What Is My Purpose? You’ve Never Defined It.


be seen

Do you ask yourself, “What is my purpose in life?”

Or maybe for you like a lot of us, the questions are asked a little differently. Instead you wonder – why is it so hard to figure out what I actually want to do with my career?

I’ll tell you why it’s been so hard to figure out.

You’ve never been forced to define yourself.  You don’t really know who you are.

You may disagree with me. After all this time on Earth you probably think you know.

But I’m not talking about things like whether you enjoy art or accounting. I’m not even talking about things like your Myers-Briggs type or how many years of therapy you’ve been in. 

I’m saying you still don’t know what resonates with your soul.

That’s why I get so many emails asking me  “How do I come up with good business ideas?”

And the truth is,  I have no idea.

Because I don’t know what a good idea is for you.

Sure, I can help you discover it, but I can’t just pull it out of my hat like a floppy-eared rabbit.

Something that might be dazzlingly fun for me, could make you shake in your boots.

And the thing that would be a dream come true for you would make me want to pee my pants in fear. Or make me think about gouging my eyes out because I’m so bored.

Before you can find THE thing, you have to know yourself. And not just your personality. Your soul, too. 


Changing Careers

You’ve gotten here, to the point in your life when choosing what you want to do with yourself is on the horizon, and now you’re drawing a complete blank. Or nearly complete.

Hey, I did it too. It’s human nature, I think.

Until you are faced with the question of what would you do if you could do anything, you don’t really know what you’d do.

We’re never really taught to think about it. 

But now that you’re there, or nearly there, to a place where you have to decide what you’d do if you could do anything – maybe because of impending retirement, maybe because you were smart about your money and can afford to downshift to a less demanding career, or maybe because you just hate your job so much you’d rather take a flying leap into the unknown than stay another year – you realize you have only a hazy idea of what’s next for you.

So how do you actually answer the question, what would you do if you could do anything?

Most people will tell you that you need to find your passion.  I think it’s important, but in truth, I don’t think it’s the right place to start. Because passion is fickle. It will leave you as fast as your steamy young Italian lover, and then be back again the next day, pleading with you and swearing its undying love. And that just leaves you confused.

Instead, why not try and define yourself?

Passion is about what you love to do, but purpose – who you are, what matters to you, or what you want to do with yourself or more narrowly your career – is more about meaning.


What Is My Purpose? 

When you think about who you are, what matters, or what gives you meaning, what comes up for you? What is your reason for being? Your why?  

Of course, if the question were easy to answer we wouldn’t struggle with it for so long.

So what’s happening?

Sometimes we’re just afraid of being seen by others or of seeing ourselves. There are lots of reasons why we find parts of ourselves difficult to face. So we keep those parts buried. Sometimes we’re listening too closely to others and not closely enough to ourselves.

Perhaps we’re afraid of being called upon to be “brilliant,” and so instead of stepping into our greatness we delude ourselves into thinking we have no idea what we’re here to do.

But to find your purpose, you must to the opposite.

Be brave. See yourself. And when you think you’ve seen all you believe there is to see, find someone smarter and more insightful and braver than you who loves you enough to tell you the things you don’t want to hear about yourself (a good therapist will do), but that you have to hear in order to grow into the person you’re meant to be. Uncover those parts. Listen to yourself and SEE who you are. ALL of it. Do that work. Because when it’s done what’s left is a real understanding of who you are and what you have to offer. 

Embrace your brilliance. Step into your greatness. Feel your way toward what actually matters to you. Not what feels “fun”, not even what feels “exciting.”

But toward what feels “kick-you-in-the-gut,” “this-is-it” “I-have-to-do-this” experiences that tell you “If I don’t do this, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, and I’ll regret it forever.”

When you get that feeling, you know you’re on the path toward your purpose.

Do you feel it? 

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  1. Jessica says

    Exactly the article I’ve been looking for! As a ‘Jane Of All Trades’/’Has many talents but master of none, having dropped out of college after 4 years, I know this frustration. I still have only some little ‘maybe’s, but lots of insecurities & unsureness. Very relatable.

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Thanks Jessica! Keep searching. Your answers are within. You have to find what makes you come alive when you do it. And maybe the first time or your first experience with something won’t be a full on “passion” experience, but look for that little zing of excitement, and follow that! Good luck!!

  2. says

    Jessica, a beautiful post and a challenging question. Our passion can be many and varied but until as you say allow ourselves to be “brilliant,” we so often hide behind not being good enough, making excuses and the list goes on.

    thank you I know I need to be brave, embrace my word for 2014 “courage’ and step up. Great to meet you and your blog
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Did You Chose Your Power Word for 2014 From Your Head Or Your Heart?My Profile

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Thank you Suzie! It really does take courage to step into our brilliance. It doesn’t seem like it should be true, but it is, and it requires so much! So good luck to you as you take a deep breath and soldier on!

  3. says

    Thanks for the reminder. I was having one of those what if days and just about to give up and go looking for a simple job that pays the bills.

    What if I’m feeling it and at the same time wanting to run screaming away from it because it involves selecting a target market and putting myself out there? What I am doing will strike a chord with my target market, but it will also touch something raw and tender in other people who may want to lash out at me for speaking a truth that is against their beliefs. What if I feel it, and yet at the same time, I know that my life would just be easier if I found a job that pays decent money and sucks up my life energy while giving me a comfortable home and a few weeks of nice vacations? I think that I’ve already made the right choice, but it’s not easy.

