"The meaning of life is the meaning you give to your life." -Paulo Coelho

I often hear from women who lament about their lack of purpose in life. 

Women say things like things like:

  • "I just don't feel like I have any purpose in my life." 
  • "I feel like my only purpose is to be a mom - I want something more!"
  • "My husband thinks my only purpose is to clean up after him- when did I disappear?
  • "My purpose? What is that? I'm just trying to make it from day to day."

I get it. 

There was a time in my life when I felt like my only purpose was to be a good wife, mother, and critical care nurse. My aim was to make ends meet and just get by.  

And I was doing "OK" with that, but I wasn't feeling very excited about life. 

Essentially I was getting through it, day after day, and not feeling much about anything. 

The best I could do was the next indicated step – I certainly wasn't thinking about bigger, better things or a higher purpose. 

To be honest, I just figured it was what it was and I couldn’t really expect anything else. 

I remember someone actually once asked me what my life's purpose was. When I replied that I wasn't really sure, she said, "Oh, Honey - You need to find your life's purpose." And I felt so frustrated by that - and maybe just a little bit angry too. 

I mean, find my life's purpose? I could barely find my keys in the morning!

Then one day, someone asked me a better question – a more specific question. 

A doctor on the night shift at the hospital asked me one night, "Tonya, who is it that you want to be in this world?"

Some of you may have heard this story, but I'll share it here anyway for those of you who haven't.

I said that I wanted to be a good wife, mom, and nurse. And he said, "I'm not talking about the roles you play in life. Who do you want to be as a woman?"

The question stuck with me, nagging at my brain until I finally unwound it and came up with some answers. 

I wanted to be cultured, I wanted to be  a woman who believed in herself. I wanted to be knowledgeable and worldly. I wanted to be more than just a wife, mom, and critical care nurse. 

Not long after that, I attended sommelier school. I finally figured out that rosé was pronounced “rose-ay” , not “rose” like the flower. 

Then, I went back to school and got my degree in liberal arts - I knew I wanted to start writing. My journey progressed even further as I later worked with a life coach and realized how much I loved the world of personal development

I remember thinking - every woman should have access to this!

In short - over those next few years, through curiosity about myself and the world around me, I found my purpose in life. 

Showing Up With Purpose Now

Curiosity is one of the critical ingredients to engineering your life's purpose – but so is showing up with purpose where you are today

Unfortunately, so many of us lose sight of that- or we just don't know that showing up where you are today is what will move the needle forward.

You can't wait around until some purpose-filled future finally shows up one day. You have to start acting as if now and living with purpose today

So how do you do that? 

  • Do the things that fire you up and make you feel excited about life. 
  • Do the things that propel your dreams forward. 
  • Do the things that you want to do, not just the things that you feel you have to do.
  • Do the things that feel good.

Maybe it's that you think you're not sure what you really want. But, I'm guessing that it's more about not believing you can have it - about thinking that it's just too far out of your reach. 

So often we  ignore our desires and dreams because we feel that they are impossible or that we just  aren't worthy of them. 

We settle for the status quo- we settle for life happening to us rather than for us

The power of purpose is the driving force behind creating value in the world and in our own lives.

 It's graceful, practical, and always timely. 

Purpose Can Come From Many Places

The feeling that your life has meaning can come from things ranging from personal to professional.

Here are a few things that create purpose for many women in their lives. Perhaps these prompts will get your creative juices flowing or help you discover a purpose that lights you up: 

  • Doing work that you find fulfilling 
  • Being of service to others, giving back, volunteering, or just being present and listening
  • Having and raising a family
  • Having and caring for pets
  • Expression through art
  • Teaching others 
  • Spirituality or faith
  • Appreciating the sweet things in life: good food, a baby animal, a spectacular sunset, the smell of fresh grass or clean laundry – and, helping others to appreciate these things too
  • The feeling of accomplishment that accompanies a hard day's work
  • Setting an example for someone young and impressionable  
  • Mentoring others
  • Caring for the elderly
  • Caring for those less fortunate
  • Caring for the littles who are our future
  • Sharing your own experience, strength, wisdom, and hope in the interest of being of service to others

While it doesn't much matter what gives your life purpose and meaning, it does matter that you figure out what does and pursue that. 

The Power of Purpose Has Far Reaching Effects

A growing body of research shows that feeling like your life has meaning helps you be physically, mentally, and spiritually healthier and even boost longevity. 

Another study dives in even deeper, showing that the feeling that one is living a worthwhile life seems to be positively linked to almost every aspect of our lives – not just health. The new study followed older adults over time and found that the more worthwhile they saw life, the more positive transformations they experienced over the coming years.

"These associations seem quite pervasive, right across a whole spectrum of our experience," says lead author Andrew Steptoe, a psychologist and epidemiologist at University College London. "It's not only related to health but to social functions, psychological and emotional experiences, economic prosperity, things like sleeping well and time spent doing different kinds of activities."

Discovering Your Why

One thing a woman can do to live a more meaningful life is to discover and explore her "why?" 

What's the "why" behind getting up in the morning? Perhaps you can envision possible "purpose moments" that may come up throughout the day ahead. 

But there are the more significant "whys" to look at too. Your "why" behind your marriage, or showing up, or building a business, or your spiritual practices ... 

Purpose Drives Meaning 

When you have purpose and meaning in life, you're motivated to strive to make things happen.

Richard Leider, the bestselling author of Repacking Your Bags and The Power of Purpose, is the chief content curator for AARP's Life Reimagined Institute, suggests taking the "napkin test." Leider says, "I call it the "Got-A-Minute School of Coaching. Just grab a napkin and jot this formula for purpose: G + P + V = C. Are you using your most enjoyed gifts (G) on things that you feel passionate about (P) in an environment that fits your values (V)? If not, it's time to go back to square one and figure this out."

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