Getting Clear on Career and Your Life Purpose

By Shannon Terry

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.

I may be bursting some bubbles and, alternately, causing others to let out a huge sigh of relief with what I’m about to say….

Your life purpose might not be your career—but you still might be fulfilling that purpose even if it isn’t how you earn a living. I have reached this conclusion over many years, through many jobs, as part of my personal development, during my quest for spiritual growth, and by just reckoning with my own sense of knowing.

While popular dictums like, “Follow Your bliss,” and “Do what you love and the money will follow,” and similar adages certainly imply this “doing” is our work, our jobs, or our career path—that is not always the case. It’s just OUR culture’s tendency to interpret it that way. When we simply read the words of these sayings, they simply encourage us to spend time in pleasurable pursuits. Sure, it CAN be that one’s purpose and work are one in the same—and I believe it IS wise and good to do things we love—both on the job and off.


Whether our life purpose and our career are one in the same is variable from person to person.

Sometimes I believe our life plan/soul contract has predetermined that “My work will be my purpose.” However, I actually think that for the vast majority of us our soul’s chosen “life purpose” is a lot less specific, and therefore a lot more flexible. This flexibility then allows for myriad ways to express that which we love and, in turn, our soul’s purpose.

In his book, The Instruction, author Ainslie MacLeod suggests we all have life purposes that fall into a small number of overall categories, such as healing, artistic expression, and so on.

Let’s take “teaching” as an example of a general life purpose, and look at possible ways the skills and gifts of teaching could be used to fulfill this intended mission.

This one’s pretty obvious, right? It would be K-12 teacher, university professor, or even a corporate trainer. But what about Oprah? She has said she believes her actual purpose is teacher, though that may not be the first thing we would think of as her career, given her CHOSEN medium.

On the other hand, I believe some of us choose to use the work we do as the vehicle to support our purpose, vs. marrying purpose to our actual livelihood. Some choose a profession that will, for example, provide the resources (the money, the time, the flexibility, the energy, whatever may be needed) that then enables them to live their life purpose through some other expression.

Perhaps one’s soul knows on a deep, subconscious level that it came in to be a teacher for his or her mother, or to the community as an activist, for example. There are many ways, from a soul perspective, to view the notions of “student” and “classroom,” right? So this type of person may make a choice to work in some other job, and likely a job that allows the time/money/whatever else he or she needs to accomplish the “teaching” mission.

In these cases, I think many of us are, in fact, living our purposes after all. It just may not FEEL like it because the common assumption is that our job should be that “calling we love” and should be doing. When we limit the possibilities in that way, it creates a lot of undue pressure and we may miss the fact that we ARE living our purpose through some entirely different (and even simple) aspect of our lives!

Always Use Your Gifts

As a job search coach, I encourage everyone to use their natural gifts—specific skills as well as innate personal traits—in whatever career path they choose. It’s so important that we enjoy and feel good about our work. My tenant is to do work we love, and/or, do whatever we do WITH love. That approach serves our souls, ourselves, and everyone else.

For instance, someone with a “teaching” life purpose that isn’t in a career teaching role still will find the MOST job satisfaction in any position that uses “teaching” skills in some capacity—such as group facilitation, instructing, creating materials to inform others, or mentoring/supervising/developing other team members, even if the primary title and field are not obviously teaching related.

An astrologer I follow, Anne Ortelee, always says, “If it’s in your heart, it’s in your chart!” She’s saying that you can just FEEL the soul purpose indicators in your birth chart “blueprint” yourself. Your heart knows.

We CAN find that satisfaction, that knowing of “this is where I want to be/want to do, it just feels ‘right’” in jobs and other experiences. Remember, our careers are merely one possibility of myriad ways we can express and the universe can provide.

Finding the Right Path

So how do we each get clear on our own life purpose, and whether our soul wants to express it via our career, or if it prefers to select jobs that support us in expressing our true purpose outside our work?

There’s no set answer to that question. We’re all on unique journeys, after all. There are, however, wonderful modalities you can experiment with, such as: astrology, hypnosis and intuitive readings. There are also great tools to excavate personality style, skills and interests in systems such as Myers Briggs, Strong Interest Inventory, the Enneagram, and myriad books in both the spiritual and career sections of bookstores.

You can also ask yourself a few questions right now to try to start sorting out your own soul intentions:

Practical Level:

What are you doing (tasks, using which skills) when you’re having the most fun?

What are the things you are repeatedly complimented for and didn’t perhaps realize you were good at until others pointed it out to you? (Our strengths are often so natural we don’t notice them!)

What are you doing when you completely lose track of time, get in that “flow,” and forget other things because you are so immersed in that experience/task and thoroughly enjoying it?

Which of these are or could be work related? Or are they related to some other type of task/experience?

Soul Level:

What have been the repeated patterns in your life? Think deeply here—personally as well as professionally. What cycles come back around, requiring your attention?

If you were to allow yourself to deeply KNOW, right now, without thinking more about it, what would you say is your life’s purpose? Write it down. Don’t question it.

Now combine the two—practical and soul preferences and patterns. Think about if you can, and also want to, tie making money to your purpose. Could your soul path be expressed in another way equally well, or in an even better way, according to your other life preferences?

Remember, the way you express your purpose is a CHOICE, not a dictate!

Let me remind you of the wisdom of the great Sufi poet Rumi again:

“Let the beauty you love be what you do.” The rest of that quote says: “…There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

Shannon Terry is a Resume Writer and Interview Skills Coach offering “concrete suggestions and inspired support for job seekers.” She loves working with conscious, caring professionals who bring a commitment to service to whatever they do. She is also a yoga practitioner, amateur kayaker, and a former Career Placement Specialist with 15-plus years of group facilitation and corporate training experience who moonlights as an international vagabond when she can. Shannon enjoys using her intuition and professional skills to help people, offering her clients professional suggestions and personal encouragement—all to help her clients “Resume Confidence.” Contact her at:; call 910-632-0533; or visit


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