It’s a new year and many of us are considering change. You may want to improve your health, fitness, career, finances or relationships. It’s also possible that, in the midst of your desire for something new, you feel a little aimless; you know that you want change, but you have no idea how it should look.
There may be a series of unanswered questions in the back of your mind:
- “Is my life moving in the right direction?”
- “Am I doing the right thing?”
- “Will I be able to look back on my life in 20 years and be satisfied with how it turned out?”
- “Am I stuck or am I actually going somewhere meaningful?”
- “What should I do next?”
No one likes the idea of wasted time or running on a hamster wheel. Nor do we like the feeling of living in a place that doesn’t fit, like a job we hate or a relationship that drains us dry.
If you have a desire for change, and even if you don’t know where to start, I want to offer you a short guide to discovering and living towards your dreams.
Let’s take a look at the first step.
STEP 1: UNCOVER YOUR THEME
In my own experience, finding the life path that really fits begins with uncovering your own personal theme. This exercise will benefit you in a number of ways. Here are just a few:
- You will have more clarity about what’s important & what comes next
A sense of clarity is an amazing gift. You will now have an idea of how a “successful” year should look.
- You will feel more energized by everything in life
When you identify a theme that really matters to you, you’re able to apply it everywhere – in your relationships, career, ministry or other. It makes your whole life feel like it fits your unique makeup, and that everything you’re doing is actually making a difference.
- Decisions will become easier to make
Now that you have a theme, you have a guidepost to make decisions. If an opportunity stands before you that doesn’t work with your theme, then perhaps it’s not right for you.
What’s a theme? I like to think of it in two forms: Life Theme and Year Theme.
Your LIFE Theme
Some call it life purpose or calling. While I have nothing against these terms, I find they often cause us to see ourselves too narrowly. Plus, obsessing over finding the one right thing to devote your life to is enough to drive anyone crazy.
Instead, think of purpose as a thread that weaves all throughout your life. No matter what you do, it has a way of making itself known. That is, if you let it.
Your theme is written in your personality, preferences, desires and natural strengths. It pulls on your abilities and makes you the perfect man or woman for any job or task that fits you.
Here are a few examples:
This person feels most alive when helping someone understand a difficult concept.
- HEALING & RECOVERY
This person may be drawn to medicine, psychiatry or counselling.
- LOVING THE UNLOVED
This person could find joy in becoming a foster parent or volunteer at a homeless shelter.
- EMPOWERING OTHERS
This person is likely to enjoy mentoring, coaching, speaking or writing.
It can seem that in the above examples, or in the lives of those you know who love what they do, that people find their purpose in their jobs. This isn’t necessarily true. Those who understand purpose don’t find it in what they do, they express it through what they do.
For example, a teacher could lose his or her job but then find another one as a product educator and absolutely love it. It’s a different job, but the same theme.
Once you discover your theme, it’s no longer about what you do, but rather why you’re doing it.
Unfortunately, because your theme feels so natural to you, it’s easy to miss.
Here are a few questions to help uncover your theme:
- Consider the primary categories of your life: God/Spirituality, Relationships, Health, Wealth, Career/Work, Social/Community and Recreation. Can you see a common theme, like nurturing, teaching, fighting for justice, cheerleading, etc that runs through them all?
- What are your core values? Examples include freedom, adventure, learning, growth, family, love and contribution. Does a particular value stand above the rest and influence every area of your life?
- What are your skills and natural strengths? For example, influencing others, speaking, athleticism or writing. How do you like to use them?
- What situations are perfect for your personality? When do you feel most at ease, focused and productive?
- Who do you want to serve? What problem(s) do you enjoy solving? A life theme often features your own unique way of contributing to the world around you.
- What are the bright spots in your life? These are the things that, despite everything you don’t like, stand out as the things you really enjoy or appreciate.
- What about your current situation (career, volunteer work, relationship) first drew you in and got you excited?
- What makes you feel most alive? (Note: just because something is a passion, like working out or playing video games, doesn’t mean it’s your life purpose. However, it may point to a theme that you can apply to the rest of your life.)
Does it have to be forever?
You might look back and see different themes throughout the years. Growing older, or even a particular experience, could have caused your feelings to change about what’s important in life.
You don’t need to be looking for what has been and will be true forever. Rather, you’re looking for the right theme to live for now.
Your YEAR Theme
Is there one big thing that’s burning in your heart or mind to do or accomplish?
When you choose a central theme for the year, you can plug the rest of your life into it. All of your ordinary days and tasks will now have the power to contribute to something bigger.
Your year theme is about distilling your mission down to a single big idea. It then becomes the first step to crafting a powerful vision that motivates and pulls you up when the going gets tough.
You don’t need all the answers yet
Rest easy. You don’t have to know the end result yet or how you’re going to get there. You just need to choose the area of your life you want to improve and give it a name that feels right.
Here are some examples:
- Financial Freedom
- New Business
- Finding God
- Loving Deeply
- Uncovering My Life Theme
- Living Fit
- Bold Choices
- Big Steps
- Career Advancement
Are you getting the idea?
It’s your turn
Now that you have a better understanding of uncovering your theme, devote some time over the next week to considering your own. I promise you’ll be glad you did.
Next week is step 2, where you’ll learn how to turn your theme into a crystal-clear vision that draws you in and provides direction and motivation all year long.
Understanding your natural strengths and personality isn’t easy when you don’t have the language for it. If you’re struggling in either of these areas, then check out these two great books.