Pathfinding: How to find your life path & purpose

Pathfinding: How to find your life path & purpose

Times are changing. There’s so much conflict and suffering in the world. Big changes are happening on a global scale that are causing many to feel unsafe and threatened. And yet as a result of all the turmoil, it seems more and more people are feeling a call to action; an intense desire to somehow contribute to making the world a better place. Many people are connecting to the causes they’re passionate about and finding ways to create positive change while building thriving enterprises that are highly profitable. In the old paradigm, dedicated altruists struggled to find ways to make a decent living. Nowadays, you can dedicate yourself to a positive cause and thrive financially while doing it. Many others are simply feeling a sense of restlessness in their career and find themselves constantly wondering if perhaps there’s something else they could be doing. It’s no longer considered reckless to make a complete career switch mid-life and it’s becoming more widely accepted that we may have a couple, if not many, different career paths during our working lives.

In addition to these changes, the internet is making it possible for everyone, everywhere, to be connected. ‘Virtual classrooms’ are connecting teachers to students all across the world. People are doing business deals while lounging by swimming pools at holiday destinations. Social media is enabling anyone with similar interests, anywhere in the world, to connect and develop friendships. Stay-at-home mums are running businesses from home while raising their children. The term ‘Mumpreneur’ has already made its way into the Urban Dictionary to describe entrepreneurial mums who combine business with motherhood. This global interconnectivity means it’s no longer necessary to be bound to a desk or an office to do your work and more and more people are embracing the freedom and flexibility that the internet is offering us. Small start-ups and entrepreneurships are flourishing more than ever before. As this sea of possibility and opportunity is opening up, we’re feeling a call to self-actualise and do something deeply meaningful with our lives. More and more people are asking the question – well, if I can do anything, what on earth will I do?

The wonderful thing about living in these exciting times is that the concept of following your heart is no longer an impossible fantasy. BUT – it’s not an easy decision to leave the comforts and security of a stable career. We all have financial obligations and commitments and it’s simply not always possible to throw caution to the wind and make a big career change, without the assurance that we’re going to make good money while doing it and it’s actually going to give us the fulfilment and meaning we’re chasing. Otherwise we’ll end up back where we were. So before making a big change, we want to be sure we’re making the right decision.

And this is why I believe it’s so important to find and live your ‘true path’. What do I mean by your ‘true path’? This is how I define it:

Your ‘true path’ is the path or vocation that allows you to express yourself fully and to contribute your unique gifts in service to something you care about, while making a positive difference and earning you an abundant, reliable income.

Your true path feels like coming home. All niggling feelings of doubt and frustration are replaced by a deep and lasting sense of fulfilment. You know deep inside that you’re finally doing exactly what you’re ‘meant’ to be doing. It comes with a feeling of sudden clarity, optimism and energy.

Tim Kelley at the True Purpose Institute calls your unique calling your ‘true purpose’. In his book True Purpose: 12 strategies for discovering the difference you are meant to make, he suggests that we each have a purpose that we’re uniquely designed for. He proposes three things: 1) That your purpose has always been within you and has already been influencing the course of your life, 2) That some part of you already knows your purpose, and 3) That it’s possible to communicate with the part of you that knows your purpose. You can refer to that part of you as your ‘heart’ or your ‘soul’. Tim claims that our soul knows our purpose, and is always gently trying to guide us in the right direction. We get into trouble when our ego – the part of us that is concerned with our sense of identity and success – tries to over-ride the guidance from our soul; and this is when we feel out of alignment, lost or off-track. So if you can make the time and space in your life to get quiet, often, you’ll have a better chance of hearing that inner guidance and wisdom that’s always trying to communicate with you (Tim teaches wonderful techniques for connecting with your inner wisdom and Divine guidance that really work.)

