In the work I do with women, I talk a lot about purpose. And I see a lot of women get stressed about purpose.
I was fortunate to hear one of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, speak a couple of years ago at a Business Chicks event. She articulated what I hear in the conversations I have with women on the topic of purpose. She said: 'Purpose has become an assault weapon for women to hurt themselves with'.
What she meant is that we women get so caught up in defining our purpose, living our purpose, staying on purpose and living a purposeful life that we get ourselves tied up in knots and actually prevent ourselves from living a life that's aligned with our purpose.
Your purpose does not need to be your work. This point has resulted in more a-ha! moments from the people I have shared it with than any other pertaining to purpose. The fact is, your purpose does not have to arise from your work.
When it comes to figuring out their purpose, and living a purposeful life, the biggest pitfall for people is that they assume their purpose needs to be whatever makes them money. The reason I say it's a pitfall is that it's not going to be possible for absolutely every person to make their central purpose also be their chief way of making a living.
We have this loaded expectation of: 'Well, I need to be making money, and that money should come from my purpose. And if I'm not doing that, then I'm failing and I'm not living a purposeful life . . . and I'm an absolute disaster as a human.'
I recall one participant of a recent retreat being in tears when the realisation landed with her that her purpose didn't have to be tied up with her work. She had put so much pressure on herself to find a job that 100 percent brought her purpose to life. She realised, as I was speaking, that she could actually very happily live her purpose more broadly in her life.
At another retreat I hosted, one of the guests, Brigid, informed the group that she had started two businesses with her partner and they were just about to start their third. It was during an exercise on vision, passion and purpose that it became clear to Brigid that her purpose was actually family. This was a huge surprise to her, and it was also a surprise to me! There were two reasons for this surprise. First, given that she had three businesses, surely her purpose must be related to work? And secondly, being a parent was not something she had chosen in her life. But she had nieces she was very close to, and she realised that family was her purpose.
Brigid's realisation that day was an active demonstration of the fact that we don't necessarily need our purposes to be putting dollars in the bank account every week, fortnight or month.
Your purpose might be kindness, and you bring that to life by practising more kindness in the world every day. Or your purpose might be to spread more joy around you, by bringing a smile to others' faces. Another purpose might be to leave places and people just that bit better than how you found them.
Your purpose is going to be as unique as a thumbprint. It's not necessarily going to make sense to your partner or your best friend or your colleague or your kids. And it doesn't need to – it's yours!