on finding my purpose {may you learn from my story}

“Pursue your passion!”
Which one?
I know I’ve been paralyzed by that question in the past.

I have so many interests - things I love to do, things people tell me I’m good at, and things that I can’t let go of, even if I try. How’s a girl to decide where her true passion lies?

I set aside a month to rest and reflect. A whole 31 days without actively pursuing any passion, but rather considering the things that I love, the things that drive me, and the things that have shaped who I am. I journaled, talked with close friends, and restrained myself from choosing any one thing and running with it. The last was harder than you might think! Any time I came up with an idea, I wanted to jump straight into it, sure that this was the next big thing I was to pursue. I’m really glad I didn’t.

As the end of the month drew closer, I had lots of ideas - an overwhelming number of ideas! - and still no clear direction. Until a friend exposed me to this simple concept from Tom Ziglar. He outlines a way to discover what he calls your “purpose," defining this purpose as the place where your passions, giftings, and scars converge.

Passions:

Is there a time when you didn’t need an alarm clock to wake you?
When you were working (or playing) at something that brought you so much life, that you didn’t have to think twice about rolling out of bed? The things that get you up in the morning, these are your passions.

Giftings:

What problems do people bring to you?
Think of a time when someone has asked you for help. You may not think of yourself as an expert in this area, because it comes so naturally to you, but other people do. The perspective of another person looking in can help you determine your giftings.

Scars:

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome?
The making of a scar is a painful process, but once it is healed, it becomes the evidence of triumph. If you’re anything like me, you likely want to forget that the scars (and the things that caused them) were ever a part of your life, but you earned them. Even the most difficult things in your past have prepared you for your present and will propel you into your future.

As I began to explore this idea, I was sorely tempted to focus only on the area where my passions and gifting overlapped. I didn’t want my scars to have a say in determining my purpose. But I made myself do the full exercise anyway.

I began slowly and asked myself what people say I’m good at. When do people look to me to solve their problems? For over a decade now, people have come to me to solve their sewing problems. I wrote down Costuming and Fiber Arts in the part of the diagram where “Giftings” and “Passions” overlapped because those sorts of things also excite me enough to get me up in the morning. They don’t get to go in the center of the diagram, though, because they don’t have anything to do with my Scars. Alterations landed in the lonely space reserved for “Giftings" that I’m not passionate about.

I broadened my considerations from there. Public Speaking landed in the space between "Scars" and "Giftings," but Teaching landed squarely in the middle, where “Passions,” “Giftings,” and “Scars” all meet.

As the diagram filled up, the things settling into the center nestled together into a beautiful picture of what I am uniquely suited to do and be. Looking at the words there grounds me. I feel like I know what I am created for when I look at it.

The things that hover around this center - things like Public Speaking, Fiber Arts, and Alterations - these are things I feel I should do, for one reason or another, but seeing that they are not centered gives me the freedom to let them go so that I can focus on the things that I can do better. Let someone who finds those things at their own center do them. They’ll execute them better than you would anyway. As for me, I have limited time, money, and energy; let me focus on what I’ve been created to do. I may dabble in these fringe passions as hobbies, but they cannot be my focus if I want to actually make a difference in the world and find fulfillment.

Over the coming weeks and months, you will see a shift in my brand that will reflect what I’ve learned about my purpose. I share even more behind-the-scenes glimpses on social media, specifically Instagram and Twitter. Watch my Instagram story to hear about my process, visit my Instagram feed to see what I’m working on, and stop by my Twitter for quips and contemplations.

What is your purpose?

Does reflecting on your passions, giftings, and scars help your purpose settle into place?

talent isn't everything

are you talented?

Do you consider yourself talented?
What about the people around you -
do they see your talent?

Are you one of those people
who seems to be able to do
anything you set your mind to?

Or are you someone who struggles
through every step
of your creative process?

talent-envy

Whatever your answer to the above questions,
you can probably think of someone who is more talented than you.

Who came to mind?
Did you think of someone who seems to overflow
with natural ability?

Everything just comes so easily for her!
She doesn’t have to practice much,
and when she does practice, it’s completely enjoyable
because, quite frankly, she doesn’t have to try hard!

I have talent-envy:
this tendency to look at someone
who is just so good at what she does
that she hardly seems to be trying!

People look at me with talent-envy;
There are certain things I do
that come naturally enough
that I don’t have to try hard
in order to get good results.

But that’s just it…

the talent advantage myth

I don’t have to try hard to get good results,
and so, too often I don’t try hard,
and I settle for “good” instead of pushing myself to get better.

