The 5 W's to Finding Your Life's Purpose
Who, what, where, when, why. These are the 5 W's to problem solving, the essential unknowns to conquer, or the pieces of knowledge to gain clarity on before moving towards any sense of progress in both schoolwork and, in well, lifework too. The 5 W's may have been introduced to you early on in grade school, perhaps even with an additional H tacked onto the end, but I've found they are also the most essentials points to cover when determining what to do with your life and when trying to understand your purpose. I always love to have these conversations with people, not because I necessarily deem myself esteemed enough to be a life/business coach nor knowledgable enough to be a therapist, but because I have been through the trenches and I have found my purpose in life.
Before you read forward, however, you have an important decision to make: why should you listen to me? This is an important question you should always ask yourself before you take any sort of life advice from anyone. The lesson I once learned is concrete and solid: you should only listen to people who have what you want. Otherwise, how are you ever supposed to get what you want?
So here's a quick preview of who I am and what I currently have achieved in my life:
I am 27. I dropped out of University in my 3rd year, during which I had decided I wanted to become a writer. At this time, I started a personal blog and entertained a freelance writing job where I got paid $12 per 500 world article. It was pennies, but I put my head down, wrote 10 articles a day to get by, and went travelling for about a year, more or less all on my own in Europe for half of that time. This is where I found myself. Today, I run a successful digital marketing agency where 10K months (albeit top line, that's an important disclosure to make) are now the standard. I say this not to gloat, but to let everyone else out there know that you too can do what you love and be successful at it. On the side, I do this: my passion, my hobby, my blog – whatever you want to call it – and most months I pull in extra revenue (sometimes a sizeable amount), sponsored trips, and plenty of wonderful gifts. I work hard, but I absolutely love what I do. And there isn't a day that I question whether I'm in the right field, the right purpose, the right passion. How do I know? Because my job doesn't feel like a job, it feels like my life.
Let's start with the first W: who.
WHO? LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE
The first W, who, may seem like the easiest and most obvious when deciding where to take your life and what to do with it. But before you've discovered your purpose, which I often interchangeably refer to as your passion, you're going to rely on a lot of external influence to help you make decisions and find your way. Typically, most of us look to our closest family members for answers, and when that is lacking, we'll turn to our friends.
Common problem with relying on family: family members are naturally very flawed in their opinion of you. They're just too close to you, too biased based on their intimate relationship with you, and yet for these very reasons, they often make for the worst judge on what's actually good for you. I often find that family members can also be skewed because they decided who you were when you were, I don't know five?, and they haven't really ever been able to see you as anything else ever since – even though you couldn't be more different now than you were as a child.
Common problem with relying on friends: there are always exceptions to this as well, but typically the friends you have at your side before you've found your path in life aren't always the friends you'll have once you've figured things out. This is because, for lack of better words, "our vibe attracts our tribe." If you're vibing that you are in search of your path, chances are, your friends are too. Once you come out that you may have found your path, you may be faced with envy from your friends who are still looking or just simple disbelief because your big dreams aren't vibing with their small minds.
This is why it's all about you. Your who is you and only you. Don't make the most important decision of your life for your family, your friends, your biggest enemy, or anyone else. Make it only for yourself. Do yourself the greatest pleasure in life and listen to what you have to say. Listen to that voice inside of you.
WHAT? FOLLOW THE SERENDIPITY
Disclaimer: I do believe that it is possible that there are some people in life (or in this life) who just aren't meant to find that specific "what" to their purpose/passion in life. I don't particularly like this assessment, but it's a belief I've become accustomed to after conversing with so many people (psychics included) on the topic. I'm not a religious person, but after learning more about Buddhism (and for a million other reasons) I have come to believe in things like past and future lives and karma.
However, the fact that you are reading this right now suggests that you do know the what – whether you're conscious of that or not – and you do have the calling inside of you. You're well on your journey already.
I cannot tell you what your "what" is, though if I have a 10 minute conversation with you, I might be able to suggest a few paths that intuitively feel right to me.
But since I'm not a life coach, I'll simply tell you this: I believe that there is always a magical touch of serendipity involved in discovering your "what" which, in essence, is really just a medium for expressing your purpose and your life's passion. The what is not really your passion or purpose, it's just the way in which we can live, breathe, feel, and express it on this planet. Which is about as much as anyone here can really wish for.
In order to discover your "what" you must follow the serendipity. You must look for the signs. You must know yourself intimately, you must spend time by yourself. You must consider each person that you come across in your lifetime as a teacher, and you must follow the signs that they lay in your path.
How did I discover my "what?" I was in a dark place at the age of 14, my mother forced me to go see a counsellor, and when I left the session feeling a hundred pounds lighter, I followed the counsellor's advice: I got a journal, and I started writing. That was it: I knew almost instantly that I had found my what.
You'll know it almost instantly when you find yours too, because you'll just feel.... so good. So right. Time won't exist when you're in your "what." But the reality is, you can never find your what if you never try. Follow the serendipity.
WHERE? TRAVEL TO FEED YOUR SOUL
When it comes to finding your purpose and passion in this life, you'd be surprised at how much a physical location can do you wonders. Though I'd found my life's passion at the age of just 14, I didn't yet have my first W (my who) concretely in place yet, and I fell off this path many times before regaining my strength and my clarity. This is what happens when you don't have your first W really nailed down – you become swayed off your path by the words of false wisdom from others. This is why the "who" should always come first.
I was 23 and lost again because I listened to too many other people on what I should do with my life. I let them fill my head with ridiculous notions such as "writing will never pay the bills." (more on the money aspect under why below).
