You know those people that have known since they were a child exactly what they wanted to do with their life and followed that passion all the way through with fervor and happiness? If that’s you…congratulations. If that doesn’t describe you, come join the other 99% of us. You are not alone. For us, soul searching is the path to uncovering what exactly we should be doing here.
Life frameworks like minimalism, stoicism, simple living, or similar lifestyles can be transformative and life changing. However, before adopting one of these methods of living, it is key to know yourself, your purpose and the why behind the journey you are embarking on. Minimalism can provide a great roadmap to where you are heading, but first you must determine the underlying purpose. Before taking actions, or even before you start planning, you must discover and address the passion that lives inside you and apply it to the right purpose. Soul searching is one path to finding your life purpose and the process is not as daunting or arduous as you may think.
WHAT IS SOUL SEARCHING?
Soul searching is simply a conscious evaluation of your underlying feelings that may not be readily accessible on the surface. It refers to any type of reflection, consideration, or discovery process that uncovers your feelings and motives. As a soul searcher, your goal is to better understand what gives you meaning in life. For many of us, the term soul searching conjures images of an isolated wilderness voyage, a spiritual discovery in a hut in a faraway desert, or some anxiety ridden moment alone with a notepad. It can be all of these things, but it doesn’t have to be any of them.
THE GOAL OF SOUL SEARCHING
There can be a number of reasons to embark on the process of soul searching. In many cases, it can be applied to a big life decision, an interpersonal situation, or a moment where you feel overwhelmed. It can also be applied to your life as a whole. Ultimately, the point of soul searching is to find your life purpose, values, and passion. Once you know these things from your core, you are able to apply them to more specific situations or areas of your life while knowing that you are staying true to who you are and what you want. Soul searching defines the strategy and allows you to make decisions and execute tactics that help you stick to it.
Another major reason to find your life’s purpose through soul searching is your overall health. A study done by professors from Carleton University and the University of Rochester Medical Center revealed an alarming statistic. Their research showed that individuals who indicated they felt like they had a purpose in life, had a 15% lower chance of death 14 years after the initial study was done.
A good old fashioned soul search can allow you to:
- Learn why you feel certain things, including underlying negative emotions that you don’t always notice
- Understand how you have made decisions that got you to where you are
- Figure out the things you truly love and feel passionate about, versus the things that you simply need to do
- Uncover your values and determine if you are living your life in the way that aligns with them
- Help you make decisions about how you want to move forward
- Search within you for things you may feel that you haven’t always had the time to address
METHODS OF SOUL SEARCHING
Here is where it gets pretty open-ended. There are literally thousands of ways to soul search, including new ways popping up on social media every day. What is really important is to find a space where you can clear your mind and be honest with yourself about what you feel, want, need, love, hate, and so forth. For some, this can be a short jog. For others, it’s a six-month backpacking trip. For others still, it means spending an hour with a journal. The key is to eliminate the other thoughts that take up space in your mind for long enough to let your soul come through. All that said, here are a few common ways that people tackle it:
- Participate in a spiritual practice – this can be prayer, meditation, a retreat, or whatever allows you to connect and quiet your mind for a bit.
- Take some time off – this could be a vacation, time in nature, or simply an afternoon of silence to think through things.
- Journal – Getting your thoughts down on paper can help you learn what you are thinking. Try simply writing without a goal or a prompt for a couple of pages to see what makes its way out.
- Talk to a therapist – Like journaling, getting your thoughts out to another person can help you to uncover answers. Keep in mind that a trusted friend or family member can also work if they are able to stay unbiased and neutral as a listener.
- Spend time on a passion – I know, the point is to uncover your passion, but if you have a hobby or exercise that puts you in a clear state of mind, this can be an easy first step to try out.
- Make space for pure silence – While some people go to extreme lengths seeking solitude, taking a moment in a quiet room or a place where you can sit and think, uninterrupted will do more for you than you may think.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO FIND YOUR PURPOSE?
Some people believe that they were put on this earth for a specific reason and their mission is to find it. If you believe that, that’s fine. I believe that there are a million different things that we could be doing with our life. Most of them are not wrong. Finding your purpose is about knowing yourself and having something to fall back on when it comes decision time. Every day, we make decisions about what to do and what not to do. By doing the work to define your purpose, you will be able to make sure that you are spending your life in a way that is meaningful to you. So many people spend months, years, or decades chasing the wrong things, spending their time doing things that are not truly important to them, or drifting through life with the wrong plan and goals. The problem is that all of these things feel important enough while we’re doing them. It’s like that day at work when you are busy all day, but reach the evening with a feeling that you didn’t accomplish anything. Figure out your purpose first, then you can live and act accordingly.
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FIND YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE QUIZ
Here is a “find your purpose in life quiz” to get you started. Think of these more as prompts to get your mind moving. You won’t necessarily reach the end of this list and immediately know what to do with your life. The goal is to uncover areas of friction and areas where you may not be focusing enough.
Examine what got you here
- What are your top 3 best moments in life?
- What are your top 3 regrets in life?
