When we approach the middle years of our lives, we begin asking ourselves some deep questions: Have we made the right choices? What would we do differently if we could? What do we really, truly, want from the rest of our lives?
This line of questioning is often mistakenly labeled a midlife crisis, as if it leaves us flailing, without intent, adrift. But I suggest instead that we welcome these questions. They hold the clues to unlocking a new chapter for ourselves, one that is more fulfilling, authentic, and self-actualized than ever before.
Midlife crisis? Nope. I call this time a midlife chrysalis. It’s a moment in which to refocus on our true calling, our deepest desires, and on proactively shifting our mindset so that we can bring those things to fruition in the second half of our lives.
If you too have been hunkering down in your midlife chrysalis, incubating a life of purpose and renewed intention, this post is for you.
Here are six steps you can take today to begin living your purpose:
1. Discover your “Why.”
Knowing and harnessing your Why is the key to putting your purpose into practice for the long run. So often we focus on what and how: what we’ll do, what we’ll be, how we’ll earn an income, etc. And all of those things are essential, but unless they are fueled by a big tank of Why–a deep personal connection with who we are and what we hold most dear–they can putter out and stall. Foundational to landing on purposeful actions that are right for you and that are sustainable in your life, is finding and being fueled by your Why.
Want some help discovering your Why? I developed a mini lesson, based on the curriculum from my group coaching program Live Your Legacy: An Impact Accelerator for Change Making Women, to help you find your Why, and to create a power mantra to incorporate your Why into your everyday. Get the mini lesson, Find Your Why and Put Your Purpose Into Practice right here.
2. Start at the end. Meditate (or journal or reflect) on what it would look like if you allowed yourself to live your Why.
To achieve a purpose-driven life, you must first connect with your innate purpose. This doesn’t mean landing on some big thing you aim to accomplish or some contribution you hope to make. At its core, discovering your unique purpose is (re)discovering yourself. What do you believe and what is important to you? When you were a child unbeholden to any perceived societal expectations, what did you want to be? How do you spend your time when so one else is paying attention? There are secrets hidden in the answers to these questions, secrets about who you are, what you value, and what you are inclined to do. If you were to build a life in which you were entirely, unabashedly, authentically you, what would that life look like? Begin by meditating or reflecting or journaling (whatever tool is most comfortable for you) and creating a vision of that future.
Need some support for this exercise? Check out My Truest Self: A Personal Discovery Workbook. I put this resource together to help you ask and answer questions like the ones above and achieve a deeper understanding of yourself in this season of your life.
3. Assess where you are now.
Once you’ve found your Why, and created a vision of what success would look like for you if your life was a manifestation of your Why, the next step is to look at where you are now in relation to that end. How does your life currently look, or not look, like the picture you have painted? What would you need to change to move closer to your goals?
4. Set smart goals.
Now that you’ve crafted a picture of the place you want to end up, and you have an assessment of where you’re beginning, you can set SMART goals over time to help you close the gap between the two points. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. If the image you created of the life you most want to live feels to you like it is achievable in two years time, set SMART goals at 18 months, 12 months, 6 months, and 3 months. Start visualizing your life in those time increments. How do you see it? Who are you sharing it with? Where are you living? What are you doing? What is making you happy? Creating these goals for the short, middle, and long term helps you to begin building your life to move in that direction. Remember that your dreams and your SMART goals can change; you can erase and recreate them as you need to. These SMART goals are like mileposts that will help you stay on course and also help you measure your progress as you go. Having and acting upon SMART goals that are derived from your own vision of where you most truly, deeply, authentically want to end up, assures that you are always making decisions in life that are driven by your purpose. Learn more about SMART goals and how to best utilize them here.
5. Create an action plan.
Now that you have markers to move toward in your quest to live with more purpose, create your action plan for getting to your first milepost. What small actions could you take today to move the needle? Use tools like task planning and calendar blocking to build these purpose-driven actions into your everyday life, make them part of your routine. When they become part of our routine they become simply the way we are living our lives. This is our purpose in practice.
6. Always check in with yourself and continue to explore.
Your Why, your ideal destination, and your current status in relationship to your goal, are not set in stone. They may represent you in this moment but may not feel as relevant to you as you actually make progress, grow, and as things around you change. Revisit these steps to make sure you are still acting in alignment with your truest self and your deepest dreams.
Other Tips to Help You Live Purposefully
Try new things.
Most of the times we feel we’re not good at something or we don’t have a passion, it’s because we are stuck in a routine. Humans are meant to explore. Living our lives with purpose– our own true purpose, not one that we’ve imposed upon ourselves based on what we perceive to be the expectations of others– means continually getting to know ourselves and honoring our interests and curiosities. Sign up for a cooking or art class, visit a new state or country, read more books, or go solo hiking. Part of discovering yourself is discovering new things.
Cultivate positive thoughts.
It’s important to remember that our thoughts become our actions. Living your life with intention begins with being intentional about what you think– about yourself, your capabilities, and your value. Want some support in shifting your internal dialogue to one that is loving and supportive? Download my FREE 25 Self Love Smartphone Wallpapers, and give yourself a dose of self-loving motivation where you’ll see it every day: on your home screen!
Writing regularly can help you to understand your emotions, organize your thoughts, process what’s going on in your mind, and improve your focus. If you are interested in a journaling practice but struggle to find things to write about, I created the Write Your Truth Toolkit to help you get past your blocks and incorporate writing into your routine.
Living a life of purpose and intention takes daily focus. It can be so easy to become absorbed by the duties of our lives that we lose this focus. Set an intention to prioritize your self-care so that you can stay in tune with who and where you are at this time in your life and stay connected with your dreams.
A Next Step
If you are interested in diving more deeply into the work of discovering your purpose and putting it into practice in your life, community, and the world, the doors will be opening soon to the 2023 cohort of my Live Your Legacy group coaching program. Learn more about it and sign up to receive updates here. I’d love to work with you as we lean into transformation and open ourselves to a next chapter that is radically authentic and self-actualized.