Perdita Huston Human Rights Awards Interview with The Honorable Vivian Lowery Derryck

The Honorable Vivian Lowery Derryck is a powerful leader in global efforts to support democracy, development and gender equity. When Vivian was asked if she could tell us how she knew Perdita Huston…

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The Secret to Finding Your Purpose

We live in a world where everything is immediate. We order shoes and they’re by our door the next day, or within the next 2 hours. We’ve become accustomed to getting what we want quickly, without much effort. As a result, we’ve developed unrealistic expectations when it comes to personal development.

Let me cut to the chase: growth doesn’t work like that. Instead, growth is similar to Michaelangelo’s famous saying, “The sculpture is already complete… I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” This beautiful metaphor represents our lives perfectly. You are already the person you are meant to be. That person is already living within you. Your whole life is a journey to discovering how your authentic self can be brought out and become part of your everyday life.

Most of us don’t feel like we’re living out our true purpose. Life often doesn’t feel rewarding enough. It’s easy to feel like we’re going through it with blinders on. We wake up, go to work, go home, eat (because we have to), sleep (because we have to), and do it all over again.

I won’t pretend that I’ve figured it all out — I haven’t. But a few fundamental truths will help you discover your life purpose. If you feel like you haven’t figured it out yet, don’t worry. That will change, starting now.

1. Slow your mind.

You’ve been conditioned to think your entire life. Each day, we’re filling our minds with content, to-do lists, and the news, while holding 1 (or 3) devices that constantly remind us of everything we need to do. We feel like we’re always running, and we rush to get things done every moment of every day of every year.

As a result, we become far departed from ourselves. We lose who we are and become a web of ideas and to-do lists. Sometimes we wish it would all just “shut up” — but we can’t just drown out the noise, especially when it’s our thinking that allows us to make a living. So instead of slamming the door on your mind, my advice to you is: slow it down. Quiet the noise.

How do you do that? Well, you can go on a walk, meditate, sing, act, play sports, run, what have you. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. What matters is that what you choose stops your mind from running a million miles an hour. If the image of every car on the road speeding 100+ miles an hour scares you, take a moment to realize that that’s how your mind is living. So pull away from that crazy pattern, lose yourself in an activity, breathe a little bit, and let your mind relax.

2. Figure out what you cherish.

You’ve probably heard this advice before in different ways: do what you love, do what lights you up, do what gets you passionate and motivated — sound familiar? What I’d like you to think about is: what do you cherish? Cherishing something means you’ll do anything for it, so much so that you make it a part of yourself. Figuring out what you cherish is a critical part of finding out who you are and how you’ll carve your sculpture (remember Michaelangelo’s advice). How do you get there? Well, it starts with slowing down your mind (step 1) until you find the thing that makes your eyes light up and your heart beat a little faster. Once you find that thing (which you will, after a lot of discovery), it must become the most important part of your life.

3. Acknowledge that time is different than focus.

Now some people say to me, “I cherish becoming a writer, but I spend so much time at work that I can’t practice it. I just don’t have the time.”

Well, that’s okay. The truth is, you don’t need to have tons of time to nurture your cherished thing. Instead, what you need is focus. Focus is the driving force that sets you apart from others who know what they cherish, but lack the discipline to apply their full attention to it. So it’s okay if you work 5 days a week, and can only spend 5 hours on your cherished thing. With pure focus, those 5 hours absolutely make up for the extra time you’re spending on doing other things. Give what you cherish your full, undivided attention for whatever amount of time you can, and you’ll be one step closer to finding your life purpose.

4. Make each goal a journey.

If you’re wondering how to focus, you’re not alone. Focus shows up in different ways for different people. The first step to focus is to identify why you’re doing something. After all, if you don’t know why you’re doing it, what’s the point? You might as well throw it away. The second step is to determine your end goal. Know what “done” means to you, and when you’ll draw a line in the sand. Pro tip: when you’re doing this, don’t shoot for perfection. At the end of the day, finishing something is better than making it perfect.

Now, metaphorically-speaking, a lot of people are trying to climb a mountain. And yet… when was the last time you heard of anyone who climbed Mount Everest without taking a break (or perishing first)? It’s impossible. So break down your goals into manageable chunks. Any experienced climber will tell you that they need to take frequent breaks to rest and recharge. That is precisely what you need to do with your goals: break them down, and as you achieve each one, pause and reassess before you continue. You may decide to adjust a goal, as life changes along the way. But the most important thing is — your little goals are part of your overall journey.

Let me give you a quick example: I didn’t decide to be a coach overnight. I started first by mentoring colleagues and reading many books, which resulted in getting a job where I coached others. After that, I decided to pursue coaching further and studied theories behind personal and leadership development. After that, I took coaching trainings at work, which led to me joining a coaching program. As you can see, all of those things were mini-journeys that built on top of each other to became part of my broader journey. Essentially, without mini-journeys (your goals), there is no broader journey. So really focus on breaking down your goals, arranging them with intention and putting focus towards them. If you do this, I promise you’ll achieve your larger journey — and find your purpose along the way. Best of all, the process will be one of passion, enjoyment, and learning.

To recap…

1. Slow your mind.

2. Figure out what you cherish.

3. Acknowledge that time is different than focus.

4. Make each goal a journey.

Now you know the most powerful ways to find out who you are and live out your life’s purpose. It may not seem groundbreaking (or new), but let’s return to Michaelangelo’s metaphor for a moment.

Instead of going out and buying a new sculpture, or comparing your sculpture to someone else’s and thinking, “Oh, their sculpture is so much better than mine!”, remind yourself that you are the artist. Nobody else holds the chisel to your life. So don’t look externally — look within. Through being purposeful about how you want to carve your life, you will discover your purpose, and make your sculpture much more unique than it would have been otherwise. So review the 4 steps, set aside some time, and get out there and start carving.

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