Originally appeared in Planet Jackson Hole

How to discern what makes us happy, and what we are truly meant to do on earth.

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world really needs are people who have come alive."

- Howard W. Thurman, philosopher and civil rights leader

As the world is rapidly changing, more and more people are feeling the need to align to a higher calling, to live a deeper sense of purpose, and to focus their gifts and talents toward the greater good. Having a sense of purpose is key for our well-being and lasting fulfillment. How each person defines that, however, is an intersection of many variables.

Soul purpose

From a soulful perspective, fulfilling one's highest potential in both personal evolution and contribution to the world happens when our soul's wisdom and directives are in the driver's seat of our lives. Metaphorically speaking, the personality/ego/mind chatter need to be in the passenger's seat. (Note to self: We cannot get rid of the ego but we don't have to be run by it.)

The bottom line is knowing yourself, discovering what enlivens you in life, and applying your energy, natural talents and skills to what makes you feel most alive. This is how you nourish yourself and at the same time contribute soulfully to the matrix of life. You will enjoy personal fulfillment, inspire others and create contagious, positive energy.

What makes you come alive?

The obvious question is, how do we discover and then live our unique purpose? There are many modalities and traditions for discovering pieces of the puzzle to what you are intended to contribute. A brief selection of these include: vision quests, rites of passage, counseling, psychological and skill inventories, astrology, numerology, yoga, meditation, travel, and seeking the input of wise people and gifted psychics. (Note to self: It is easier to give good advice than to follow it.)

Elements of purpose

Japanese culture has a term for finding your purpose; it is called ikigai, which translates to "a reason for being." Ikigai is seen as the convergence of the following elements:

1. What you love

2. What you are good at

3. What the world needs, and

4. Making a living by combining the first three

Know your values

When you are able to live, love, work and play by your values, you'll discover your self-worth, self-confidence, creativity, happiness and well-being on all levels will flourish. Here are four values-centered questions you might ask yourself. What matters to you most in life? What values are most important in your code of ethics? What do you value most in others? When all is said and done, what will matter most to you at the end of your life?

Clues to what enlivens you

Here are six soul-searching questions to explore. What inspires you? What are you passionate about? What kinds of people, events, circumstances, interests do you find uplifting? What do you most enjoy exploring and/or learning? Was there a time (any time) in your life when you felt truly happy? What were/are the contributing elements to happiness for you?

Clues to what's yours to contribute

Enjoy seeing what materalizes as you answer the next four questions. Then add the answers to your values questions and what enlivens you. Reviewing and combining all these is then an invitation to explore what things-more or less or different or the same-you choose to pursue in your life.

Questions: Assuming you cannot fail, what would you love to do/contribute to the world? Eliminating considerations like more education, money, etc., what would you love to get up and do every day? What would you like your legacy to be? What let's you know you are making a positive difference?

Pay attention to all your answers and live them.

Concluding words of wisdom

This week I was asked to do a transmission from the other side for a friend whose father had passed. With her permission, here is what he shared, which is relevant to finding purpose:

"Wounded warriors always suffer. In that uninvited pause for recovery, we always question our purpose and what's worth it in life. Those who come out the other end of this painful but extraordinary opportunity, and then go on to thrive, are those who realize the gift of life is life. And living well is the best use of the gift. Each person decides what living well means for them. Always look into your heart for the answers."

- J.C.F., Vietnam Vet