    I love Brene Brown, by the way.
    Stephanie recently posted…Stock in a Crock! Using Local Stewing HensMy Profile

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Oh Stephanie, thank you so much, because your comment is so close to my heart in so many ways that I can’t even begin to describe (and you’ve given me about 8 blog post ideas, so thanks for that too!) Living your truth is much, much harder than never finding your voice. It can’t be any other way. You’ve made the right choice. You’ll suffer bumps and bruises because of it, no doubt. But you’ll also bloom in ways you can’t even imagine now. Sure, some will throw rocks at you. But others will throw roses. You will be glad and the world will be glad that you did this. I know because I firmly believe that the world needs what you have to offer. That’s one basic truth I come back to all the time. I hold onto it for dear life. You have to too. :)

  4. says

    Hi Jessica,

    I love this line, “Perhaps we’re afraid of being called upon to be “brilliant,” and so instead of stepping into our greatness we delude ourselves into thinking we have no idea what we’re here to do.” I find that while it could be easier to hide away and grumble about why why haven’t found our purpose, it does take courage to go that extra mile The rewards, however are worth the effort. When you are nearing the end of your life, you will be able to look back and not be asking yourself, “What if?” Wonderful post. Thanks for the encouragement!
    Cathy Taughinbaugh recently posted…55 Top Addiction Recovery Blogs 2014My Profile

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Thank you, Cathy. There’s nothing worse than regret. Is there? I think back on the few things I really regret in my life and there’s no undoing, only doing differently in similar situations. When it comes to your whole life though, and regretting how your time was spent, that’s a deep one. I hope that people see that there are practical steps they can take to “seize the day” not just feel a vague, free floating anxiety about it!

  5. says

    I love this post Jessica!

    I think people confuse a lot of what they “like” doing as a hobby or something they just have “fun” with as their passion. I see people continually claiming their new fun activity as their passion and then not very long later, they are onto the next one. Is this because as you said passion is fickle? I truly think it’s because these people are looking for quick fixes. They think that one of these things will give them the peace and joy they have been reaching for. It’s exciting for a while, then gets boring. Ooops not the right one, the next one is where I’ll find my happiness. What you said rings true for me…. “Feel your way toward what actually matters to you. Not what feels “fun”, not even what feels “exciting.”

    Thanks for this post. I really liked it 😉
    Melissa recently posted…Don’t Settle For Stress ManagementMy Profile

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Thanks Melissa! It has to go deeper than fun. Lots of things are fun. Binges of TV, trips to Disney with my kids (I think- we’ll see soon :) ), shopping are all “fun” but they’re not the meaning of my life. I think we all have to start looking deeper at what we’re here to do. How are we here to serve? When you can listen deeply and start to hear the answer to that question, you can begin to understand what matters to you!

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Thanks David! I had to think about this for a little while. I think for me that Purpose feels more cohesive. I won’t say that I only have one life purpose, but I do feel like I have an overarching mission in my life that feels more comprehensive than just purposeful things. It does, to me, feel like a real reason for being, or life goal, or life purpose, or whatever you want to call it. The truth is though I’m not sure we need to get hung up on the semantics of things. I know that we each need something that draws us out of bed each morning with excitement and enthusiasm, and that’s enough for me! Thanks for such a thought provoking comment!

  6. says

    Hi Jessica, you are so right it can take a while to uncover who you really are and what your purpose actually is. We’re all here to expand and grow ourselves and we’re all unique, there’s no one size fits all. I know that it took me a long time to go through the process, you can read how I did it on my about page on my site if you’re interested. Suffice it to say when I discovered my vision, I also found my mission. It’s well worth the journey.
    Elle recently posted…5 Pick-me-ups That Have The Power To Seriously Change Your LifeMy Profile

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Wow! Thanks so much, Elle, for sharing your journey with us. It’s so helpful to have more perspectives and stories to see how others did it, so readers here can see how they might do it, too!!

  7. says


    Great article. I have been there already — wondering and asking that HUGE question — “What is my purpose?” I think the way you describe it would be helpful to anyone who is not sure whether they’re on the path that is “right” for them. I like to think of it as receiving “nudges.” When something is painful or unpleasant or recurringly painful or unpleasant, it may be an indication that it’s not aligning with the “purpose” for that person. I’ve experienced that first hand.

    To answer your question, no doubt I “feel it!” I know I’m on a path that’s right for me.

    Nicely done.

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Victor, we get into trouble when we don’t hear or refuse to hear those nudges! Somehow, we’re all really wise beyond conscious knowing. What sense do you make of that? Anyway, there’s part of us that knows what’s good for us and pushes us along the path. That inner knowing and guidance is there. It doesn’t have to be divine. It doesn’t have to freak you out. It’s just you, but wiser. Listen for it.

  8. says

    Beautiful post Jessica – and so inspiring! I loved your point about forget trying to find your passion – stick to defining yourself. I really agree with this, because when defining yourself, your passions will pop, but not defining yourself will leave a lot missing in the whole picture. Embracing the whole picture of who we are is so important in moving past the blocks that have kept us from leaping when inspiration strikes. Thank you for sharing your insights!
    Karen Jolly recently posted…Winds of Change: 8 Ways to Shake Off 2013My Profile

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Thanks, Karen! I really feel it’s true about passion. Looking at passion in my own life, as a kid I was into fine arts – painting and drawing in particular. . . now it’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a pencil or brush, but I fill that same creative need through writing and some web design (which I never would have believed!!) If I had stuck rigidly to my passion, I might have grown into it more fully, or I might have left stones unturned. But one thing is for sure, I listened to who I was at a deeper level, not just how that was expressing itself at the moment, and it’s kept me very happy, excited, fulfilled and eagerly anticipating what’s around the next corner for me!

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