Unita Blackwell found her life’s purpose during a protestagainst disenfranchisement in the segregated South of the 1960s. Standing outside the door of the county courthouse in Lula, Mississippi, Blackwell told the officer that sought to disrupt her voter registration drive, “We come to register to vote, and we ain’t leaving.”
As the words passed her lips, Blackwell realized that she was meant to serve her community in a capacity that would evoke change. Her passion led her to become a project director for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, run by civil rights leader Stokley Carmichael.
Later, she served as the first black female mayor in the state of Mississippi. “In her book, Barefootin’: Life Lessons from the Road to Freedom (Crown; $23), Blackwell, now 73, writes, “I did not discover my life’s work through a heavenly voice or a brilliant flash of glory, but I knew my life had purpose. It was up to me to discover it.”
Many think that finding their purpose is a tiresome task of book research, jaunts overseas, and long stints of solitude. But according to Debrena Jackson Gandy, author of All the Joy You Can Stand (Three Rivers Press; $12.95), this is not so.
Gandy says, “Discovering your life’s purpose is not complicated. There is nothing to go out and find. You’re not looking for the Holy Grail. Pay attention. The clues to your purpose have been dropped all over the place like stones on a path.”
Life coach Patricia Thomas suggests that those in search of their
purpose start by paying attention to what life is showing them.
Listen to life. “Life gives us clear indications of what our purposes are, but we are not intuitively in tune with what is happening with us,” Thomas says. “Suppose you’re assigned a special project at work. You are charged with creating, developing, and organizing this project. You grow to love the project so much that it doesn’t even feel like work. When the project is over, you move on, ignoring the fact that managing was a natural talent that you enjoy and can develop.”
Tune out the outside world. Do not allow society to impose unrealistic expectations on your life or force you down a path you have no desire to travel. Make sure that the strongest voice in your life is your own.
Listen to your inner voice. What makes you happy? What are you passionate about? What activities bring you joy? Which activities do not? These are the critical questions Gandy suggests everyone think through thoroughly: “Your purpose is embedded in your response to these questions. Our passions, affinities, and talents give us clues that direct us to our purpose. If a person’s passion is sewing, then their purpose could be to design clothes.”
Dwell in possibility. Lastly, both experts recommend that those in search of their purpose be open to the full spectrum of possibilities. Both agree that one’s purpose can be anything and that there are no boundaries or limitations to the manner in which it is expressed.
“Purpose has many