- What life experiences have shaped what you are currently doing with your life? (Pick 3-10 key events that changed the course of how you got to here)
Look at how you spend your time
- What do you currently do that you won’t remove from your life (raising a family, caring for loved ones, etc.)
- What do you spend time doing that you hate?
- What do you spend time doing that you truly love?
- What do you already know you need to quit doing?
- What are the five areas of your life where you spend most of your time? What percentage of your day (and mental energy) goes to each one? For instance, if you work 8 hours per day, but think about work for 12 hours per day, that’s 50%.
Examine your skills and passions
- What do you do that nobody else does?
- What do people ask you for advice about?
- What are you below average at that you wish you were great at?
- If you had two weeks to do anything you want without responsibility, judgment or repercussion, what would you choose to do?
- What is something you do that makes you feel a flow state, like you could just continue doing it with ease?
- If you were told you had six months to live and could do anything you wanted, how would you spend your remaining life?
Find your beliefs
- What beliefs are most important to you? (These can be a framework like a religion, or simple things like “I believe people should be kind.”)
- What did you believe in the past that you no longer believe?
- List 2 values that you believe are most important
- List 2 values that your friends have that you admire
- What are four things you would want people to say when describing you.
- What are four things people actually say when describing you.
- If you had to go work for the rest of your life on one cause, what would it be?
Piece it all together
- In a perfect world, what would your breakdown of time spent on the top five areas of your life be?
- How does this differ in each category from question 5 from the “how do you spend your time” section?
- What skills or passions do you have that you haven’t tapped into or given enough attention? What can you do to pursue these things?
- How do your most important values align with the way you are currently spending your time? How do they align with how you would like to spend your time? What adjustments can you make in the next year to get closer to the ideal mix?
- What do you need to get rid of from your life to create space for your life purpose, passions and values?
If you were hoping for a one-line answer to finding your purpose in life, I’m sorry. The goal here is to uncover the most important things and examine how you are currently giving your time and attention to those things. So, now what?
HOW TO CULTIVATE YOUR LIFE PURPOSE
In this case, I’m defining your life purpose as the collection of the core motivation in your life. This is a collection of your values and the sense of direction that will help you to create meaning. Once you have a sense of your life purpose from a soul searching exercise, you can start to define the things that you should and should not do.
The solution is most likely not to quit your job, move to Costa Rica and become a surf instructor, or the typical “follow your passion” cliche. The more accessible solution for most of is to start planning life according to your purpose.
Do you spend time with friends who allow your passions to come alive?
Do you consume books and media that get you closer to your ideal state?
Do you waste time on meaningless activities that could be replaced with purposeful ones?
Compare your current time breakdown to your ideal one and see if there are places that you can make minor shifts. Look at what areas of your life are an opposing force to your values and see how you can adjust them. You won’t have all of the answers right away, but if you can make adjustments that impact 2%, 5%, or 10% of your time, that will eventually add up to a purposeful life. If you need help planning your days, weeks and months, we have created a productivity planner and minimalism calendar that can help you to align your values, passion, goals, and life purpose with your daily schedule.
This is a lifelong process that is nearly impossible to spend too much time on. I hope that we’ve helped to get the ball rolling here, but if you want to dive deeper and spend some more time on it, here are a few resources that I like:
BEST SOUL SEARCHING BOOKS
It’s not hard to find soul searching books. It is a little tougher to find good ones. Here are some of the best soul searching books, each with slightly different approaches and different styles:
- The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
- What Should I Do with My LIfe?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question by Po Bronson
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer
BEST BOOKS ABOUT FINDING YOUR LIFE PURPOSE
- Designing your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
- The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins
- The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna
- Find Your Passion: 25 Questions You Must Ask Yourself by Henri Junttila
- The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander
These are some of the more popular and common titles that you will find in the area of soul searching books, but there are a couple other places to look that may help. The first is to look for biographies or autobiographies of any of your heroes or people that you admire. Obviously, this won’t guide you through a process of discovering your purpose, but it can help you to see the path that brilliant people have taken and their methods of decision making.
Another place to look is at Ted Talks or Interviews of people who have been through this process and succeeded. I know that spending more time online or watching videos on social media seems to go against the work that you need to do. However, starting your search with a few of these quick hits can give you a new perspective so you feel like you are in the right space to take on the next steps.
YOUR JOURNEY TO SOUL SEARCHING AND FINDING YOUR PURPOSE
Unfortunately, the soul, your purpose, your values, and the search for meaning in your life are big topics that can’t be solved in the scope of one article. However, I hope that going through this information has helped you to feel ready to soul search, or perhaps have a new way of looking at what it will take to get there. Remember, this can be a lifelong process and even one step in the right direction is progress that will help you live a happier, more fulfilled life.
If you are interested in sharing your journey with us, we are always looking for new stories and perspectives. Feel free to reach out through this website or our social media channels to share how this process has worked for you. Whether you feel stuck, feel a new sense of excitement, or even a little bit scared of taking this on, you are not alone and we’re happy to walk alongside you.