As a result, I don’t have much of an advantage
over someone who doesn’t have the same natural bent that I do.

My natural talent has led me to be complacent
and not grow in these areas of creativity.
More than that,
I have watched as people with less talent than I have
work hard and easily surpass my ability.

Talent isn’t much of an advantage.

I picture it sort of like a sprinter running a marathon.
Maybe she can shoot out in front
at the beginning of the race,
but before long she will give out
because she hasn’t trained for distance.
She may never even make it to the finish line.

It’s like the old, classic tale
of the tortoise and the hare.
Steady forward motion
is far more effective
than being fast out of the gate
and completely giving up a few steps in.

talent vs. practice

Another reason that natural talent
can be a disadvantage
is pride.

I had enough natural talent when it came to sewing
that I quit sewing lessons before I probably should have.
As a result, I had to take time later
to relearn things I’d taught myself incorrectly.

Because certain things came easily,
I bristled when it came to practicing
the things that didn’t come so easily.

Fortunately, sewing meant enough to me
that I overcame this fault
and learned to practice.

But even now, as I have practiced and grown my skills,
I have found that those who began with less natural talent than I had
are now my peers; we have equal ability.

forget talent

Whether it’s talent
or talent-envy
that you’re full of,
set it aside.

It’s too easy to let either one
be an excuse.

Forget talent,
and embrace the hard work
of practice.

Show up every day,
grow any talent that you have,
and don’t worry about who has more than you do.

What’s holding you back from becoming an artisan?

Why are you here?
Did you hear about me from a friend?
Did you click over from social media or your email inbox?
Did a google search bring you to my little corner of the Internet?

Are you looking for something in particular?
A tip or trick,
instruction of some kind,
encouragement or motivation,
or maybe simply something interesting to distract you?

Let me tell you why I’m here:
I’m here to help you become an artisan.
You may think it impossible, but I don’t.

Why do you think it’s impossible?

No, really, I mean what I ask;
think about it and tell me:
What is holding you back from becoming an artisan?

Tell me using this form.
You don’t even have to sign your name or leave an email.
(Though you may if you like.)

I want to help you get past whatever is in your way.
If you leave your email I can send you a personal response.
But if not, I may let what you say inspire future articles for the blog.
That way my response may help not only you, but others who share your struggle.

how to eliminate the possibility of failure

When was the last time you learned something new just for fun?

I’m not simply asking,
when was the last time
you tried something new that was fun.

I mean just what I ask:
When was the last time you tried something new
for no other reason but that you felt it would be fun?

This isn’t something I do naturally.
If you ask me what I do for fun,
you may just stump me.

I like practicality
and I like results.

It’s a discipline for me
to do something fun -
to find joy in the process.

But as I have developed in this discipline
I have found it very rewarding;
even more rewarding than accomplishing a productive goal.

If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you try?

If you knew failure was impossible,
what would you attempt?

If you removed fear of failure from the equation,
what would you be brave enough to do?

What technique would you learn?
What new material would you use?
What new tool would you try?

Redefine failure.

It’s tempting to think that if you try a new technique
failure is not managing to use that technique like a professional.

But what if you defined your goal
not as “learning this technique”
but rather “trying this technique”?

What if you simply allowed yourself to experiment
and called it success if you experimented well,
ignoring the question of whether or not you became proficient.

When you’re trying something new,
expecting proficiency
is far too much.

The bravery of trying something new
is not in facing the pressure of proficiency,
but in simply attempting a thing.

Lean into the process of learning.

Forget proficiency
and lean into the process of learning.

Try something new
(that thing you would attempt if failure was impossible)
and do it for the sake of trying it.

Think of a child
learning to draw:
The first time you hand her a crayon
you do not expect her to stay inside the lines
or even to hold the crayon “correctly.”
No, this is a phase of exploration and experimentation.
You expect, and even encourage,
scribbles and awkward hand motions,
for in these she will learn
the basic mechanics of drawing
and eventually writing.

You do not call her first marks on the page
a failure
because you did not set out to expect
a masterpiece.

You set out to expect
a random doodle
and so, she succeeded,
and you praised her for it.

Every time you attempt something new,
you are that child.
Do not chide her for less-than-perfect work.
She is on a journey;
simply encourage her to stay on the path of discovery.

That is more than the average person would do.
Most prefer to stay in their comfort zones.
Praise your inner child when she steps out of hers!

Now you can’t fail, so try it!