I believe we come into this world already knowing what our unique calling is, but most of us go through a process of disconnecting from our hearts at a young age, while trying to become acceptable citizens and to fit into the mould that our society or family imposes on us. For most of us, learning how to grow up in this world meant learning how to conform. If you’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in an environment that encouraged you to nurture and embrace your unique self, it’s likely that you’ve been able to live a life true to your heart and you have a good sense of your true life calling. However, if like most of us, you grew up trying to be a ‘good kid’ or to fit the image of success that your environment demanded, you may need some more time to excavate the nature of the specific calling that lights you up and makes you want to jump out of bed each morning, and allows you to be fully you. After years of reflection on this topic and coaching others to find their purpose, I’ve come to believe that the ‘secret’ to finding your calling is to look for the special zone where the following three things overlap:

Figure 1: Your zone of magic – where your natural ability meets your passion and your true nature.

Let me define what I mean by these terms.

Everyone has many different abilities and skills. But when you’re trying to find your joyful and authentic career path, you need to connect with what I call your natural genius. Everyone – yes, EVERYONE! – has a zone of natural genius. These are the things you’re naturally good at without even trying. The problem is, we’re often blind to the things we’re really good at, because we assume that everyone else finds these things easy too. You might be an excellent organiser, or be able to connect intuitively with animals, or make delicious meals without recipes, or take amazing photos without much effort. There will be something that you’re extremely good at. Perhaps you discounted it as a child because it wasn’t valued or rewarded in your environment. Perhaps it’s so obvious that you can’t even see it. Or perhaps you haven’t discovered it because you haven’t yet had the opportunity to express it or develop it.

Strengths tests such as the Gallup Strengthsfinder 2.0 can be very helpful in helping you narrow down the areas of your natural genius. But take heart – you absolutely have your own specific zone of natural genius and with a little exploring, you can find it. A good way to start finding your natural genius is to think back to the things that came easily to you as a child. What would your friends ask for help with? What came naturally to you? What would the people in your environment compliment you about? Ask your friends, family and work colleagues what they think you’re good at. Often they can see these things more clearly than we can.

Your true nature is who you are when you’re being yourself fully. It’s the type of person you are when you’re not worried about what others think of you, or when you’re in an environment that makes you feel at home and connected to yourself. There are certain environments that bring out your true nature more than others. Do you know what those environments are for you? Perhaps you love being with animals, or working with antique furniture, or being out on the water, or solving complex technical problems. Perhaps you love being in large groups, or working alone. Perhaps you love drawing, or orienteering, or leading, or coming up with new ideas. It’s important to think here about the things you love doing. When you’re being true to yourself and you’re engaged in activities you love, feelings of joy, happiness and fulfilment emerge as a natural consequence.

Write down all the things you love doing. If you had an abundance of free time, how would you spend it? What are the things you get so completely immersed in that you lose track of time? What are the things in life that bring you joy and satisfaction? Another good exercise is to write down all the ‘high points’ of your life; times when you felt blissful and carefree. What were you doing and where were you? Often those high points contain important clues about your true nature and where your joy lies.

When you’re passionate about something, it means you care very deeply about it. But being passionate about something doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always feels upbeat and joyful. In fact, in Joseph Campbell’s famous book The Power of Myth he explains that the Greek root of the word passion translates to suffering. Annabelle Parr describes beautifully that “Following your passion means choosing a vocation that is so important to you, so vital to your being that you’re willing to suffer for it.” She goes on to define passion as being “where fulfilment, growth, joy and change exist”. Your passion will push you to your growth edge and force you to fully develop and express your gifts which can feel scary, challenging and very difficult at times. But through this unfolding of your full potential, while being in service to something you care about, you’ll naturally feel deeply fulfilled and satisfied throughout this process of growth and change.

A good place to start looking for things you’re passionate about is to find those things that evoke an emotional response in you when you’re watching TV, listening to the radio, or hearing others talk. What breaks your heart the most in the world? What would you most love to dedicate your precious time and resources to? Studies have shown that people who feel most fulfilled are those who are giving their gifts in service to something larger than themselves, to something they care about. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can about things that you’re passionate about. Write them down.

