5 Signs You Are Living Your True Purpose
"There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It's why you were born. And how you become most truly alive."—Oprah Winfrey
OK, I'm just speaking for myself when I say this, but when I reflect back on my own college experience, I think the worse thing a parent can do is make—and by that, I mean basically force—their child to enroll into a college/university when they are only 17 or 18 years of age. The reason why I say that is because when I graduated from high school at the age of 17, I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. And college? A big part of what it helps you to do is prepare for your career, which hopefully ties in very well to your life's purpose.
For a lot of young people, it would be better for them to get a full-time job, join AmeriCorps, teach overseas—do something that gives them some time to mature and figure out a few things before thousands of dollars gets shelled out on what ends up being a PhD in life rather than in education.
The chick I am now? I would go to college and get all A's easily. That's because I currently know what my purpose is. And oh, how life is so much more fulfilling, exciting, and even easier when we know what we were sent here to do and we're actually doing it.
Not to say that life doesn't come with its challenges from time to time, but I can confidently say that the most miserable people I know are the ones who either don't know what their purpose is or they put other things before their purpose.
How can you know what category you fall into? If you're living out your purpose, these first five points will fully resonate:
5 Signs You're Living In Your Purpose
1. You Feel a Profound Spiritual Connection to a Higher Power
Growing up, one of my favorite shows was Family Ties (it's still got one of my favorite theme songs of all time—"sha-na-na-nah"). Like a lot of little girls, regardless of ethnicity, Michael J. Fox was a crush of mine. Oh, but it wasn't until he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease that he and his wife (someone who actually played his girlfriend on the show) became heroes of mine. I remember watching him on a 20/20 interview years ago. When the interviewer asked him if he was bitter about having the disease, he casually said, "I'm honored that God would entrust me with it."
Although he made quite a mark as an entertainer, Michael has changed lives and affected legislature since he's had Parkinson's. And there's no way he could be so in tune with himself that he'd be grateful for having such a debilitating disease without having some sort of connection to the Most High. That's why I'm totally with him when he says, "I believe purpose is something for which one is responsible; it's not just divinely assigned."
One way to know that you are living in your purpose is there is a profound sense of spirituality that's attached to it. Not only that but you somehow feel disconnected to that Source when you're not doing what you know you were put on this earth to do.
2. You’re Creating More Than You’re Copying or Duplicating
One of my absolute favorite t-shirts (that you can cop here) simply says, "Created by the Creator to Create." That spiritual connection that I spoke of? One of the things that it does for people who are tapped into their purpose is it shows them how to be truly and authentically creative. Creative people are productive. Creative people are risk-takers. Creative people are originators. Creative people blaze trails more than they follow them. Creative people are the ones who come up with ideas that can't really be compared to anything else. That's because they'd rather create their own blueprint than mimic someone else's.
If you're out here coming up with plans and concepts that folks are calling clever, ingenious, and visionary; if you spend more time praying, meditating, and seeking within than copying or duplicating what folks have already done, this is another pretty telling sign that you're operating within your purpose.
3. Your Natural-Born Gifts Are Being Used
I once heard a pretty good explanation for the difference between our gifts and our talents. Gifts are what come naturally to us; they are the things that we do exceedingly well without a lot of effort on our parts. Talents, on the other hand, are things that we're pretty good at, but we still have to be some extra work in.
My brother? He has a gift for singing. It's like he eats and sleeps it. Me? Folks close to me know that I also can hold a tune, but I consider mine to be a talent. Oh, but put a laptop in front of me and sometimes I'm typing out 8,000-10,000 words a day. It comes very naturally to me to do that. My mother says that when I was a toddler, my favorite thing to do was shake newspaper. For my brother, on the other hand, it was banging on pots and pans. Hmph. Makes sense.
A friend of mine (who is an award-winning producer and a gifted singer in his own right) gives this advice on gifts vs. talents. "If you put all of your effort into doing what you do average, you'll become OK at it. But if you put that into what you are already great at, you become unstoppable. Supernatural, even."
