At times, life can feel like a complete drag.
But we have to have hope in ourselves. We have to believe that we can achieve what we set out to achieve. I’ve been there myself, feeling like I didn’t have a purpose and feeling like I couldn’t accomplish anything. It’s horrible. I went through a time in which I had to seek counseling (for quite a while) due to the way I was feeling.
And the truth is, life has a way of burying out gifts and talents. We are all born with a set of gifts and talents that are unique to us in the way they are unique to us. (Yes, someone else might share your passion, but that person will not share it in the exact same way that you do.)
Sometimes life throws us curveballs. Sometimes we are discouraged at an early age to not pursue things because “we just don’t have it.” Or maybe our own doubts get in the way of us accomplishing everything we could accomplish. The point is, negativity, discouragement, self-doubt, and self-depreciation have a way of combining and teaming up against us to the point where our ability to see that we even have a purpose at all is extremely impaired.
So how do we get back to who we are? How do we find our purpose? We all have gifts and talents, but how do we go into the dusty shelf and find them?
I find that oftentimes, someone should look into their childhood to find the answer to that question. I am a man of faith; I believe in God; I believe that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” as the Bible says.
Therefore, looking into our childhood — before fear, doubt, and discouragement had a chance to throw us off track — is usually a good place to start. Example: the first thing I became passionate about as a child was fighting victimization. The first time I saw an example of victimization on TV, I was moved and hated it. Years later, I studied criminal justice. I am now tracking toward a career in which I can do something about my passion: fighting victimization.
Who I was then is who I am now. My DNA was built to fight victimization. And so that is a primary part of my purpose. I am also protective. I have always loved martial arts. I practice Jiu-Jitsu. This also plays into my passion of wanting to protect people.
I loved combat sports when I was young, and I love them now. For the purpose of protecting my loved ones and fighting victimization.
You may have similar interests. Or you may have found that you always had a passion for peacekeeping, mediation, art, communication through music, debate, numbers, science, archeology, healthcare, compassion fields — whatever you have always felt pulled toward, pay attention to that. You just might be picking up on the trail that leads you to your purpose.
The question then becomes, what do you care most about now? What is that thing that tugs at your heart? What makes you feel most fulfilled? You may not even know the answers to those questions right now. But those are good questions to answer.
How do we answer them?
Counterintuitively, oftentimes, we have to look outside of ourselves to get out of a rut of self-loathing. This goes against every inkling in our being, but if we are in a depressed funk, helping others is sometimes the quickest way to get perspective on our situation.
But I am the one hurting!
I dare you to try helping someone else through your hurt. The fact of the matter is, we all hurt in different ways. Sometimes seeing that clearly can provide us the perspective to realize that we are all in this together. We are not alone. It can help me see that my gifts and talents can provide a way to make life easier for someone who does not have my gifts and talents. And their gifts can help me.
When we look outside of ourselves, even through our own hurt, our eyes begin to open and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel: the hope that we are here on the earth for a reason.
On a slightly lighter note, the next thing I think is really important to think about is, what makes you happy? We’ve alluded to this earlier, but take all the seriousness out of this topic for a second and think about what you enjoy!
Fishing? Art? Hunting? Watersports? Playing music? Public speaking? Motivating? Take note of these things! Your passions, interests, and skills are a guide to finding who you are. And when you find out who you are, and what you’re good at, you can find out how those skills transfer into a career.
When you combine your passions, your skills, and the things that make you happy, you are well on your way to discovering your purpose.
For example, let’s look at 16 year-old-Suzan. She likes to ski, she has grown up playing sports, she does well on a team, and she has always held leadership roles on teams. With her family, she often finds herself mediating between family members who don’t get along. In school, she is good with science and loves studying about new breakthroughs in treatments for illnesses.
She likes to ski = she knows how to do hard things.
She did a lot of team sports = she works well with others.
She was a team captain = she knows how to lead a team.
She is a peacemaker = she knows how to meditate and help others to get along.
She is passionate about science = she has an interest in advancing the field of study.
Suzan could do a ton of things with those skills. She could be a manager. She could study medicine. She could pursue athletics while she does it. All of those skills and passions of hers, when combined, give her life some sort of meaning. If she can hone in on those skills and work hard, she will find herself in a great career.
In the book, What Color is Your Parachute, Richard Bolles breaks down skills by the following categories:
- Functional (transferable) Skills: constructing, creating, researching, teaching, caretaking, etc.
- Special Knowledges: math, foreign language, data analysis, computer knowledge, etc.
- Self Management: adaptable, flexible, innovative, supportive, outgoing, self-confident, etc.
When you get to know your strengths in these areas, you begin to see where you will thrive the most. But I want to take a second to talk about perhaps the most important of all of the topics above. And that is self-confidence.
How are your thoughts about yourself? What are you saying to yourself? Are you encouraging yourself? Or are you your harshest critic? The words we speak to ourselves matter. Just as negative comments from others can discourage us, so can our negative comments to ourselves!
Elizabeth Scott, M.S. writes, “Negative self-talk can affect us in some pretty damaging ways. One large-scale study found that rumination and self-blame over negative events were linked to an increased risk of mental health problems. Focusing on negative thoughts may lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness. This type of critical inner dialogue has even been linked to depression, so it’s definitely something to fix. ”
So how are you speaking to yourself?
I beat myself up so much in my early twenties that I had no confidence at all — there was nothing left. I couldn’t do anything because I had convinced myself that I couldn’t. My family was actually very encouraging. But my own agenda against myself caused me to destroy my own ability to take risks, to move forward, and to make myself a better person.
I would make a mistake and dwell on it for the rest of the day, or week, or month, or year. The only time things began to get better was when I began to agree with Psalm 139: 14 and realize that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I began to speak positively about myself. I began to encourage myself. And when I began to take an attitude of grace with myself, then, I could move forward — I could get out of the rut.
If you are stuck today, I want you to know these things — no matter your beliefs:
- You were created on purpose.
- You have a purpose.
- You can find that purpose.
- You are going to do something wonderful.
- You are not an accident.
- You have what it takes.
- You are loved.
I want to challenge your thinking if you are not a believer in God. I want to challenge you to consider, if I was just an accident, and my life is just a result of biological circumstances, why do I have such a heart for others? how am I so unique? how do I intrinsically have a feel for right and wrong?
I would argue — and I am not here to judge you if you feel differently — but I would argue it is because you were created by God. And I furthermore argue, as the Bible states, that no matter who you are and what your beliefs are, God loves you. The bible says that God loves us: He loves you. God also said you were designed. And he says you have a purpose.
I encourage you to think about this because in knowing that there is a God, I know that I have a purpose.
In conclusion, if you are struggling today with feeling stuck, know that you are not alone, and know that you matter. You will find your way out of this rut. Just put one foot in front of the other. Just take life one day at a time. And begin to speak positively about yourself.
You matter, and you will find your way.