The key now is to reflect on your answers and to see where and how these different parts of you might overlap. Brainstorm different ideas or vocations that would incorporate the three different areas. At this stage it’s important that you don’t limit yourself – wild and crazy ideas are very welcome at this point! You have to think wild and crazy before you can locate what feels ‘right’. Make a list of all the ideas you can think of. I highly recommend LiteMind’s technique of writing a ‘list of 100’ to do this properly. Also, think of your role models and people you admire and use what they do to inspire your ideas. A good litmus test for any idea you come up with is to ask yourself if it would bring you great joy, if it’s aligned with one of your deepest passions, and if it would allow you to fully express and develop your natural genius.

When you finally tap into your ‘zone of magic’, you’ll find unlimited creative energy, motivation, inspiration, dedication, devotion and a deep and lasting sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. It feels like coming home. Finding your true path connects you to something fundamental to your sense of identity, purpose and well-being. Living in this zone provides a sense of self-revelation, of defining and expressing who you really are and you finally know – without a shadow of a doubt – that this is what you’re ‘meant’ to be doing with your life. There’s a feeling of devotion and obsession, almost. Many people who finally find their unique calling describe it as an ‘epiphany’. You might start to feel unfulfilled, empty, burned out or lost when you find yourself in one of the following three situations:

1. You have passion and ability, but no joy: You might feel deeply passionate about your work and dedicated to making a positive difference in your chosen field. And you might also be naturally very good at the work you do (you’re in your zone of genius). But if it doesn’t feel light and joyful, you’re not in your sweet spot of life and things may often feel like a struggle. When you’ve found your unique calling, you’ll love what you do and the sense of lightheartedness and joy will light you up and fill you with positive energy.

2. You have ability and joy in your work, but no passion: You might be really good at what you do, and love doing it. For some people this is absolutely enough and they lead a happy and content life in this zone. But if you don’t feel completely fulfilled and satisfied, it’s probably because you have a niggling feeling that there’s something more you should be doing with your life; you want to feel truly passionate about the field you’re working in or the cause you’re contributing to. Many studies have shown that people who feel most fulfilled are those who are giving their gifts in service to something larger than themselves. This is the key to feeling deep and lasting fulfilment. Perhaps you feel like there’s a positive legacy you’re meant to leave, but you don’t know what it is. And you won’t feel truly content until you find it.

3. You feel joy and passion in your work, but you aren’t so good at it: It’s almost impossible to feel fulfilled and deeply satisfied in your work if you have to struggle or work really hard to produce great results. You’ll tend to feel frustrated and demotivated because you’re not operating within your own specific zone of natural genius where things flow easily and effortlessly. In your zone of genius you don’t have to try to be good at your work; it’s what you’re naturally brilliant at anyway.

The problem I had in my professional career of almost 15 years was that I wasn’t operating in my zone of natural genius and my work didn’t feel joyful. I only had one of the circles covered in the diagram above – passion; I was passionate about my field of environmental protection. But despite my passion, the work always felt hard and a struggle and it drained me of energy. As a result, overwhelm eventually turned into chronic fatigue and a perpetual feeling of being on the edge of burnout. I don’t recommend living like this! You’ll want to have at least two of the circles covered in your life work (natural genius, passion or joy). But the intersection where all three overlap is where the real magic happens. This is where you’ll find your calling.

The search for your unique calling can require a little excavating and digging. The fastest way to uncover your calling is to make space and time in your life right now, to not only get very quiet on a regular basis and connect with your heart, but to also start doing things that come easily to you, that feel joyful or that ignite your passion. Start by doing anything that fits into one of these categories, even if it’s just for ten minutes a day initially. You purpose will start to reveal itself to you as soon as you set the intention and make the commitment to find it, and then start taking actions in the direction of something that feels joyful. If you’re feeling the call to action, go ahead and get started my friend. The rewards and treasures are awaiting you. You won’t be disappointed. And the world needs your precious gifts more than ever right now. You have something incredibly special and valuable to contribute. As Dr Wayne Dyer always used to say “Don’t die with your music still inside of you”. Try not to be one of those people who wishes they had taken their dreams seriously when they had the chance! Studies show that the number one regret people have when they’re dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” [2].

