There are lots of different ways to find your purpose in your work or your life.
To be clear, when I’m talking about “your purpose,” I’m mean the motivating factor that gets you to want to make a big change in your life. It’s something you are naturally drawn to. I also like to think of your purpose as your “why”.
So how do you find your purpose?
From my experience I think most people limit the search for their purpose to activities like reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts and talking to people inside and outside of their social circle.
These common approaches to find your purpose can provide you with lots of different perspectives. They are valid and necessary.
However, I believe they tend to focus on seeking your answer from the “external world”. You are consciously or even unconsciously looking for someone to give you the answer to a question only you will be able to answer.
The answer you are seeking lies within your “internal world”. Your purpose is inside of you. The quest to find your purpose needs to be directed inward, not just outward.
You know what I tell people when they ask me how to find their purpose or how to find themselves?
I tell them to start purging their lives. Why?
It forces them to confront patterns in their behavior that can reveal what gives them meaning in their lives and even discover their purpose.
What I love most about purging is it gets you to take action. It provides a “quick win” to get you moving toward your purpose even if you don’t know exactly what it is yet.
Even when I’m feeling stuck, purging is one of my “go to” life skills to get myself unstuck again. It’s amazing how often I find the answers to my problems after I do a cleanse of my life!
Here’s why I believe purging is so transformative.
How Purging Sparks Change
Sometimes when we think too much about something, we create a mental block. The harder we think about it, the more elusive the answer.
When you are looking for something as big as your purpose, sometimes it’s best not to overthink it or to even think about it at all.
That’s why I love purging so much. Here’s how the simple act of “letting go” can change your life and help you find your purpose.
1) Power of Subtraction
When Americans want to make a change in their life, they generally want to “add” something to it without “subtracting” anything from their life. We live by the mantra that “more is always better”. I beg to differ.
Subtracting stuff from our lives often helps find what we’ve been looking for all along.
When you want to make a big change in your life, you need to make space for it. Your purpose is there, but it’s just hidden in the clutter of your life.
2) Lightens Your Load
Unfortunately the more you have, the more it weighs you down physically and mentally. The more you have, the more you have to deal with. It saps your energy that could be used for designing your ideal lifestyle.
There’s all kinds of stuff in your life that no longer serves the original purpose for which you brought it into your life in the first place.
You can’t have lasting change without letting go first. Your journey will be much more enjoyable with less baggage to carry.
3) Regain Control
When you feel stuck, you might feel as though you have no control over your life. Purging helps re-establish a sense of that control.
You get to make choices about what you are going to eliminate from your life or keep in it. You get to decide and no one else.
You’ll begin to notice how these small actions empower you to make changes in other areas of your life.Purging helps you recognize how much more control you have over your life than you think.
4) Get Out of Your Head
Generally when you feel stuck, you are stuck in your own head. Your thoughts are trapped in a loop that offer no way out.
The only way to release yourself from your self-made purgatory is by taking action. Stop thinking and physically engage with the world. I believe purging is the most productive action you can take.
Purging redirects those thoughts by focusing on the immediate influences of your external life, so you can have a clearer view of your internal life.
Purging also cultivates your self-awareness. As you get rid of stuff, you listen more and more to your feelings, instead of just your thoughts.
Purging is about making you feel better, so you can think better. Your remaining possessions will energize you because they are no longer lost in the clutter of all the other stuff that was unknowingly draining you.
5) Recognize Patterns
If you have no idea what you want to do with your life, purging will start to show you what’s important to you even if you can’t verbalize it.
Look for patterns in the stuff you keep versus the stuff you don’t. The stuff that remains can start revealing your unique purpose. In fact, I strongly recommend keeping a journal to make note of any feelings or thoughts you have as you conduct your purge.
The process of purging can show you what’s been holding you back form the living the life you’ve always wanted to live. It reveals feelings and emotions you might have trouble putting into words.
If you are starting to buy into the transformative powers of purging, here’s how to get started.
Purge Your Possessions First
There are several aspects of your life you can purge, but I generally recommend starting off with your physical possessions.
It’s a fairly straightforward process that doesn’t require much thinking. It’s also very tangible and produces results quickly. You can literally see your life beginning to change before your very eyes just by getting rid of stuff!
Purging material items creates the momentum for purging less tangible aspects of your life like obligations, relationships and digital clutter.
Let’s use your clothes as a starting place for your purge.
Gather all your clothes from around your home (not just your bedroom closet) and put them in a pile in one room. I mean everything. Coats, boots, hats, scarves, gym clothes, etc.
Hold each item in your hand and decide if it has any meaning to you. Either you’ve used that article of clothing in the last year or it makes you feel joy.
Create three piles: 1) clothes to donate 2) clothes you are keeping 3) clothes you need more time to think about (your “maybe” pile).
I have a couple of rules of thumb when you go back to your “maybe” pile:
a) If you haven’t worn it in the last year, your subconscious mind has already decided it doesn’t like it, so challenge yourself to get rid of it.
b) Hold onto each item for five seconds or less and listen to your gut reaction. The longer I hesitate, the more I know I need to let that item go. They generally represent emotions I’m clinging onto that I should have let go of long ago.
c) Mourn the clothes you know you need to let go of, but hold onto for emotional reasons. Use this purging process to process emotions weighing you down.
Once you’ve processed your “maybe” pile into clothes you are keeping or donating, immediately get those clothes you want to donate out of the house. The most satisfying part of a purge is getting stuff out of your life once and for all.
Finally, put the clothes you are keeping away. See all that extra space you have now? Don’t you feel a little “lighter”? You’ve just made more space for the change you want in your life!
Other Aspects of Your Life to Purge
You can use the same process of purging your clothes for other physical possessions in your life like furniture, electronics, mementos, books, decorations, etc.
I strongly recommend taking on each category of items on its own, so your clutter doesn’t slow down your momentum by discouraging you.
When most people think of purging, decluttering or clearing out their lives, they generally focus on their possessions only.
My version of purging is focused on transforming all aspects of your life, so you can feel more energy and learn more about yourself than ever before.
Purging your possessions is just the beginning. Here’s everything else I recommend purging:
- digital media waste (documents, photos, videos, music, email, etc.)
- obligations (memberships, meetings, tasks that no longer have purpose or give you joy, etc.)
- relationships (eliminating or spending less time with people that are negative or drain your energy)
- mental clutter (your fears, negative thoughts, unproductive mindsets, limiting beliefs etc.)
- decisions (eliminate the number of decisions in your life or reduce them by turning them into habits)
- processes (reducing the number of steps in common processes in your life)
Purging is also not a one-time event in your life. Your first purge might be a significant event, but I believe purging is a habit worth practicing frequently throughout the year. (I purge on a weekly basis, but do bigger purges at the beginning of every spring and fall.)
We are constantly bringing in all kinds of stuff into our lives and it starts turning into clutter fast. It sneaks up on us. It starts weighing us down.
Purging not only keeps our lives more sane, but simultaneously provides an opportunity for self-reflection about the direction of our lives.
If you’ve tried all the usual approaches for finding your purpose, but still have no idea what it might be, give purging a try. Start eliminating all the clutter in your life. Get rid of everything and anything that no longer has any meaning to you.
It’s holding you back. It’s clouding your vision for your ideal lifestyle. Your purpose is being hidden by all of your mental clutter. You need to cleanse yourself to begin anew again.