No doubt about it—if you're utilizing your gifts, DAILY, this is another indication that you are working within your purpose.
4. You Are Benefiting Others
This is a good one. A writer and minister by the name of Frederick Buechner once said, "Purpose is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's needs." Purpose, by definition, means the reason why we exist. None of us created ourselves, so it's very selfish to use our gifts and abilities purely for personal gain (I'll get more into that in just a sec).
Just think about it. Some of the most profound figures in our earth's history (Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. immediately come to mind) are individuals who used what they had and who they were to help and benefit others.
If you can immediately list 3-5 ways how what you're doing with your life is making the lives of others better, feel good about yourself. It's one more clue that you are living within your purpose.
5. Your Good Days Far Outweigh the Bad
I am not the richest person on the planet. I have trials and tribulations just like everyone else. But guess what? I love my life. I really do! I can't remember the last time I woke up, thought about what was on my to-do list and wanted to stay in bed rather than tackle those things head on.
A big part of this is because I know—that I know, that I know—that I am doing just what I was created to do. When you have that kind of clarity, confidence, and self-awareness, you can't help but feel good about yourself and what only you can do, in your own special way, while being on this planet.
So, now that we've touched on how to know if you're living out your purpose, what are some red flags that you're not?
3 Signs You're Not Living In Your Purpose
1. Money or Fame Is Your Sole Motivator
There are a lot of people out here—almost to the point of it being an epidemic—where, if you tried to figure out how they got rich (in an honorable way) or what they are famous for (that's worth any merit), you tend to draw a blank. Far too much of society is consumed with being wealthy and having fame. It doesn't really matter how they do it, so long as they do. There's a word for that; it's a mercenary. A mercenary is someone who does something solely for money or some type of reward.
There's nothing wrong with making money. We need it to live. Fame is cool, so long as your fame is influencing people for the better (some of the folks making money off of YouTube alone blow my mind when it comes to what they are doing with their platform…it ain't good).
But individuals who are truly living out their purpose, money, and fame doesn't motivate them. Growth does. Helping others does. Feeling a sense of accomplishment that they can be proud of today and when they take their last breath does.
In the pursuit of purpose, it's always a good idea to do a random gut-check to see what is inspiring you to do the things that you do. It reveals a lot.
2. You Can’t Explain Your Purpose in Three Words/Phrases
Something I'm a firm believer of is you should be able to explain your purpose in three words or three (short) phrases; otherwise, you probably don't know. Me? Sex, marriage and the Sabbath are my lanes. They all tie in together because they are covenant principles (my first name speaks to having a covenant with God in Hebrew too). If there are any things that I can never get enough of when it comes to researching, writing and speaking on, it's these topics.
When you know something down in the deepest depths of your being, you don't need a lot of words to explain it. This is what I believe about purpose. That said, if someone were to walk up to your right now and ask, "What's your life's purpose?" could you break it down in three words or phrases? If not…why not?
3. You Constantly Feel Incomplete
A Canadian writer by the name of Oriah once said, "It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dream of meeting your heart's longing." Amen.
Sometimes I get tired. Sometimes I am irritated. Sometimes, walking in my purpose is literally a faith journey. But when it comes to fulfilling my purpose, if there's one thing that I never feel, it's incomplete.
This is my final "please take note" indicator that you may not be living within your own purpose. When you're doing what you were sent here to do, no matter how hard life gets sometimes, you still feel an unexplainable sense of wholeness and inner peace. How could you not? You're living out the reason for your existence; nothing is more powerful or reassuring than that.
Even if you've got a high-paying job or you're currently doing something that you constantly get praised for, if deep down, you don't feel whole and complete…don't ignore that tug at your spirit. It's a sign that you're either not fully or not at all living out your purpose.
Stop, reflect and find it. As soon as possible. Because the world certainly needs you functioning in your purpose. After all, that's the main reason why you're here.
Featured image by Getty Images.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood. We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
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