If you’d like more help in identifying that unique calling that’s yours to live, please download my free eBook PATHFINDING: HOW TO FIND AND START LIVING YOUR UNIQUE CALLING and learn all the tips and strategies you need to build a life you truly love.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,


Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Career, Life & Business Coach
Helping you find your path & purpose so you can shine and make a difference, doing what you love.
Whispering Heart Coaching

Blessings in the pain: How to find your ‘calling’ in the threads of your life struggles

Blessings in the pain: How to find your ‘calling’ in the threads of your life struggles

Do you often wonder if you’ve found your true calling for this lifetime? Do you wonder if you’re using your unique gifts and talents to making the biggest possible impact? Do you feel that your career and professional life is a full expression of your authentic self that leaves you feeling inspired and joyful? Or are you still searching for that special calling? Maybe your life’s emotional wounds hold the answer…

Recently I learned a beautiful technique from visionary thought leader Jeffrey van Dyk, called Finding the gifts in your sacred wounds, which is a powerful way to either confirm you’re on the right path, or to help you get closer to uncovering that special mission you’re called to fulfill in this lifetime.

Firstly, what is a ‘sacred wound’?

We were all wounded in some way when we were younger, despite the good intentions of our parents or caregivers to protect and nurture us. This may have been an acute wound (in the form of the death of a sibling or loved one for example, or physical or emotional abuse) or an experiential wound that was not intended by anyone to cause pain, but nevertheless caused us emotional pain and caused us to take on certain behaviours to protect ourselves into the future. As painful as these wounds were (and still are for many of us), you can choose to view these wounds as sacred because in some way they changed who you were at a core level. The new way you came to view the world, or the new behaviours you adapted to survive, led you down a certain path that was designed to bring you back to your core and your true essence. And reflecting back on this can lead you towards your life’s purposeful work.

Jeffrey van Dyk is a wonderful, visionary leader with a mission to help you transform the world through your business. He’s developed some simple yet powerful questions that can help you get to the core of your purpose, by reflecting on your life’s sacred wounds. He suggests you should write down the top 6-8 emotional ‘wounds’ you experienced as a child. This could be anything from ‘My best friend moved to another town’ or ‘My Dad never wanted to see me’ or ‘A mean boy at school called me fat’ – or anything at all that stands out in your memory as causing some kind of pain to you as a child. Then write down the top 6-8 wounds that come to mind as an adult. When doing this exercise myself I initially thought 6-8 wounds was a lot, but once I started writing, all the wounds started flowing! Again, these could be acute experiences or long-standing patterns (e.g. no one heard me). When you’ve finished, with some reflection you’ll begin to notice that there’s a predominant theme running through them. Not all wounds will fall under this predominant theme, but many will. There’ll be a consistent thread that runs through your emotional scarring and pain, and interestingly, this pattern forms the basis of your unique calling. Usually what we’ve suffered most deeply in life is the one thing we’re qualified to help other people with. We tend to feel passionate about helping people in this area because we’ve been there ourselves and know how painful it is. Plus, we’ve developed the insight, experience, knowledge and resources to navigate the problem and are perfectly equipped to guide others through the process. Once you’ve identified your core theme, go ahead and answer the following questions.

The five question to uncover the gifts in your sacred wounds:
1.       What happened?
2.       How did you feel?
3.       What did you crave?
4.       What did you do?
5.       How did you develop?

To help you along, here are the answers to my questions that helped me get closer to understanding my purposeful path.

What happened?
I felt pressured to walk a path that didn’t feel authentic for me – science and engineering. I loved writing, languages and theatre but felt very pressured to excel in technical subjects because the people in my environment advised me there would be no secure future in the Arts. I felt I had to follow the technical/academic path to be loved, valued and approved of as a person. I ended up spending almost 15 years in a career that was not aligned with my authentic desires, skills or my true nature. As a result, I ended up feeling empty, unfulfilled and spent many years feeling lost and off-track. My health and relationships suffered severely as a result. Finally, a life crisis forced me to wake up to the fact that I needed to give up the struggle to be something I’m not, and to instead embrace everything I am. That’s when everything changed for the better.

