Shift Happens

Redefining our purpose and moving forward when you have the desire to find new meaning in what you do

by Caroline Onuk

When we have major shifts in our lives such as leaving a long-time job, getting divorced, turning "a certain age," or moving to a new country as a "trailing spouse", it is normal to feel like you are lost, have a desire to find new meaning but not know how to move forward.

Sometimes we choose to hit pause and re-evaluate and at other times we are forced to recalibrate due major changes in our lives. Many people become disenchanted and stop searching for the way forward but I would suggest that if life gives you an opportunity to find a new purpose, then accept it. But what does that mean? It does not mean starting completely afresh—instead it relies on what already exists inside of you and finding a new way of defining yourself. This might seem overwhelming but in this article I provide you with tools to create the vision for the future you want.

The first step for finding a new purpose is taking the time for self-reflection. Honouring your past and all of the lessons, experiences and expertise you have gained while simultaneously looking towards future possibilities. Begin by reflecting on what you are grateful for in your life and take a minute to really acknowledge yourself. Look at what you have achieved, who you have become, what you have learned, the relationships you cherish, the people you have impacted and the challenges you have overcome. This also means accepting yourself for who you truly are—the good, bad and the ugly—and being free of any judgment.

The next step is understanding your true purpose. This is perhaps the most important step. Without a life purpose as a compass to guide you, your vision moving forward will ultimately not fulfill you. You can begin uncovering this by exploring what is important to you. Think about what you love to do in your daily life. Break down what it is exactly in your job that brings you happiness. I do not mean the 'job function' but instead what is it about the 'essence' of what you are doing that brings you contentment? Another way of exploring this is to consider your long-term impact and legacy. Imagine yourself as an 80-year old. When you look back, what would you have liked to have achieved? What are you most proud of? What would you love to "leave behind" with the people you love and lead? What added meaning to your life? Think of the different areas—family, friends, significant other, community, career, health, as well as fun & leisure. Another way of approaching this is to think of someone who you admire. Think about what it is about them that you admire? What are you learning about their characteristics? Have fun with these exercises, listen to your intuition and pay attention to where your thoughts go! Once you have taken a few minutes to think, ask yourself 'What did I notice? What stood out to me as important?' Ask yourself these questions and see what you now realise about yourself. The answers might surprise you! These reflective exercises can provide you with a new boost of energy as it enlightens your awareness and gives you an understanding of what is truly meaningful to you- your true purpose!

Once you know what your purpose is, then you can define a vision moving forward. Proactively envision your new life and write it down. One exercise that can assist you is to create a vision board. Create a collage by using pictures, photographs, magazine cutouts, anything that represents (literally or in abstract) your goals or symbolises the new future you wish to create. Once you have completed creating your vision, you can start to think about the path ahead. Ask yourself- how will I get to where I want to go? Can I do it in my current life? If not, what would need to shift and what would help make that shift happen? What do I need to stop doing in order to achieve the future I want? Pro-actively designing your dream life and the path to walk on will renew you with energy.

Looking forward may be positive, but it also requires the courage to leave behind what is familiar. Taking the risk to reinvent yourself requires a combination of independence and dependence as well as a balance between self-reliance and the ability to rely on others. I therefore recommend building a team of champions around you! Sharing your vision with others also helps with motivation. Make a list of people who can positively impact you- experts in the field where you want to go as well as people who are familiar with your situation and can support you. That may mean reaching out to your existing network or starting to reach out to a new network. With support- whether that is through an online community, hiring a coach, seeking out an expert or simply speaking with a friend, you can become more self-aware, feel calmer, more self-regulated and less stressed while going through this life change.

If you notice you have become disenchanted by your current life circumstances, then give yourself full permission to be you! If you feel your life is out of alignment and lacking direction, then this might be the right time to choose a new path and create a new purpose for yourself. One of the most important elements is to take 100% responsibility for your own circumstances. You are in the driver's seat on your journey in life! Only you can turn your steering wheel and change the direction your life is taking. So choose to steer life your way!

Caroline Onuk is an Associate Executive Coach accredited by an International Coaching Federation accredited training provider and the Founder of Bright Future Leaders. She uses her global, in-depth knowledge of HR to help clients achieve their full potential You can contact her through Facebook, LinkedIn, website