What Gets You Up in the Morning, and What Do You Want to Change About the World? Follow these tips from Dr Cate Howell to help find your purpose and free yourself from the obstacles that may have been stopping you from living with passion.

Purpose is defined as the reason for which something is done or exists. Let’s bring passion into the equation. Passion is defined as great enthusiasm. If we combine these two definitions, then purpose is about doing what you love and perhaps were meant to do.

A good starting point for exploring your purpose is to look at your values. Do you have role models or individuals who seem to live a life consistent with their values? Nelson Mandela was prepared to go to prison for his values. Mother Teresa lived a life as a nun in India for her values (including faith and service to the poor and dying).

Consider too whether you are living a fulfilling life with purpose. If the answer is ‘yes’, that’s wonderful. If you answer ‘no’, or ‘not sure’, then it’s important to understand the influence of your thoughts and beliefs on your sense of purpose.

So many times you will hear an adult say, ‘I couldn’t do that.’ But we don’t often hear young children saying it. It seems that as we grow up we take on board a range of limiting ideas, such as ‘I’m not smart enough’ or ‘I’m not good enough’. Consider whether any of your thoughts are holding you back from fulfilling your purpose.

A useful technique for raising awareness ties in with one of the most useful therapies, namely Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), which is based on the view that thoughts and beliefs affect our feelings and behavior, and are in turn affected by them. This technique involves three steps:

  • 1. Recognize your positive points and strengths by making a list of ‘What I like about myself: my positive points’. Reflect on this list and add to it over time; maybe ask others for ideas. Read the list regularly and acknowledge your positive points.
  • 2. Recognize the ‘inner critic’ or the inner negative voice and make a list of ‘Things I do not like about myself: negative points’. Consider whose voice is being critical — has the criticism been internalized from other people?
  • 3. Then reassess these negative things and be fairer on yourself. Are the statements too critical? Can they be re-worded so they are less harsh? Try reframing them — an example would be ‘I tend to be quiet in front of others, but I am working on talking with people more’.

Remember that our positive and negative traits can be like two sides of a coin. A strength, such as being determined, can also be viewed as a negative quality at times — determination might be interpreted as stubbornness.

Sometimes we only view the negative aspect. A parent might complain that their child is opinionated and feisty. They might view this negatively, forgetting that the positive view is that their child is able to stand up for themselves — very useful given that peer-pressure can be such a powerful force in adolescence.

Using this technique you'll be able to be more aware of some beliefs or thoughts that may have been holding you back. With this new freedom you'll be able to get a clearer idea of what's important to you, without these artificial doubts getting in the way.

To find your purpose don't let yourself be confined by negative thoughts and the limitations that they create. Focus instead on passion and enthusiasm - what it is you love to do, and what you'd like to create.

Make finding your purpose a goal in and of itself, and you'll reap the rewards of a life lived deliberately, with energy and passion rather than fear or worry.

By Dr Cate Howell, author of Release Your Worries - A Guide to Letting Go of Stress and Anxiety.