How did I feel?
I felt pressured, trapped, stressed and anxious when I was younger. I didn’t enjoy learning all the difficult technical subjects at school and University, they were a struggle for me and were not aligned with my natural strengths. Success in these areas required hard work and sacrifice. I had to ignore my heart, that wanted to be immersed in languages, arts and creative pursuits, to follow the expectations I felt. During my professional years as a corporate consulting engineer, I felt inauthentic, misaligned and as though my true nature and natural genius were suppressed. I felt unseen for who I was and unheard for what I wanted. I did not feel loved for who I am – my authentic self – at my core. I felt disconnected from my truth and my essence.

What did you crave?
I craved approval and permission to be who I am. I craved to be loved, seen and heard as my true, authentic self. I yearned to follow my heart and pursue things that bring me alive and allow me to unleash my natural gifts in service to others. I craved joy, freedom, abundance and full creative expression.

How did you develop?
I embarked on a lifetime of over-achieving to gain the approval I desperately wanted. I became something that in my heart I knew was not me. I became a wonderful actor, pretending to have it all together and to be living a successful life. Sometimes I even fooled myself. I over-achieved at the expense of my health and relationships. I believed life was a struggle and meant to be difficult. I neglected myself and my needs, I self-abandoned, all to try to be something I am not. This had disastrous effects on my emotional and physical well-being and my relationships suffered terribly too. Eventually I was brought to my knees and forced to realise that no-one was benefiting from me living an inauthentic life. I needed to give up the false pretenses, let go of everything that felt misaligned and instead tune into my heart to follow my authentic desires. When I gave myself permission to do this, everything changed.

So…. how does this relate to my calling for this lifetime?

Well, in my heart I feel called to help people let go of everything they’re not and find a way to embrace everything that they are. I feel called to help people find their own authentic voice and to find a way to bring their unique gifts and talents into the world in a way that has a positive impact and feels deeply fulfilling. I help them find work that allows them to express themselves fully. I long for everyone to feel seen, heard and appreciated for the beautiful being they are, and to help them bring their whole self into the career and into the workplace.

Do you get the idea? I hope so. If you have half an hour to invest in trying out this beautiful technique, have a go and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear whether you found this useful for you.

If you’d like help in identifying your unique calling, please be sure to download my free E-Book PATHFINDING: How to find and start living your unique calling and learn all the tips and strategies you need to build a life you truly love.

In service to helping you find your authentic calling to live your fullest and brightest life,


Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
Whispering Heart Coaching


The gift of writing: How to find meaning & purpose in the story of your life

The gift of writing: How to find meaning & purpose in the story of your life

“Story is a vehicle for us to create meaning in our lives. We need story like we need our bodies. It creates our meaning”
– Mark Matousek, author of Sex, Death, Enlightenment

A few years ago I was in a very dark place. Life felt heavy, overwhelming and horrible. My heart ached constantly and every morning I struggled to get out of bed, tired of the continuous sadness, depletion and exhaustion that plagued my life. Nothing made sense and life seemed cruel and meaningless. As I forced myself to put on a brave, smiling face every day to go to work and face the never-ending deadlines and meetings, inside I felt like I was dying. It was exhausting to put on this facade day in, day out, to pretend that I was happy, coping and succeeding. While inside I was desperately sad and exhausted – emotionally, physically and spiritually.

As often happens when we’re in these dark places, I prayed for help, for some small sign that there was meaning to all of this, and some glimmer of hope that things would get better. Shortly after, an email landed in my inbox from the famous visionary thought leader Dr Jean Houston, about her upcoming course Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. To this day I still don’t know how I got onto her e-mail list. I didn’t know much about her work at the time or the courses she offers. But her email caught my attention and after years of feeling like I was on the wrong path and that my life was not going where I wanted it to be going, Jean’s call to finally uncover my true calling felt like an absolutely essential and urgent thing for me to do. So in spite of my head telling me I didn’t have the time or money to do this course, out of desperation I enrolled myself because my heart was begging me to.

