Every time a coach or author or entrepreneur talks about “finding your soul purpose,” I want to shoot myself through the head.
Really? Do I have to hear about this again?
The whole “find your life purpose” conversation turns me off. Because, try as I might, I haven’t been able to find mine.
I’ve read the books. I took the Passion Test. I signed up for coaching sessions designed to reveal my true soul’s purpose. But none of these things have helped me. They’ve only frustrated me. And made me feel like a loser.
As the years have gone by, I’ve grown weary of the subject yet haunted by it at the same time. Weary, because I feel people like me are made to feel “less than” if they don’t know they’re soul purpose. Haunted, because maybe I really am missing some essential piece to the puzzle of my life.
Then, I had a conversation with my friend Brigitte van Tuijl. Brigitte is an author and business coach who helps women grow their businesses, transform their lives and change the world by putting themselves first. She’s currently working on a series of four books titled, “The Art of Divine Selfishness.”
As we were chatting, she started talking about what she calls “soul purpose,” and how everyone goes on and on about finding or identifying it when really, it’s more about simply doing what turns you. I perked up, leaned in, and said, “I want to interview you about what you just said.”
And so, I did. And in the process of doing so, I came to see this whole soul or life purpose thing differently, and in a way that, for me, was truly helpful.
If you’ve been confused or let down by this whole “life purpose” conversation, listen here to my interview with Brigitte. Or you can read the edited interview below:
Nancy: Okay, let’s jump right in… as solo entrepreneurs, we hear so much about life purpose or soul purpose, our mission in life, what we’re meant to do, etc. So, let me ask you… what is your definition of soul purpose? What does that mean to you?
Brigitte: So, you’re starting with the most difficult question?
Nancy: Yes, I guess so.
Brigitte: Okay, I’ll try to keep it simple. It’s the thing you’re born to do. And it’s how you’re wired. It’s who you are. Your original self from birth. Before your mother and the rest of the world told you who you are or what to do or what to think.
So, to find your soul purpose, you have to do a lot of unlearning and letting go of what you are not.
Nancy: Are we aware of our purpose when we’re young?
Brigitte: No, I don’t think so. Because when you’re young, you don’t think about it.
Until the age of 3 or 4, you’re just being who you are and no one expects anything from you. Except for you to eat your vegetables and get potty trained or whatever. But that’s it.
Then, at some point, that turns around. You go to school. You have to fit in a certain mold. You have to sit still. You have to learn the same things as everyone else. You get the same tests. You have to know the same things. And there are all these expectations about who you should be and who you shouldn’t be and what you should do and what you shouldn’t do.
And this totally f**ks you up! You lose touch with the you you simply are. And you start adapting and adjusting and changing and internalizing all kinds of messages you get about yourself.
Nancy: So, we get disconnected from our purpose by all we’re taught and the messages we get about how we should be.
Nancy: So, how can we start reconnecting with our soul purpose?
Brigitte: What you can do … and this is so interesting that we’re talking about this, because there’s another aspect to this as well. Which is living your soul purpose. It’s not enough to just find it. You need to live it!
In the first 12 years or so of my business I was mainly focused on teaching people how to find their soul purpose so they could monetize it. But the monetization part, that was something they did on their own. My focus was on, what is your soul purpose? What is your mission? What’s your message?
But then I noticed… knowing your soul purpose isn’t enough. Because you still have to live it. You have to implement it. You have to act upon it. And that’s a totally different ballgame.
I also noticed how much people got hung up on the words. My clients wanted beautiful words to describe their soul purpose so it sounded special and magical and like nothing else in the history of mankind. And this would trip them up!
Forget about all of that. It’s not about the words.
Instead, start following your heart. Stop doing all the bullshit things you don’t want to do. Focus on what lights you up from the inside out and let go of everything you’re not. All of your beliefs about yourself. All of your stories about yourself. About how you think you should act. About what other people think about you. Stop worrying about disappointing other people. Live your life.
Nancy: Yes! This is what I remember you saying to me when we spoke the other day. This is what made me sit up, pay attention and think, “Oh, there’s something here I need to capture.” Finding your soul purpose requires a divine selfishness, yes?
Brigitte: Yes, and that’s why I call it, “The Art of Divine Selfishness,” because that’s another thing that happens when people, especially women, start looking for their soul purpose and their mission. They think it has to be around the contribution they’re making and how they can be of service to others.
So many women are expected to serve and care and be there for others at their own expense. They sell themselves short at home with their family and with their friends. They do it in their business with their clients. And they do it in the name of their soul purpose.
This is why so many coaches and healers are burned out. And they don’t make enough money. They’re not happy about their situation but they feel this is what they have to do. They have to serve, serve, serve. They have to give, give, give.
Nancy: That’s beautiful. Serve, but never at your own expense.
Let me ask you this. Can our soul purpose have nothing to do with our work?
Brigitte: Yeah, I think that’s possible. But at the same time, I do believe there is always some way you can make money with it.
Brigitte: Yeah. I totally believe that. If you let go of all the limitations you’ve put upon yourself and what you think is possible from the start.
Because here’s the thing… your soul purpose, usually, is going to be pretty general. Like contributing to world peace. Or bringing more love into the world. Or more beauty. Your soul purpose is something like that. And you can do that in all kinds of ways.