Now that you understand that
the goal is not proficiency -
that success is not defined by the results,
but rather the process of experimentation -
what will you do?

That thing that came to mind
when I asked you
what you would attempt
if you could not fail?

Look at it from this new perspective;
redefine failure.

If failure is simply
failing to try,
then you are failing right now.

But you can stop.

Go try that thing.
Begin to attempt it.
That is the only way out of failure;
so long as you lean into the process of learning,
failure is impossible.

rediscover the joy of childlike exploration

give yourself freedom to explore

Do you remember when you were a child
and were given free reign to explore?

Maybe it was out behind grandma’s house
or the nooks and crannies of a library.

Can you remember how it felt?
How free you were?

What if you could feel that way again?
What if you decided to go exploring?

get rid of the pressure to be productive

The pressure to be productive
is all too prevalent in this culture.

The pressure to accomplish something
makes us forget that we need peace
more than productivity.

We are humans beings,
not humans doings,
so why this pressure to perform?

Shake it off.
Slip out of the chains of productivity
and step into the freedom of creative exploration.

Begin a new project
and let yourself be completely free
to enjoy the process.

Let go of the pressure
to produce a beautiful finished product
and step into a beautiful process.

set a clear goal for yourself

Decide what you want out of this adventure.
Perhaps you want to explore a new stitch
or to use a new material or tool.

Set a clear goal to help you focus
and judge whether you’ve done
what you set out to do.

Perhaps you will try some new technique,
giving yourself freedom to fail as you move toward
successfully learning the new skill.

Or maybe you will try using a new tool,
allowing yourself the freedom to take it slowly
and learn all the quirks of this new thing.

Maybe you will try a new fabric,
something completely different from what you typically use,
that will make for an adventure.

Or perhaps you’ll come up with something else entirely.
What is it that would being you the most joy in the journey?
What would you try if you had complete freedom to not finish?

Don’t take this step lightly -
establish for yourself exactly what it would look like
to accomplish your goal.

Keep your goal process-oriented,
and not about the finished object.

Perhaps in the midst of exploring, you will create something.
But that is a byproduct, not an accurate measure of success or failure.

If you choose to try a new fabric, for example,
give yourself the goal of simply learning how to handle it
and don’t worry about whether or not you end up with something wearable.
Even if you only learn that you hate working with this type of fabric,
the journey has been successful - you learned something!

consistency is key

Set aside time each day
when you can focus,
leaving behind pressures
and setting aside distractions.

Consistency is key.
Let it not be a question of whether or not you will do it.
Add it to your schedule.

Once the time is set,
it is your responsibility to fill it with exploration.
This is your time to play.

Remember that this journey
is not about the destination.
When you set your time schedule, don’t set a deadline.

A deadline implies pressure to produce something,
and within a limited time period.
But your intended goal is exploration,
which is never quite over.

Even if it’s simply fifteen minutes before bed,
give yourself a regular time to relax
and lean into the process of creativity.

love the process

Since it is playtime, treat it as such.
Enjoy the process and love the moment.

Set aside everything else.
Leave it all behind and lean in
to the moment.

Engage in the present
letting yourself forget the past
and the future.

Invest yourself completely in the single step in front of you,
whether it be a specific stitch, a careful cut,
or a precisely-placed pin.

Eliminate distractions
so that you may engage fully
in the experience.

Shut yourself up in a room with your phone turned off.
Or go outside, leaving digital devices behind.
Choose a place of peace.

Who wants to have his attention torn between two things,
especially when there are discoveries to be made?

If you were exploring a wood,
you would not be checking social media
while dashing among the trees with your friends and comrades.

Speaking of friends…

share your joy

Exploration is more fun
when you share it with others.

Whether or not you invite a friend
to join you in the exploration,
tell someone about it.

Social media
is the first place we often go
when it comes to sharing something.

So yes, when I encourage you to share your joy,
I could mean taking it online,
but try to think beyond that.

Since the whole focus of this exercise
is to lean into the present moment,
and to be present in it,
it follows that in order to really share this sort of thing,
it is most natural to share it with someone
who can be present there with you.

So think of one person “in real life”
who you might tell about the adventure
you’re about to embark upon.

Now, go tell them.
Face-to-face, if you can.

Share the joy you are setting out to discover on this journey,
and tell them of your commitment to explore daily,
so that they can keep you accountable to actually do it.

Mostly, I ask you to share
because too often, people are afraid to go exploring.
If you do it, and share it, you may inspire someone else
to courageously go where their heart has been pulling them.