We all have a purpose in life; a reason for being. Nelson Mandela devoted his life to liberating his people; Sadhguru connects us to our innate power to heal both ourselves and the natural world; Malala Yousafzai has become the eloquent, living proof for women's rights.
For most of us, however, our entire lives can pass without discovering (or more accurately, remembering) our purpose. We work in jobs we hate, feel as though life is passing us by, wonder how to make a difference in the world.
We can all make a difference, however small, if we live authentically. To live authentically means to live your life on purpose. Not sure how? Consider these five tips...
1 Discover what brings you joy... then do it
There's a sweet spot as a yoga teacher that comes just after shavasana. It's where your students re-connect with their physical selves, begin to stir and sit up and you see expressions of bliss and gratitude on their faces. It's in that moment, that I feel something stir in me as a teacher. In this simple, beautiful moment I feel as though my teaching has made a difference, that I've helped in some way. And in this moment I feel joy.
Nothing else I've done in my life gives me quite the same feeling. I imagine that this is how living life on purpose feels. An intoxicating, warm wave that somehow feels right. A wave you experience again and again at the same intensity. So ask yourself this, what do you love doing? Are you doing it? What can you change in your life to allow you to do what you love? Often it's the smallest thing: a hobby or something you don't even register. Ask yourself: what do I love to do?
2 Believe that imposter syndrome is a myth
Hands up if you've ever felt like a fraud? As if you're waiting to be found out? It's common to feel like this at work, when you're not sure you'll be able to complete a task, meet a target or deliver a coherent presentation.
Or is it simply that you don't feel good enough. Imposter syndrome is real and experienced by more people than you think. In fact, it's estimated that around 70% of us have experienced imposter syndrome at least once in our lives - which means you're part of the majority not the minority.
We'll talk more specifically about imposter syndrome in a later post, but for now when you feel it taking hold, separate your feelings from fact. It's easy to let our feelings swamp us, so instead focus on the positives. What do you do well? What are your strengths? Understand that doubt is natural and that growth often comes as the result of mistakes or failure. Extract the positives from any negatives.
And, finally, with people as revered as Michelle Obama and Maya Angelou having experienced imposter syndrome, comfort yourself by acknowledging that you're in good company.
3 Follow your divine clues
I call these clues everyday magic. So-called 'coincidences', that confirm you're on the right track. These are more than just random occurrences. They are messages from the divine, encouraging you to follow a certain path. I've had many in my life, but here's one example:
Ten years ago I was working as a commissioning editor, building a list of multicultural books for a large publishing house. Because I was black, I was also expected to share my ideas for the marketing, sales and promotion of these books. As if simply by being black I had become an expert in fields I'd never worked in. It was physically and mentally exhausting.
As well as yoga, my other great love is the written word and around the same time I was writing a novel. I'd applied for funding to allow me some time to write but it had been turned down. I decided to leave the job anyway and take some time to write. I re-applied for funding and after saying my final goodbyes on the last day in my job, I got home to find a letter on the doormat. It was from the grant awarding body - offering me a grant to fund my writing for the next four months. Everyday magic...
Don't ignore them when they happen to you. Simply trust, then let them lead you.
4 Move your body to move your mind
Everything you do (or don't do) for your body, is reflected in your cognitive ability. Which means your inactive body leads to an inactive mind. And as yoga directly focuses on both mind and body, it is a beautiful practise to help you nurture both.
Yoga offers so many choices for your physical fitness. And is a wonderful counterbalance to other forms of physical exercise. If you're looking for a vibrant, powerful practice to build strength, go for ashtanga or power yoga. If you're looking for a practice that is true to its Indian roots try Classical Hatha; for a practice that is deeply spiritual, Kundalini yoga is your bag. To focus on proper alignment there is nothing better than Iyengar. If you want to stretch and nurture tired muscles, try yin yoga. There are many more...
Try a few classes and you will find the discipline that suits you.
5 Banish the haters
When you find your purpose, there'll be some that are determined to stop you. The people in your life who love you will offer support, constructive criticism and love. Those that don't will wallow in negativity and direct most of that negativity towards you.
Surround yourselves with a personal fanbase. These are the people in your life that champion your choices and support you through your successes and lessons. Ignore and let go of the haters.
Developing a regular meditation practice will help you deal with or move away from the haters in your life. More on this in future posts.
What suggestions can you share to help others live their lives on purpose?