If you light up by creating things of beauty or watching beautiful things? You can become a painter. Or a website designer. You can … I don’t know … work in a beauty parlor! Become a furniture designer, whatever. There are so many things you can do from that one soul purpose. And there’s always something you can do with it to make money.
What can you do to find your soul purpose? Answer these 3 questions:
- If there’s one thing, only one thing (seriously, no cheating here. Not ten things … one) you could change in this world, what would it be?
- If there’s one thing you wish everybody would tattoo on their forehead so they never, ever forget it, what is that one thing?
- If there’s one thing you would like to change on this planet while you are still here, what would it be?
If you answer these 3 questions, with just one thing per question, you’re done. That’s it. You have it. There is your mission, your soul purpose, your message. That’s it.
When you combine that with the things you love to do, with how your personality is naturally wired, and you honor all of that? And you let go of everything you’re not? And you simply focus on who you are and how you want to live and what you want to contribute to, and who you choose to be? And you act from that, day after day? You’re done. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
Nancy: Wow. That’s brilliant. I love those three questions. And what strikes me about them is they are focused on one’s contribution or what we want to change and what we would tattoo on people’s foreheads, what we stand for and want to contribute to. And then, we pair that with what turns us on. What lights us up. And pow! There we are. It’s a lovely formula for letting your soul purpose come to life.
It’s interesting … I just flashed on, of all things, American Idol. I remember this young guy who was one of the top 10 finalists. And he was good. He just wasn’t good enough. I mean, he was probably 15 years old. And a sweet, sweet guy. At one point, one of the judges asked him, “Why do you sing and play music? and he immediately answered, “To make people happy.”
In the moment when he said it, I knew that that was his life purpose. To make people happy. And one of the ways he chose to do that was through music.
Brigitte: Yes, and that’s another thing to start noticing. If you think, “I don’t really have a clue what my soul purpose is, or what my message is,” start noticing where are you’re repeating yourself over and over. What makes you break out into a rant? What makes you all preachy like I am now? What are you drawn to… again and again? Chances are that thing is closely related to your soul purpose. Pay attention.
People often say to me, “You know, Brigitte, I don’t really have a message.” Sure you do. You have opinions. You have viewpoints. You may be scared to share them. Or afraid other people will criticize you for them. You may think it’s a shitty message, that it should be better. But if you put all of that aside, there you have it. Your message.
What’s that thing you would say if you didn’t care about what others thought about it? If you didn’t care about it being perfect or not? If you didn’t care about whether you can statistically prove that what you’re saying is true? What would you say then? That’s your message. Simple, right?
Nancy: I think that’s a really important point… you have to not give a crap about what anyone thinks. Because, again, as you were saying at the start of our conversation, we’ve learned to please others. We’ve internalized so many messages. And this has warped what we’ve allowed ourselves to think and what we think is possible about ourselves. It’s disconnected us from our inner truth.
As someone who helps people with their messaging, I can see how, in an effort to create a message that will attract others, that will make people like and trust us, we may actually distort or even completely bury our true message. In an effort to sound brilliant or, at least pleasing to others.
Brigitte: You can find beautiful, perfect words to describe what you do, but no matter what you do or how you frame it or phrase it, there will always be people who love it. There will always be people who hate it. And most people won’t care one bit about you or your message. At all.
Nancy: Absolutely. Well, Brigitte, I’ve so have loved this conversation because I feel you’ve given us a way to get clear on what our soul purpose is, and what to do with it. It feels to me that it’s an always-evolving journey.
And I only have one final question. Is there anything else you’d want to say to someone who really is struggling and doesn’t know or doesn’t feel clear on what their soul purpose is?
Brigitte: Stop looking. That may sound weird, but, I know that when people are really struggling to find their soul purpose, usually, what that means is that they’re looking outside for answers and information when they need to look inside.
Forget about soul purpose. Forget about finding the words to describe it and instead… start feeling it. Connect with what’s going on with you. In every moment. In every day, ask yourself, “What was it that really pissed me off today? Why? What does that tell me about what I do want to see in the world or in my business?”
In what moments were you completely in flow? Where you felt so good and so natural? Where it was so easy for you and you were so happy?
Start paying attention to that and forget about the words. Forget about, “Ooh, but is that my soul purpose? Or is that my mission? What’s the difference, even?” It doesn’t matter.
Start connecting with yourself. Act the way you want to act and start noticing the moments where you hold back, or shrink. Because that’s where you are not true to yourself.
When you start noticing this, you can bring more of the things that light you up into your life and into your business and let go of the things that don’t.
If you can do that? That’s major. That’s huge.
Because what you’ll notice also are all those moments where you’re hiding. Where you’re shrinking as you’re saying yes because you actually want to say no. Where you say no when you actually want to say yes. This can be a painful process. Let it be painful. It’s okay … it’s information. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re not failing at life for being you. No, you’re noticing. You’re exploring. You’re feeling. Do that.
Nancy: That’s just totally brilliant Brigitte. Thank you so much for this time. What you’ve shared here today has been extraordinarily helpful. How can people get more of you or learn more about what you do?
Brigitte: They can go thehappyhermit.com. You can sign up for a free eBook or find out how to get in touch with me, if that’s something you would like to do.
Nancy: Fantastic. Thanks again.