We often believe that if our life purpose doesn’t hit us over the head like a brick, then it isn’t real. More often, however, it whispers. It shows up in our curiosity, in our laughter, and in serendipitous moments.
How Serendipity Shows Up
A chemistry professor once hired me to be his assistant. When I interviewed for the job, we went through the usual process, and at the end, he asked me if I had any questions for him. Unable to restrain my career coach curiosity, I asked, “How did you decide to become a chemist?”
He looked surprised, then his gaze softened. He told the story of his origins as a young boy in Czechoslovakia.
His father was a judge, his mother a teacher. He was raised in privilege and learning was easy and fun. He mastered a second language at age 3; by the time I met him he spoke 16 languages fluently.
He could have followed a safe route, conforming to the desires of the Nazi regime that had captured his homeland. He would have been successful at anything his parents chose for him.
But that was not his path.
He described how in second grade, a chemist had visited the class. As he talked, he became animated and shared how the classroom guest performed a simple experiment. It involved a chemical in a test tube, a lighted punt, and when the two met, fire whooshed out!
He laughed, “That did it for me!”
In that moment he absolutely knew he must learn how to create fire in a test tube. Chemistry lassoed him through his curiosity.
Every moment was an opportunity to learn more. He giggled at how angry his mother was when he melted a piece of her silverware for an experiment. Nothing got in the way of his learning and exploration into what he loved.
The visiting chemist had been a random exercise to his classmates but that serendipitous event completely shifted his future. His life was now passionately devoted to science.
It was his joy.
I remember mornings when he would appear in my office after his walk to the university. He would practically click his heels to begin his day in the lab to “do some science.” Even though I planned to work for only a year as a stop-gap while building my coaching practice, I stayed two and a half years.
His joy was a magnet.
Our life purpose is a calling to create something. For this professor, life purpose meant “doing science.” His contributions to the discipline were significant and in return gave him deep satisfaction.
Listen to the Whispers
We sometimes diminish what brings us joy because the outer messages from loved ones direct our path. We pay attention to what we “should” do rather than what lights us up. Our actions satisfy the expectations of others rather than our heart’s desire.
Our heart will continue to send reminders even when we’re not listening, even when we are distracted, even when we are deluded into thinking the direction set before us is the “right” one.
It whispers. It nudges. When we brush up against it, we feel happy to be in that moment. It will persist until we pay attention and give ourselves permission to begin and to take baby steps in its direction.
Our Life Purpose Is a Gift
We have aspirations, dreams and goals, but the reality of getting into action is where the magic lies. When we move towards our desire, that thing we create is our gift to the world.
Our contribution could be growing the perfect tomato; it could be creating an elegant, useful app; it could be designing the perfect spreadsheet. Our creations matter no matter how mundane. Artists are not the only artists.
And here’s the best part: when we use our gift and release our soul’s expression—it brings JOY! Just like the professor “doing science,” our joy arises from the depths of our very spirit.
Living our purpose means expressing our heart’s desire. The whispers nudge us to find it, and joy arises when we take baby steps to create it.