Where are you on the ‘Path To Purpose’?

What does the journey to finding your calling and a more meaningful life look like? Where are you on the journey?  Read on to learn about the steps on the path, and get a sense of what your next steps should be.

So you want to avoid drifting through life and make a difference on the things that are truly important? To make any kind of major transition we need some kind of map, some set of guide posts for the journey.  In this post I want to set out six stages that I have seen people move through as they learn to refocus on what matters.  Indeed, I have been on the journey myself.

Read them and spot where you are, and where the next step lies.

1. Becoming aware.  We start with an itch, with a growing awareness that something has changed, that our life is no longer quite in alignment with our goals.  Perhaps our external environment has changed (such as a new child or the loss of a job); or perhaps it is something within us that has changed (like a new motivation or a growing maturity).  We start to realise something needs to change.

2. Clarifying convictions.  We realise that we long to make a meaningful difference in our family, community and beyond, but are not sure what, nor how the competing priorities in our lives should be resolved. We start to reflect on our convictions, our values, and what we really hope for and long to see in our lives.

3. Righting the boat.  It becomes obvious that we are in no position for much of a change.  We’re too busy, over-scheduled, over-committed, financially stretched, or whatever.  At this point we need to make some changes to our schedule to free up a little time and rebalance our lives in accordance with our true priorities. We’ve not made radical adjustments here, but have re-calibrated our existing life.

4. Exploring options.  We start to explore a few more significant options, to dream about some bigger adventures. We ‘try on’ a few possible future identities and dip our toe in the water with some small experiments. We start to learn and focus in on the next big adventure we feel called to.

5. Making a transition.  Now we swallow hard and commit to a fresh direction. But radical change won’t happen overnight.  We need a transition plan: a way of getting from A to B.  For some of us, this itself might be a journey of several years.

6. Doubling down.  We are now in the place we feel called to be… and the questions before us revolve around how to measure and maximise our impact, stay motivated during the tough times, and leave a true legacy.

Of course, real life and real people aren’t so linear, so the reality will involve jumping around these steps somewhat, iterating, learning and gaining clarity.  This is the grey wibbly-wobbly life bit of the diagram! But the six steps above still represent a helpful way to understand the journey we are on.

Question: Which phase of the journey are you in right now? Let me know in the comments, below.

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  • Jonathan

    Good read! You’ve got me thinking about some things.

  • Marco Nicosia

    Agree with the steps, agree with the fact that “real life, and real people aren’t so linear”. As for me I would position myself point 3 and point 4.

  • Emma L

    Like the points for .me i’m between 3 and 4. I’m looking for somthing extra but not sure quite what!

  • victoria wadsworth-hansen

    I think it´s difficult to assess when one looks at ones life in general. I think my life tends to be the sum of a lot of moving parts and where I am in 4 in terms of work and ministry, in other areas, like health and recreation, I think I am more of in phase 1. I guess that´s the rich pattern of life, in the sense that when one area is functioning well, it gives one an opportunity and probably even more capacity to take a look at other areas. I find Advent is a significant time for me, as a reflection of endings and beginnings. I also thought a stage was missing here before stage one or at least as an extra consideration in phase 1 and that is the knowing that something is wrong but actively choosing not to or resisting change. This is a particularly painful conflicting stage and worthy of some extra comment – That stage is probably for a lot of people both the most pivotal and the most challenging as it´s seductive to stay in a situation, even though we know in out heart of hearts that we should make some changes. Anyone else have any thoughts about this?

    • Richard Medcalf

      Thanks Victoria. You are right that life is way more complex than the six boxes can suggest (hence the wibbly-wobbly bit!). I see Stage 1 as being about exactly the process you mention – of knowing something is off-base and deciding whether or not to face the issue. Either the sense of urgency increases, leading to stage 2 – or it is suppressed and the person stays where they are. It’s a great point for further discussion as you say.

  • Jimmy Sartain

    I fear that I have regressed from where i once was and need to clarify convictions once again.

    • Richard Medcalf

      Hi Jimmy. Appreciate the honesty. Yes, I think we find ourselves moving back and forth along the path as we enter new seasons, or find ourselves flattening out on a certain trajectory. More on that in a future blog post I think 😉

  • Grace

    Definitely stage 3. All three stages happened in about one year, and began when I started reading the purpose-driven life. My purpose positively hunted me down!
    I have also been through depression which knocked my identity and got me right back to my God-given identity…I haven’t really made any adjustments yet, but decided to started an appeal for a refugee-linked cause which has really taken Off!! So i guess this could be somewhere between 3 and 4:-)

    • Richard Medcalf

      Thanks Grace. Really helpful insights. I agree that change often starts with reassessing our identity and I plan to speak about that very thing soon! Well done on taking action as you have.

  • Sonia Kumar

    Very well captured Richard. I am definitely between 3 and 4.Actually 4 involves a lot of thinking and evaluation!! Hope I am out of this thinking soon and start to make a change 🙂

  • Jacqueline Wales

    Richard, you describe a very clear path of change that affects everyone at some time or another. Personally, I’m between a 5 and a 6 having having just gone through a couple of years of recalibrating my skills and talents and forging a new path. Thankfully, I’ve reached clarity and now it’s about implementation. I appreciate your wisdom and insights and enjoy your post very much.All the best for 2017.