How to Find Your Life's Purpose (from someone who did!)

One question I’m often asked by interviewers and supporters is ‘How did you know that the idea for Words With Heart was ‘it’ for you?’ I suppose it’s the kinda question that we’re all looking for the answer to at some point in our lives – what are we passionate enough about to invest all of our time and energy and resources in for decades and decades to come? Or, in it’s simplest form – ‘How do I find my life’s purpose?’.
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive ’10-step money back program guarantee’ to help find the answer to this. But I do have a few key things I recommend doing that will certainly get you closer. For me, the idea for Words With Heart didn’t come about until I was 29. I dabbled in many other interests before it – I ran an online jewellery and accessories business, I had a corporate HR career, I was ambassador for an animal welfare organisation. I was passionate about all of these things, and each of them were instrumental in guiding me to where I am today.
When the idea for Words With Heart first started to blossom in my mind, I definitely experienced an ‘aha’ moment. It was different from all the other projects and businesses I’d worked on before. I just KNEW that this was what I had been working towards, and I was onto something that would completely fulfil me. There have of course been a lot of challenges since then, but feeling truly passionate about my work and believing it’s my life purpose (or at least one of them!) has kept me going.
Looking back, there are a few practices that lead me to finding my ‘why’. Spending time doing all of these things inspired me in different ways. I learned things about myself. I got to know what felt truly meaningful to me. Mainly, they exposed me to lots of new ideas and experiences, and then I spent a lot of time reflecting on them. If you give these a try, I think there’s a good chance you might find your life purpose too.
1) Volunteer
I’ve been a lifelong supporter of volunteerism. As a school girl, I was first to put my hand up for Red Cross door knock appeals and the World Vision 40 hour famine. I slipped away from it for a few years while at uni, but when I was 22 I volunteered as a Ward Visitor with Radio Lollipop at the Mater Hospital. Basically, I spent one night a week visiting with sick children – playing games with them, doing craft activities, reading stories. The experience changed me immensely, and I learned that helping others was deeply important to my own sense of fulfilment. I stayed as a volunteer with them for several years, until the busyness of work and life caught up with me. Then in 2012, following the sudden death of my mum, I took a three month volunteer trip overseas. It was the best decision I think I’ve ever made. It opened me up again to my love of helping others, and my time spent as a volunteer teacher at a school in Kenya gave birth to an immense passion for women’s and girls education, which remains with me today.
Volunteering forces you to step outside of your own needs and desires. You meet new people, learn new skills, are exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking. I truly believe there is nothing more enriching in life than giving, and when you find a cause that lights you up inside, everything seems to slip into place.
2) Travel
There are a million quotes and #inspo shares on Instagram that worship the power of travel, and I’m a sucker for them all. As the quote on our own travel journal goes, ‘Travel opens your mind, warms your heart, frees your spirit’. Travel – whether across the world or just interstate – is one of life’s greatest teachers. In a similar way to volunteering, travel opens you up to meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, to the wonders of our world. Stepping outside of your comfort zone enables you to see things differently and to test yourself. You learn what you can handle, and how to push through challenging situations. Not to mention the fact that long haul flights are pretty great for deep inner reflection and thinking time.
For me, travelling over the past decade has shown me that I am strong and independent, and that I am fortunate to have many, many opportunities that other women and girls across the world do not. Seeing and experiencing first hand the struggle of girls yearning for an education is what led me to creating Words With Heart.
3) Read
Oh how I love books! Before you go jet-setting overseas or signing up at your local charity, can I please just advise you to read, read, READ. Read widely. Read things that you wouldn’t normally read. Read books and blogs and opinion pieces and news articles. Ask friends for books that they’d recommend you read. Its the easiest, most inexpensive way to expose yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking and doing things. It’s books about business, about social enterprise, about women role-models, about women overcoming adversity and empowering themselves that have all lead to me finding my purpose. As a starting point, check out our post ‘6 Books Every Feminist Should Read‘ or this HuffPost list of 20 life changing books.
4) Keep a Journal
Of course, after so much doing and experiencing and learning, it’s important to take the time to reflect. Writing things down in a journal is a great way to do this. It helps you process thoughts and feelings, flesh them out and discover what truly has inspired and motivated you. The practice of writing these things down will also help you notice little threads and themes that might not have become apparent otherwise. And it’s these things that you should be paying attention to-  they’re your ‘why’ just hovering below the surface.
I’ve kept a journal at different times in my life, never religiously, but I have endless notebooks that I fill with streams of thought and ideas and feelings when the urge strikes (extra handy now that I have a stationery company!) I know this helped the idea for Words With Heart take shape. And of course, you can buy one of our journals here – and help to empower women and girls with education at the same time.

Author: Lauren Shuttleworth

Founder and Director of Words With Heart. Passionate about conservation, women’s and girls’ education, and really good gelato.