpose thing?

At Purposed Lives, Cindy Dove says people often confuse Life Purpose with life work. Your Purpose is much more than what you do for a living.

“Life Purpose,” she says, “is that thing you do naturally and spontaneously, that you’ve been doing all your life. It’s what you bring to the world; your Life Purpose has shown up in your interactions with people over and over since you were young. You’re already an expert in it.”

The big thing, according to Cindy, is identifying that gift you have. “Then you can recognize what it is and be aware of your opportunities to be On Purpose.”

Otherwise, it’s easy to discount your Life Purpose. Because it’s so much a part of who you are, you might think what you do naturally and spontaneously is no big deal. You might not even notice your Life Purpose in action.

Let me back up to my own Purpose.

My friend Judith talked me into a Life Purpose workshop years ago. I was dubious; it sounded airy-fairy to me. I had a Life Purpose already—it was to show up at the radio station before the crack of dawn and do the news, wasn’t it?

Well, no, as it turned out. In the Living On Purpose session, I figured out that (like everyone else) I did my job in service of something bigger. That I’d been doing that bigger thing all along, and that I hadn’t paid much attention to it because it was so automatic for me.

One clue was the things people had said to me over and over, the observations they’d made about me. I looked back at the kinds of interactions I’d had at different points in my life. When somebody really wanted to talk with me, what were they looking for? And what did they say about that later?

The whole process was fascinating. If you’re interested in step-by-step details, Cindy is doing similar work with her clients now.

The bottom line for me was this. What I heard all the time from all kinds of people was, “When you said … it changed my life.” Or “… it changed my career” or “my relationship.” The point was, after a conversation with me, they made some kind of change.

I’m a Catalyst.

There are two parts to the way I spark a change. I’m perceptive—I have some insight into their situation or problem or conundrum. And I’m direct—I have the nerve to say it out loud, to their face.

That nervy part is big. Seeing something or understanding it isn’t enough, by itself. Catalyzing only happens when I tell them what I’m thinking.

You might guess, not everyone is interested in being catalyzed. Some, in fact, are quite resistant; they’re happy the way things are. Or maybe they’re not happy, and they’re satisfied with being not-happy. That is my cue to keep my Purpose to myself.

As Cindy Dove says, people come to each of us for our Purpose. They “tug on our sleeve” to let us know they want the gift we bring to the world. And if they don’t tug, they don’t want it. It’s not smart—or useful—to force it on them.

You might be smiling at my declaration that I’m a Catalyst. You might even be rolling your eyes. I’m proud of it, and I keep an eye out for opportunities to use it.

“The biggest benefit of naming your Life Purpose,” Cindy says, “is that you start recognizing it. You can be intentional about it.”

Getting intentional about it changes everything. When you know your Life Purpose, you can create opportunities for people to tug on your sleeve, to let you know they need what you do so well.

But will they pay you for it?

Some of us are doing work that aligns with our Life Purpose. When I’m in front of a roomful of women who need to know how to become uninterruptible … I am being a Catalyst.

My guess is a lot of those employees who are disengaged don’t need a new job. They’d be more plugged in if they figured out how their Purpose manifests in the job they have. And it’s very likely that it does.

It’s also possible to be content with work that pays the bills while you use your Life Purpose in some other way, separate from employment. If Nurture is your Life Purpose, rearing children is a perfect way to manifest it in the world.

We can explore the payment question another time. For now, the last word from Barb and Marc at One Complete Business: “When you’re putting your Purpose to work, you can make a difference in the world.”

Post a comment below about the difference you’re making.

Or share a question about this whole Life Purpose thing.