Jean Houston’s course – among other serendipitous things that happened soon after I sent out my S.O.S call to the universe – was the start of a slow but massive shift in my life. One of the key elements in her teachings is the power of story and myth to create meaning in our lives. One of the assignments we had to do as homework was to describe the story of our in lives in the context of the ‘Hero’s Journey’. The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of storytelling identified by the famous American scholar, Joseph Campbell, that weaves through many human stories, movies, drama, theatre and myth. It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization. The journey typically includes the following 12 stages.

The Hero’s Journey
1.    The ordinary world
2.    The call to adventure
3.    Refusal of the call
4.    Meeting with the mentor
5.    Crossing the threshold
6.    Tests, allies and enemies
7.    Approaching the cave
8.    The ordeal
9.    The road back
10.  The resurrection
11.  Return with the elixir (Read more details about the Hero’s Journey click here)

Since becoming aware of this pattern of narrative in our storytelling, I’ve seen it appear as the underlying theme in many films and stories in our entertainment world, the most famous and obvious ones being Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I recognise it woven into children’s movies when watching them with my young boys.

At first I was a bit skeptical about the significance this could have as a homework task, but I dutifully sat down and started to write out my life within the template of the Hero’s Journey. I made up a fictional name for myself and started writing about my life in third person, describing the key events and relationships I had been through. As I wrote about the different phases of my life, amazingly I began to see how my life has roughly followed this basic theme, and that during the time that I was working on this assignment, I was stuck in the phase of ‘refusing the call’. I had spent my life living in the ‘ordinary world’, and had heard the ‘call to adventure’ several times deep within my heart. Except that I had been busily refusing the call, blocking it out, determined to make my life follow what my head insisted was the right path, rather than surrendering to the impulses of my heart – ‘the call’ – that wanted to pursue a different kind of life. The more I resisted this call, the more I suffered and the deeper I sunk into the abyss. It had taken deep and prolonged suffering and finally a ‘meeting with the mentor’ – my wonderful healer who held my hand and helped me surrender to my own inner truth, courage and wisdom – that finally allowed me to ‘cross the threshold’.

After spending many years committed to overcoming my fears, doubts and insecurities and preparing myself for my new career path, it currently feels as though I’m immersed in the ‘tests, allies and enemies’ phase in which I’ve surrendered to the call, while continuing to be tested in many ways to strengthen my resilience and resolve. I’m learning who my allies and enemies are and learning to surround myself with loyal and supportive comrades who support my journey in this ‘new world’, as I strive to live my brightest life and make a positive contribution through my work and presence.

I can’t explain the uplift and joy I felt after recognising my life story within the archetypal pattern of the Hero’s Journey. Suddenly my pain and suffering felt worthwhile and a necessary part of my life’s journey. It gave my life meaning just as Mark Matousek suggested happens when we harness the power of story. By choosing to follow my heart I feel I am now on my way to ‘return with the elixir’, tapping into the joy, flow and abundance that comes to us naturally when we align with our heart and soul. This road will not be easy, but it’s the only road that makes sense to me now. Sometimes my inner skeptic comes in and tells me this is just something we tell ourselves to help ourselves feel better. And then I think – so what? If we find meaning, comfort, strength and motivation by seeing ourselves within this context, as the Hero within our own lives, surviving trials and tribulations on our path to finding the treasure, then isn’t that great? And isn’t that all that really matters?

And yet another interesting thing happened as I found the courage to share my story with others in my course group. As I dared to put myself out there and share my story, suddenly I was being approached by several class mates who were telling me that they related to so much of my story and that they too had been through similar things. And as I read through the stories of everyone else, it occurred to me how much I also related to their stories, and how much of our collective human suffering follows common themes and patterns. And this, says Jean Houston, is why myth and campfire stories are so important to us, because they connect us to each other through the sharing of common human experiences and emotions. They connect us to each other and they give our lives meaning. And this sense of meaning and connection is what can be so healing when we surrender to the power of our story.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional coach & founder
Whispering Heart Coaching