happiness purpose

Finding purpose: How loss led to meaning

If you’ve ever felt something was missing in your life, as if every meal you’ve dreamed of is in front of you but nothing you eat takes away the hunger, this is for you.

It took losing my Dad to discover the real me and find a deeper meaning. But of course, that was just what tipped me over – there were many small things that happened along the way. Now, I’m thriving. I love the work I do, I am creating every day, I give more to my community and I have filled that empty spot. 

Here’s some of the things that changed for me. Check out questions at the end and start your own purpose journey ❤

I thought success tasted sweeter

My parents taught me to care deeply, to be curious and believed I could do anything. I was one ambitious kid! The goals I set myself in the early days were small things like being able to afford a car that doesn’t need a kick in the right spot to start. Later, it was getting my degree, buying properties and becoming a leader. At each point, I waited to feel complete satisfaction but there was always a void. I had the meal I thought I wanted in front of me but I was hungry for something else. 

I remember sitting on a beach overseas thinking young Katie would be impressed with this but is this what success feels like?

It wasn’t until I saw my Dad, who had worked his whole life, leave this world that I discovered the  missing piece. Dad couldn’t take his money with him but the legacy of good that he left endured. People started to share stories of how Dad had quietly helped them when they were struggling and it sparked something in me. I started to see more opportunities to help people and because I was making more than I needed, I could do it easily. I could use my success for good.

Am I robbing from future me?

In that ‘lost’ stage, I didn’t really know who I was. I’d share the things on social channels that I thought people expected to see in me – letting others create the picture of who I was. I’d obsess over an unkind remark and change myself to fit what I thought people wanted to see.

A major loss gives you perspective and focus pretty quick, though. I stopped caring about other’s judgement of me and did things that made my heart happy. I stopped seeing things through the lens of how I might share this on social. I had no time to give to trivial arguments or people who didn’t seem to like me. Future Katie would be disappointed I wasted so much precious time on nothing rather than using challenges to learn and grow.  

This line from the TEDxTalk below sums it up well: “The person you are at time A is different to the person at time B. Is what you are doing now robbing from future you?”

 

Making the change 

The turning point was when things had changed at work. My new sense of self gave me clarity on my personal ethics and values so when they were compromised, I knew it was time to leave.

Leaving a secure job to nothing is terrifying. Old Katie would’ve said I’m an idiot, even Dad would’ve said it. But I knew that the longer I stayed, the more disenfranchised I’d feel. I had that gut feel that it would work out.

As soon as I decided to leave, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and my eyes were suddenly open to opportunities that were there the whole time.

Working with heart 

I had worked Monday – Friday, 9-5pm my whole corporate life but now the hours I work are quality and impactful. 

I work when my creativity is at it’s peak and I’m working on projects that make a positive change in the world. This is what keeps that fire in my heart burning.

There are a few guides for the work I do now: 

a) Values-first: Any work I take on needs to align to my values and have a positive impact on the world. No amount of money buys a meaningful life [read: I won’t be working for big tobacco or oil companies, ever) 

b) Work one, give one: For every hour of paid work, I do one of charity or community work 

c) Grow the good: By sharing the good stuff, I want to inspire others to do more good and care a little more. 

It’s already working a treat. I was able to give my time and expertise to help my Aunty Keri win a local community board election. This was significant for our family because Dad and Granddad were Keri’s support people in things like this. Keri standing and me supporting felt like an incredible continuation of Dad and Granddad’s legacy of good. 

Find your purpose 

When I reflected on the moments of change for me, it boiled down to a really simple formula: I’m using what I’m good at to do something I’m passionate about. 

Try writing the answers to the questions below. I doubt you will find your purpose like a lightening bolt after doing it but your mind will start to ponder and that’s where I think the magic happens.  

  1. When are you happiest at work? Write down the things that you would work through the night on, the things that trigger excitement in you.
  2. What are you really good at? What is your super power? 
  3. What is something you are passionate about? This is the thing that you could talk for hours at length about
  4. If you didn’t have any bills, what would you be doing? 
  5. What will your legacy be? At 80 years old, when you look back at your life – what would’ve happened?

Let me know what you discover!

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