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Find Your Purpose through the Lens of Service with Kristin Armstrong

“The thing you are meant to be/do has everything to do with what you love to do, what you have always loved to do.”

My parents, always supportive and wanting me to aim high, told me from a young age I could be anything I wanted. This was probably my mother wanting me to break free from the choices she was given. The culture back then said she was allowed to become a nurse, a teacher or a secretary. She picked teacher, and was a damn good one (she still is, always my teacher).

Little me : I can be anything at all?
Them: Yes, dear. Anything at all.
Little me : Okay, I want to be … an eagle!
Them : Oh shit.

They forgot to specify the qualifier of human being. And I’m pretty sure I never said that again after I said it once in school and got laughed at. There remains a part of me, perhaps my inner child, that still feels her wings from time to time.

There is probably a part of everyone that wants to fly — to soar above circumstances and stress, and to have the perspective granted from that view, to revel in our freedom and strength, to travel light and to feel the ease and confidence that comes from doing exactly what we were created to do.

I have a lot of conversations with friends, kids and clients about this — under various names like purpose, calling, career, destiny, identity and the meaning of life. Whether we are trying to choose or change a college major, or find a job, or change jobs or are smack in the middle of a life transition zone, we all know the feeling of wanting to reinvent or refine ourselves, wanting to align our path with the thing we were meant to be and do.

MORE: Learning the Art of Letting Go with Kristin Armstrong

When we are out of alignment, we feel the uneasy feeling that goes with the thought: there must be more to life than this. But what is it? What’s my thing? Why am I here? I love the kind of conversations that wind their way here. I still have to pinch myself sometimes that I get paid to have them, all day long.

I think it’s best to start with unhooking from the idea that there is an answer, one answer. When we are tethered to an outcome or result, we tend to get stuck. I like the idea of refining questions rather than seeking answers, looking for data or guidance like a treasure hunt, and remembering that the journey itself is the entire point. A client recently shared this gem from a TED talk — the meaning of life in five words: Enjoy the passage of time.

There is probably a part of everyone that wants to fly…

There is a key in here. The thing you are meant to be/do has everything to do with what you love to do, what you have always loved to do. It may be subtle, because often the thing we love to do is something we’re naturally pretty good at, so it’s easy, which may cause us to discount or minimize it, assuming everyone is good at it. We have this idea that we have to struggle, work hard or earn our way into our purpose or calling. Of course there is discipline involved, but effort fueled by interest or passion is very different than effort fueled by struggle or striving. It’s the difference between putting your canoe in a river and going with the flow, or turning and paddling like hell upstream and wondering why you can’t get anywhere.

For those who want to level up their quest, I highly recommend the lens of service. What is the thing that I love to be or do that allows me to be of service? A goal or career rooted in self (I want to be important, I want to be famous, I want to make lots of money) may lead to a method of making a living. You may be successful in terms of metrics, but life will feel hollow, and the cost of stress will be high. A calling rooted in service clears a path to making a life. If your desire is to be the real you, and you do the thing that the real you loves to do with the goal of enjoying life and making a difference for others, it often happens that you end up being important and abundant. But it’s a by-product of your joy, an overflow from the sacred cup of purpose and meaning.

And that, dear ones, is the surest way to feel your wings.

MORE: Kristin Armstrong Finds Love by Getting Out of Her Own Way