In March I had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation on women and leadership workshop at a Women’s Conference. One of the questions the women were asked to answer was how powerful they felt on a scale of one to ten, with one being the lowest. At least one woman raised their hand for each number and shared why this was their choice. When the 10s were asked to stand, I joined the group and the facilitator asked me to share why I felt this way. I explained that my power was defined by my purpose which I was living each day and that was regardless of title, position or reward.
A slight pause followed as if everyone had been jolted into a state of confusion or deep thought, and then a tentative applause. Ouch! Had they rejected what I was saying or were they reflecting on what it might mean? Looking back, just four years ago, I sat in a Rockwood Leadership Training with the same look of confusion and intrigue.
So what’s this stuff called “purpose” and why should you want it?
Purpose is your unique chemistry, your own driving force and call to action. Purpose drives how you show up in the world and what kind of person you want to be.
Even though I wasn’t sure what purpose was four years ago, a small voice inside of me said, “you have to get back to your purpose.” I lacked a sense of personal fulfillment and grounding despite the fact that I had done everything I was told to do – be a good daughter, become a lawyer and get married to someone Latino. I had reached my all my goals by the age of 28 and none of it felt fulfilling. I realized my life had been on autopilot and I was at a crossroads wondering why I had fallen so far from who I was meant to be.
This lack of connection to my purpose affected my ability to show up authentically with my friends, my family and my coworkers. I knew if I was going to find a sense of fulfillment in my life, I needed to deal with any obstacles that were blocking my ability to connect with my purpose.
The biggest obstacle I was facing was domestication.
“During the process of domestication, we form an image of perfection in order to try to be good enough. We create an image of how we should be in order to be accepted by everybody, but we don’t fit this image.” – Don Miguel Ruiz, Author of the Four Agreements
Domestication is a powerful word. For Latinas, it conjures up thoughts about what our cultures and societies expect of us -- being a good girl, always finding consensus, and putting our needs last. Don Miguel Ruiz uses it here to refer to the image of yourself that you were trained to accept by external forces. As the daughter of immigrant parents, I spent most of my life reconciling two very dominant sets of expectations – how my family and my local community defined my success and how American culture and society expected me to behave. Sometimes these expectations were unified—such as higher education will bring you success and other times they were disjointed—defining professional success.
As Latinas we experience this domestication in multiple contrasting layers. Family, multiple cultures, the media, our community and society each plant a different seed of expectation in our minds. These contrasting expectations can be confusing and veer us off a purpose driven path. The choices I made early on in my professional career were largely driven by the needs of my family and community, and not by what would give me a sense of personal fulfillment. When those choices were no longer fulfilling, I became aware of these contrasting expectations. If I was going to reconnect to my purpose, then I needed to let go of these expectations and listen to my own heart.
Three Ways to Find Your Purpose
The journey to finding your purpose doesn’t mean you automatically reject everything you’ve come to know. We all have many successes in life and we must honor those experiences. Finding your purpose is about reconnecting with your own breadth and that little voice inside you that keeps you on your path to personal fulfillment.
Here are three tips to getting more out of life and find your purpose, si tú quieres:
Break free. In order to journey closer to your purpose, make the space in your life to listen to the voice that lives below your domesticated ideas. Take a walk in the park and journal some initial thoughts about what you’ve been thought.
Celebrate. It’s easy to make the list of things we want to reject. It’s harder to make the list of things we are proud of. Honor your success. Celebrate and acknowledge who you have become and the things that successfully define who you are at the core.
Reflect. Once you have identified those areas that feel incomplete, begin to develop a vision of how you want to show up so that you feel more completely you.
No matter where you are in this journey, know that you are not alone. We’re all here doing the same internal work – trying to find our purpose.
Have you found or reconnected to your purpose? If so, tell us what exercises have worked for you?