To find your life purpose, listen to the whispers
When we are around someone who is living their life purpose, it can be an amazing experience. I worked for a Chemistry professor for a while. Originally from Prague, Josef is an icon in the discipline.
When he interviewed me for the job as his assistant, we went through the usual process, and at the end, he asked me if I had any questions for him. Unable to hold back my career coach curiosity, I asked, “How did you decide to become a chemist?”
He looked surprised, then his gaze softened as he shared the story of his origins as a young boy in Czechoslovakia.
His father was a judge, his mother a teacher. He was raised in privilege and learning was easy and fun. He mastered a second language at age 3; by the time I met him he spoke 16 languages fluently. He could have followed a safe route, conforming to the desires of the Nazi regime that had captured his homeland. He could have pursued anything his parents chose for him.
But that was not his path.
He explained how, in second grade, a chemist had visited the class. Josef became animated when he described how the classroom guest performed a simple experiment involving a chemical in a test tube, a lighted punt, and when the two met, fire whooshed out!
He laughed, “That did it for me!” In that moment he absolutely knew he must learn how to create fire in a test tube. He was hooked!
Nothing got in the way of his learning and exploration. He devoured every opportunity to learn more. He chuckled at how angry his mother was when he melted a silver spoon for an experiment.
The visiting chemist had been a random event to his classmates but it completely changed Josef’s future. His lifetime was passionately devoted to science. It was his joy.
I remember the mornings he would appear in my office after his walk to the university. Wearing his goofy bucket hat, he practically clicked his heels to begin his day in the lab “doing some science.” Even though I planned to keep that job for only a year as a stop-gap while building my coaching practice, I stayed 2 ½ years.
His joy was a magnet.
Our life purpose is a calling to create something and it is a gift. For Josef, life purpose was “doing science.” His contributions to the discipline were significant and in return gave him deep satisfaction.
Listen to the whispers
Josef’s experience is remarkable because it is so unusual. We often think if our purpose doesn’t hit us over the head like a brick, then it isn’t real. Instead, it often shows up in our curiosity, in our laughter, and in serendipitous occasions (like a visiting chemist).
We sometimes diminish what brings us joy because the outer messages overpower us. We pay attention to what we “should” do rather than what lights us up. We are redirected into meeting the expectations of others rather than listening to our inner calling.
Our life purpose continues to send reminders even when we’re not listening, even when we are distracted, even when we are deluded into thinking the directed path set before us is the “right” one.
More often, it whispers. It sends nudges. When we brush up against it, we feel happy to be in that moment. It will persist until we pay attention and give ourselves permission to take a baby step toward it.
When we do take a small risk, what we then create is our gift to the world. It could be growing the perfect tomato, or creating an elegant useful app, or it could be designing the perfect spreadsheet – artists are not the only artists!
And here’s the best part, when we use our gift and release our soul’s expression – it brings JOY! Just like Josef “doing science,” our joy arises from the depths of our very spirit.
Living our purpose to express our gift for the world is really a gift to ourself. The whispers will lead us there when we listen.