Photo by Silver Thumb Photo
By Kellie Mox
Nothing will divert me from my purpose. – Abraham Lincoln
I’ve always kept a journal. My diaries fill a box in the spare closet, the words inside them revealing teenage heartbreak and adventures. As I grew, I graduated to journaling electronically, and while some of those floppy disks are gone, I still have many musings from the past at my fingertips. I got lost recently in some of my writing from over a decade ago, and I was surprised to find myself moved by the familiarity of my words.
When I came to coaching sixteen years ago, following my master’s in public health, I knew I’d found my calling. This work of connecting deeply with others and being a catalyst for growth and change was completely aligned with my passions, values, and purpose. But I felt sidelined after the birth of my children, unaware of my own flaring chronic illness and the health issues underlying their challenging infancies. I was called to mothering and to the hard work of healing, so I paused my coaching. At the time, it felt like a detour, like the vehicle carrying me where I so clearly wanted to go had been hijacked. It wasn’t what I’d envisioned.
In the throes of healing personally and navigating life with small children, a part of me forgot that this detour was a necessary piece of my journey. I eventually realized it was a gift that could lead me back to my work—a much richer version of my work. When I re-read my old journals, it brought this to light: how all the lessons I was learning then are echoes of the lessons I’m learning today, but on a deeper level. Even during the hardest times, I was still in alignment with my purpose. The whispering words of my younger self solidified the knowledge I have today that nothing can divert me from that purpose.
I believe we all have a purpose. The important question is, what is that purpose? If we don’t know our purpose, we might not recognize the nudges from the universe that propel us along its path. We may not see how something that seems like an obstacle is really guiding us closer to our work. The challenges, the pain, the stuff we do that feels out of alignment—these “diversions” are actually all essential. You know that saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”? I believe that if you do know where you’re going, so many roads can take you there.
Simply put, purpose is the reason something is done or created or for which something exists. This includes the collective “Why are we all here?” question and the individual questions of “What is my work or what are my gifts? How do I share them with the world?” I believe the answer to the first question is to discover and live in alignment with our purpose. We’re all here to do our unique work in the world. The answer to the second question, though, can only be found inside of you.
Having a sense of purpose is different than your actual purpose. However, things that bring you a sense of purpose may guide you to your purpose. While mothering my children and coaching women both give me a sense of purpose, they are not my purpose. My purpose, crafted over a decade ago, is to create and nurture meaningful relationships that mutually empower and foster living fully from one’s true essence. Being a mother and a coach allows me to live in alignment with this purpose.
Why Does Purpose Matter?
Research has shown that having a sense of purpose is related to increased psychological well-being and can help people cope with stressful life events. Specifically, purpose in life has been inversely associated with symptoms of depression and appears to be important in predicting future health and mortality. Epidemiological studies also suggest that higher levels of purpose in life are linked to lower cardiovascular risk, lower cortisol levels, and lower inflammatory factors, which are linked to several health conditions.
Beyond the scientific data, we can intuitively understand that having a sense of meaning and direction in our lives fosters resilience and cultivates connection with ourselves and others.
What Is Your Purpose?
Identifying your passions and values is a starting point for illuminating your unique purpose. When I work with clients, I use a variety of exercises to help them draw out this knowledge from within. Powerful questions, visualizations, and structured interviews with loved ones are some of my favorite tools. You can start by asking yourself questions and journaling your answers. Some ideas:
- What activities or situations make you feel most alive?
- What do you care so much about that it gets you fired up?
- Where do you choose to spend your free time and money?
The key to identifying passions from questions like these is in eliciting emotion and energy and in going deeper into the essence of your answers. For example, if attending concerts makes you feel alive, what is it about concerts that does this?
Building upon these answers can help you clarify your values as well. Values are a person’s judgment of what is important in life. By looking for themes across your list of passions, you can see commonalities in the underlying experiences. For example, my passion for self-discovery, sharing good food, and connecting authentically with others have a common underlying theme of deep connection. This represents a core value in my life that informs my purpose.
While our passions and values are the foundation of our purpose, we can also explore purpose through questions about the impact we want to have in the world:
- What is the difference you long to make?
- Where do you feel a sense of calling?
- What do you stand for?
No matter our approach, we must be willing to dive deep and go beyond the constructs of our socialization and upbringing. What is really true for you, versus what is true for your family of origin or the culture you were raised in? This can be challenging to tease apart, but lead to transformative results.
Staying Connected to Your Purpose
Remember, we learn the most about our purpose just by living! Doing things that don’t align for us, or allowing ourselves to simply be where we are and learn from whatever phase of life we’re in, even if we feel stuck or uninspired—that’s all okay. The painful time in my life that felt like a diversion was the greatest gift. If I didn’t live that, I would not have the same insights to offer others that I do today.
It’s worthwhile to seek clarity of our purpose, as this gives us meaning and direction in our lives. And it’s important to remember that, even in the most challenging times, when our lives feel like one big diversion, we can still stay connected to that purpose. It’s joyful, often challenging work, but this is where the magic happens! When you have clarity of purpose, the universe conspires to propel you along, and nothing can divert you.
I can’t know all that life might offer me, but I do know that I’ll keep on learning my lessons, and that my clarity of purpose will continue to provide me with that meaning, direction, and sense of connection. And I’ll keep journaling, because in twenty years, I imagine that the words I write today will reveal myself to me all over again.
Kellie Mox catalyzes revolutionary healing for women through powerful conversations and whole-health mentoring. She is passionate about authentic, meaningful connections – to self, others, and the world – and believes that healing flourishes when we strengthen these connections and embrace our wholeness.
Kellie is a certified coach and a student of homeopathic medicine with a master’s in health behavior & health education. She works with women virtually and in-person from her home base in Ann Arbor, Michigan.