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Wherever we are in our world, whatever we are doing, whoever we are … we are surrounded by messages both overt and subvert telling us that we are ‘here for a purpose‘. The twin message being that all we need to do to be happy, fulfilled and successful in our lives is to ‘find our purpose and deliver on it‘.

Now, I have a few deep concerns about this prevalent societal belief.

First, there is an assumption of ‘one’ purpose. Secondly, that our purpose is going to be obvious to us. And thirdly, that if we are unable to find our purpose then there is something wrong with us.

So I’ll look at these one at a time.

Just the ONE purpose?

As people who have multiple passions, ever-changing interests and a driving need for variety in our lives (the people that I call ‘Hummingbirds’) … the mere thought of choosing ‘just one’ turns our stomach. And, as we now know through the neuroscience based field of mBraining our gut brain is where our core identity sits. So when our stomach reacts like that we know our core identity is being challenged deeply.

The more I have observed my own journey and those of the thousands of Hummingbirds I’ve interacted with globally, the more I realise that we have something much more fulfilling for our Self than ‘just the one’ … we have underlying driving patterns instead.

What do I mean by this?

When I look back at my 20 jobs across 5 careers I easily see that my patterns in my professional journey are all about ‘people’ and ‘change’. I’ve always been fascinated by what makes other people tick. And I have always sought out new experiences, change and improvements in everything I do … both for myself and for others. It is only in recent months as I’ve been pondering the concept of underlying patterns that I’ve recognised that the same patterns underlie my social and personal journey too. I love history, culture, arts, cuisine and travel. I am drawn to these because when unpacked they are about people and change.

Our purpose/patterns are obvious to us?

For some people this is abundantly true. They appear to be either born knowing exactly what they are going to do with their lives and the impact they are going to have on the world, or they suddenly step into it during their teens/early 20s. However, for many people this simply is not the case. They may do many meaningful activities and have fulfilling experiences in their lives. They may make significant impacts on themselves and others. However, there is something missing for them. Either because their focus on a particular ‘purpose’ fades away or because they find they are always changing where their focus, energy and activity goes.

However, when it comes to unpacking your own patterns here is an easy-to-do-at-home exercise:

  • Grab a huge piece of paper, post-it notes, coloured pens and note down absolutely everything you have ever done, studied, researched, created, explored in your life so far.
  • Put it on the floor and stand above it and begin to notice patterns.
  • Note which you’ve loved, note which are themed together, note which built on one another, note which are recurring themes, note which you’ve felt the most fulfilled by.
  • Look at the top 2 or 3 patterns that shriek loudest to you because there is a theme that creates a frequent pattern showing up in different ways in your life. Ask yourself, what matters to me about these?

Using my patterns of ‘people’ and ‘change’ as an example – what matters to me is that each individual learns to love themselves totally for who they actually are in all their unique fabulousness; accepts themselves warts and all; and plays fully to their strengths to fulfil their multiple potential and express their multiple passions. What annoys me is when people refuse to take responsibility for who they are and how they are in the world, sitting around waiting for ‘them’ to sort things out. Thus, never fulfilling their potential or bringing their unique perspective and experiences to share new life with others. More than annoying me, this saddens me deeply.

No purpose = something wrong with me?

I have observed that even when people realise that they are Hummingbirds (aka multipotentialites, scanners, polymaths, renaissance souls etc) they are often thrilled. They feel a freedom, a release from unwarranted pressure. And yet many of them also seek to uncover their ‘one purpose’. There is a journey to go on here – that it is rare for someone with multiple passions, with our driving need for variety and change, to ever have just ‘one’ of anything … let alone ‘a purpose’. We are likely to have 2, 3, 5, a dozen … and that is fabulous because we bring so much to the world when we consciously play to our underlying driving patterns.

Yes, there are people in the world who have their ‘one purpose’ and this is exactly right for them. We need them. We should value, celebrate and reward them. AND there are people in the world with a range of underlying patterns who through their broad ranges of experiences, speed of learning, rapid change and wide ranging passions bring unique perspectives, skills sets, connections and innovations to our world. This is exactly right for us – we are amazing as we are. We are needed too! We are to be valued, celebrated and rewarded. And that starts with each of us valuing, celebrating and rewarding ourselves and others who are also Hummingbirds.

Until we do that for our Selves, very few others will. As we do celebrate ourselves, we fill rooms with diverse talented people seeking to live their lives to the fullest too.

Please ask questions as you work through the exercise and share what you uncover about your own patterns in the comments below.