One of my favorite teachers, Martha Beck, in her book “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World,” shares this very useful formula for finding your life’s purpose. It doesn’t apply to everyone, but perhaps you will find it helpful.
LIFE PURPOSE FORMULA PART I:
Have you spent 10,000 hours of your life doing something in particular? The 10,000 Hour Rule was made popular by author Malcolm Gladwell, and it means that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed in order to become world-class in any given field.
What The Beatles, Bill Gates, and Michael Jordan have in common is that they practiced their craft deliberately for 10,000 hours before they reached the heights they did.
LIFE PURPOSE FORMULA PART II:
What has been the most difficult situation you’ve experienced in your life (Martha calls it “your hell”) and how did you pull yourself out of that situation using what you learned from your 10,000-hour practice?
LIFE PURPOSE FORMULA PART III:
Use the resources you learned in Part I to help others come out of the difficult situations similar to those you experienced in part II.
_ _ _
Here’s how this is true for me. I have experienced many difficulties in my life: extreme poverty and hunger while living in Cuba, sexual abuse, child labor, being a single mother, making minimum wage… But none for me was as difficult as losing myself during the existential crisis I faced during mid-life. Being utterly lost (not knowing who I was or what I was here to do) was my personal hell; it was worse than any of the many other difficulties I’d faced up until then. That’s why I’ve made it my mission to help others find and live their purpose.
I’ve told myself: “Others aren’t going to go through what I went through if I can help it. Not on my watch.”
Now I help others searching for purpose and meaning in their lives by sharing what I learned during my 10,000 hours of research (reading books, taking seminars, working with life coaches, watching TEDTalks, etc.) and practicing, creating the life I love.
You’ve probably heard many stories of mothers losing their children to a particular illness (their most difficult situation) and years later finding their purpose helping other parents as they deal with grief.
My friend Sarah, who owns a tea shop in town, got so sick while visiting Thailand once that all she could put in her stomach for weeks was tea. She became obsessed with the benefits of it, and now she provides customers with a wide variety of medicinal teas from all over the world.
A beautiful young woman recently came to me and confessed that after being sexually abused at the age of 12, she developed severe issues with body image that caused her a deep depression and anxiety, eating disorders, and many other ailments. After 15 years of inner work, she now feels passionate about helping girls suffering from similar issues.
So, it’s your turn.
What have you spent 10,000 hours of your life practicing?
Knitting? Biking? Giving moral support to others? Cooking? Gardening? Caring for homeless dogs?
What has been the hardest thing you’ve been through, your biggest “hell”?
Put the two together. Your 10,000 hours are your gift to the world. The people who are experiencing the same thing you went through are those you are here to serve.