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Depending on the type of session we’re having, I may well ask an adult client to tell me what their purpose in life is. I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who look back at me with a “deer in the headlights” look.

Women especially have trouble answering this question. As mothers, workers, homemakers, artists, social networkers, lovers, chauffeurs, spiritual guides, etc., they find that their purpose can sometimes get buried—even lost.

My next question is “Do you know what your purpose in life is?” At this point, I often receive a version of this answer: “I haven’t found my purpose yet.”

The bad news is, if you’re waiting to “find” your life purpose, you can stop looking now, because you’re never going to “find” it.

The good news is you don’t find your purpose; you determine it. It’s a choice, a conscious decision that you make. For example, I have determined that my purpose is to be a mindful agent of heart-based change—body, mind, and spirit.

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It’s my perspective that knowing one’s life purpose—and living it—is vital to dynamic participation in the world and to joy.

Passion is different from purpose. Passion is what fuels our purpose; it’s the drive behind it.

In his book, To Reach the Clouds,Philippe Petit—a French high-wire artist who gained fame for his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in New York City on August 7, 1974—said, “Passion is something that knows no bounds.”

The drive behind my purpose is compassion.

Mission

The natural outcome or result of a person’s purpose—in my case, to be a mindful agent of heart-based change—is the person’s mission. In other words, if I’m authentically living my purpose, people will naturally experience change, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.

This means that my mission is to effect change that’s positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing—heart-based change.

Path

Our path is the vehicle by which we accomplish our purpose and mission. Once we’ve determined our purpose and the natural outcome (our mission), we must choose a path.

At this point, you might think that the path through which we accomplish our purpose must be what we do for a living—our career. It may well be, but that’s not necessarily the case.

When a client goes through my Life Harmony program, part of that experience includes determining their life purpose if they haven’t already done so. Here are some wonderful examples of what many of my clients have arrived at:

Valerie, a financial advisor by day and hospice volunteer by night, said, “I determined my purpose to be an end-of-life caregiver to the terminally ill; to provide practical, emotional, and spiritual support as they make their end-of-life transition.”

She went on to say, “It’s been a steep learning curve. What I love most—and sometimes dislike most—is the interaction with people. Everyone reacts differently when dealing with death, whether it’s their own or that of a loved one. Sometimes it brings out the best in them. Sometimes it brings out the worst. I’ve learned to practice levels of patience and compassion that have gone well beyond what I’ve known in the past.”

Kimberly shared, “My purpose is to learn to be fully and authentically me; to find the person at the core of myself, claim her, and celebrate her!”

Carol works in a coffee shop next to the train station. She cheerfully serves bleary-eyed morning commuters before they head to the city. She shared, “My purpose is to live consciously and courageously, to resonate with love and compassion, to awaken the spirit within others, and to leave this world in peace.”

Bonnie, a teacher, told me, “My purpose is to be a joy-filled guide. My mission is to discover, to inspire, and to restore joy in myself and in others. My path is to be a consistent beacon, lighting the way. And my passion—the drive behind my purpose—is to transition sadness.”

I’m fortunate in that I love what I do, and I do what I love. My vocation (career) and my avocation (purpose) happen to be one and the same.

The purpose I have determined is not bound by geographic location; it’s totally portable and can be accomplished from any vicinity. Additionally, I can be a mindful agent of heart-based change in any occupation: hairstylist, landscaper, astronaut, accountant, dentist, mechanic, corporate executive—there are no limits.

Currently, my path is transformational life coaching, which I do online with clients around the globe via Skype and FaceTime. This path provides me with the opportunity to be a mindful agent of heart-based change through my specific areas of interest—energy medicine, inner alchemy (personal transformation), and spiritual awareness.

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A person’s purpose, mission, and path may change over time. For example, let’s say that when your children are young and still at home, your purpose is to be the most amazing parent on the planet. Your mission—the outcome of that purpose—would be to have children who evolve into adults who appreciate life, put their best foot forward in everything they do, are responsible for their actions, contribute to society, and authentically live their purpose—not necessarily what you envisioned for them.

The vehicle for accomplishing that task (your path) is your everyday living. You’re a role model—or, as Gandhi said, “My life is my teaching.”

Once your grown children have left home, you may well change your focus and determine a different purpose. For example, you might decide that your purpose is humanitarian campaigning for organizations such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, or Conservation International. Perhaps you’ll determine to promote world peace and friendship through the Peace Corps.

The possibilities are endless.

Laurie Buchanan, Ph.D.
Board-Certified holistic health practitioner, life coach, and award-winning author, Laurie Buchanan, PhD, helps you turn intention into action. A cross between Dr. Dolittle, Nanny McPhee, and a type-A Buddhist, Laurie is a voracious reader, award-winning author, kindness enthusiast, and an unabashed optimist. Her first book, Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth, closes the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Her second book, The Business of Being: Soul Purpose in and Out of the Workplace, shows you how to thrive, soul-side out, in and out of the workplace. Learn more at TuesdaysWithLaurie.com