And I had reached a point where I was so completely devastated, so unhappy with who I had become and the life I was living, that I broke: I no longer cared about the opinions of others, since these opinions had led me to the negative place I was at in the first place. I decided to go for it, to truly pursue my passion in writing.
I quit my life. Literally. I left behind my career in real estate that I had built to be quite fruitful, my home, my belongings, my family, friendships, relationship at the time, and my familiar surroundings. I went travelling for about a year total, spending 6 months living solo in Europe. I spent my mornings writing like a machine so I could afford to eat, my afternoons wandering the streets of London and Budapest or whatever city I was in at the time with my camera, and my spare time working on my blog. I was in absolute bliss.
When considering your surroundings during this journey you're on, I'd highly recommend traveling somewhere new, and doing it alone if you can. Choose a location that really speaks to you and feeds your soul; Europe for me was the perfect place to find myself and my passion again because I love architecture, great food, wonderful street musicians, and just the lust for life that Europeans so beautifully possess. Be wise when choosing your destination.
WHEN? INTUITIVELY KNOW THE TIMING OF YOUR LIFE
I'd love to say that there's no time like the present or it will never be the perfect time but in all actuality and from my personal experience, I think there's more to the grand timing of your life than cliched sayings. Again, since you are reading this now then this may be a good suggestion that if the time isn't now, it's sometime soon, perhaps in the next year or two.
To help you better understand what "good" timing might feel like, let me tell you this: when my perfect timing had arrived, it looked like the absolute opposite on paper. I was just starting to find success in my other career I'd built, just starting to gain foothold. I just intuitively knew that it was time, but it didn't come all at once. There were three stages for me.
First was the misery, duration 1 year. This was a really hard year. I lost a lot of weight and felt absolutely depleted in the career I was building. I worked constantly, but never felt creatively inspired. I cried all the time. I felt insecure and totally lacking confidence. I had some success, but never truly felt successful. I made some money, but it never mattered. And all the while, I felt this awful underlying sense that I was betraying myself each and every day for one simple reason: I wasn't doing what I loved AND I KNEW BETTER!
Then came the urgency, duration 6 months. I still felt pretty miserable during this period, but instead of feeling resolute in that misery, I felt antsy. I knew something was about to give, but I hadn't quite worked up the courage to make the leap yet. It was as if someone had suddenly turned on a very loud clock inside of my head: I was acutely aware of the passing of time, of how each second I spent living a life I didn't love was a complete waste, and I was starting to admit to myself that I wanted out. I deserved out.
Finally came the excitement, duration 1 month. I remember the exact point in time when a lightbulb went off in my head and I finally saw how I could make a swift and easy exit out of real estate and into full time writing. The opportunity basically landed in my lap, though in reality I was the one to seek it out. I had gotten a writing job in the real estate industry (how hilariously serendipitous) and I was doing some calculations in my head while I was driving to a showing one sunny afternoon when I realized something amazing. I could live off my writing job alone. And I could do it from anywhere in the world. That was it, the excitement came in floods, and just one month later, I was a free woman, off to travel the globe.
Side note: If you are truly excited, brimming at the edge with smiles and endless creative energy, and unable to sleep at night because of your beautiful daydreaming about what a wonder your life can be, I think this is the best indication that your timing is now.
You may also find that your current life cycle (1-10) in numerology can be a good help – after launching my personal journey, I discovered this tool, which told me that indeed my perfect timing was absolutely spot on as I was in a 1 cycle. (9's are typically a year of endings and 1's are year of new beginnings). Find your personal life cycle by adding your birthday together and continuing to add the digits until you reduce it to a single digit.
WHY? CONTINUE UNDERSTANDING THE PURPOSE TO YOUR PASSION
I think your why can change, and inevitably will change, as you explore further into your who, what, where, and when. When I first started, I was quite self-centred (which is not necessarily a bad thing, by the way, despite what we've been told). I believed that my who and my why were the same thing – my purpose for living my passion was me.
It wasn't until I realized how my passion was touching other people and giving others strength and clarity in their own lives that I realized my whytranscended beyond just me. My why then became to help others discover their passion and live their dreams, to have some of the experiences that I myself have been so lucky to have in my own life.
Another aspect to consider here is financial. The why to most people's what is money after all. We all have to pay the bills, and I am certainly no exception. Since I was about 16, however, I decided for myself that money didn't really matter – I decided that, if one were to choose a career they felt truly passionate about, they would be really good at that profession. And if you're really good at a profession, it makes sense that money will flow from there.
It turns out I was right. I don't believe that money is a valid motivator for choosing your passion or purpose. It is absolutely fine to want to make great money, and once you get there, you may be completely amazed at how much you can make. But you should aim to discover your passion and purpose in life without thinking about finances.
THE EXTRA H: HOW
I think the greatest cause of premature failure is an obsession with the "how" or an inability to see around it. When you get hung up on the "how" you lose sight of all the 5 W's, and eventually, you come to believe that your dreams are impossible to achieve. Simply accept that you do not know the how, and ultimately, that the how doesn't matter. Just trust me: when you get all your 5 W's lined up, the how will magically appear, and you'll realize it was there all along.
Go into the greatest exploration of your life: listen to your inner voice (who), find your calling (what), travel somewhere the feeds your soul (where), tap into the timing of your life (when), and finally, continue to understand and further explore the meaning of it all (why).
I couldn't be more excited for this journey you are about to embark upon – though the reality is, you are likely already on your way.
Please leave your questions in the comments and I will be sure to answer each of them the best I can!