There’s a saying that “those who love what they do never work a day in their lives.” A lucky few people know even as children what they want to do and accomplish in their lives. For the rest of us, it takes longer — sometimes a lot longer.
Yet, it’s very important — for your happiness, career success, and even physical health — that you do follow your passion or contribute to the greater good in a way that makes you feel fulfilled.
So, what do you do if you’ve gotten all the way to graduation, maybe even taken your first job just because it was available, but still haven’t really found what you “love to do?” The following exercises may help you discover your true purpose in life.
Envision Your Ideal World
Now think about what needs to be changed in the real world to bring it closer to your vision. Can you help make that change? What skills do you have (or can acquire through entry level jobs) that would be useful in this sort of work?
Express Your Deepest Values
What causes or missions mean the most to you? Possible answers could range from protecting the environment to improving the human condition to spreading joy through your art.
Identify What You’re Good at
You may already know this instinctively, or have seen what subjects you got the best grades in at school. If you’re not sure, it’s time to consult with people who know you well: family, friends, teachers and other mentors. Ask them what they think you do really well, your character strengths, what you most enjoy doing, and what you’ll be known for in the future.
Try Different Things
There’s absolutely no need to follow one career path your whole life. But, the earlier you can find your best path, the better. Plus, when you’re starting out is the easiest time to explore your options.
Some ways to test drive possible careers include internships, temporary jobs and volunteer work. All of these are usually for a specific, limited period, so you can quickly move on to something else if you don’t like it as much as you thought you would. The important thing is not to be afraid to take risks.
Follow in the Footsteps of Those You Admire
Who do you most respect: a world leader in activism or the next-door neighbor who does good work in the community? The names that come to your mind first could indicate that their purpose in life is one that would work well for you, too.
Purpose is something that should be lived just as fully on the job as in your personal life. Once you’ve nailed down what’s most important to you, look for employers who share your concerns and ethics. Working as part of a larger team to be a force for good in the world can be one of the most satisfying, successful ways to achieve your purpose.