In 2018 we all got the shocking news of Kate Spade’s suicide. I found it hard to believe, having just returned from Toronto where her name was on almost every item I wanted to buy for my children. Diaries, journals, pencil cases, all had her brand – and then of course the satchels, handbags and scarves she was known for. I’d never really thought much about her name, but on this trip I remember thinking how successful a business woman she was.
And then the news. It makes you think how little we know of anyone’s inner world, of their struggles and demons. It makes you have compassion for every one you meet because “there’s always suffering in the room”. And it also makes you realize that our inner world and outer world are separate, often with different drives and motivations, and the research shows that aligning the two is how we live our most successful, but also most meaningful lives.
This is what purpose is all about. And as women, we seek it today more than ever before. For centuries upon centuries, women have found purpose solely from their role as mothers and caregivers. And while this is still true today, we’re also facing the larger forces that have led to longer life spans, single unit families and the need to enter the workforce. Purpose beyond our role as caregivers is now a necessity for most of us, at least at some stage in our lives.
Perhaps the largest percentage of women I meet in my coaching practice are those whose children have left home for college and who are feeling empty, purposeless, seeking that something that brings meaning to their lives. Sometimes its women who are successful, who have met all the extrinsic criteria for happiness, but they’re wondering whether this is all there is to life. We are a body but also a soul, and in our day and age, with the lop-sided focus on the needs of the former, we’re at risk of leaving the latter behind. And its showing up in rates of depression and suicide that have risen dramatically over the past couple of decades.
Purpose addresses the needs of the soul. But finding it can sometimes be a source of angst and frustration.
Today, I want you to gain clarity on your values. Values are the place we “come from”, and people who have clarity on their values are able to be authentic, decisive and ultimately at peace with themselves. I know we all think we know what our values are, but you’ll be surprised how few of us actually do! So take some time to think about yours.
You can use a ton of values lists available online for free. Or you can simply think about times in your life when you felt most proud of yourself – in your professional or personal life. Why have you chosen this moment and not another? Why is it meaningful to you? What values does it show and how have you lived by these values at other times in your life?
With this clarity, allow your values, your happiest moments, your learning experiences and the needs that tug at your heart to blend together as you think about the difference you want to make in this life. How do you want to be remembered? What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
Keep journaling what comes up for you. Some people like to do so for about 20 minutes for 3 consecutive nights. Some like to let it simmer at the back of their minds until a little spark kindles within their hearts. Regardless of how you want to do it, keep in mind that it’s a process, and you don’t need to rush it! Nor is it final, because a full life consists of many “purposes” all aligned with the stage of life you’re in.
So put your curiosity hat on and happy exploring! Write down what comes up for you and give it a go. Even if it doesn’t feel totally authentic just yet, you may soon find that it’s exactly the purpose you were looking for. Or you may decide it isn’t, and then you can give it another go. After all its a discovery, so stay open to all possibilities.