What is it ONLY you have to offer that serves the world?

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The thing about finding purpose in our lives and in our work (what I call wayfinding) is that it’s tricky. Oh. so. tricky. There are many facets that make wayfinding challenging, emotional, daunting and time-consuming, to name a few. But the one I’m struggling with these days is knowing myself.

Sure, I know who I am. I know what I’m good at. I know where my strengths lie. I’ve even created an inventory template so others can begin to know themselves better, too. But that’s not what I’m talking about. 

What I’m talking about is that mysterious alchemy that comes from not only knowing myself, but aligning who I am with the work that I am uniquely called to do. Call this purpose, passion, mission – whatever it is, that’s where these days I’m feeling like I’ve hit a slump. And in the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “Unslumping yourself is not easily done.”

A glimmer of hope came calling the other day when a new pen pal, an author I respect and have followed for a while now, posed this question to me in an email:

“What is it ONLY you have to offer that serves the world?”

As my eyes moved across these words, I found myself unconsciously exhaling, slowing down to take in the message she was sending me. She continued:

“If you had the magic wand... and ANYTHING could happen as a result of this vision, what would you want changed in the world?”

Paint that picture, she said, and then get back to me.

In our normal day, our normal routines, our lives are structured around moving from here to there. Check this off the list, send off that email, complete that task. But, as my pen pal asked, “To what end?” Why are we doing the things we do? What is the purpose behind our actions? What is the impact we want to create with the magic wand we yield?

As someone who’s very process driven – feeling moved oftentimes more by the ‘how’ than the ‘why’ – this question is uncomfortable for me. I’ve always trusted that I’ll have impact through my work, and frankly never paused to push myself to define my impact any more than that. By doing good work, I reasoned, I’ll do good. That’s been my impact.

But this week’s message is forcing me to rethink this. How can I get more specific about what only I can uniquely achieve? What does the world desperately need that only I can offer? 

Wayfinding is tricky. So why not start with some of the trickiest of all? Sure, it’s challenging, emotional, daunting and time-consuming. But again in the wonderful, wise words of Dr. Seuss:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” 

What does the world desperately need that ONLY you can offer? 

This week, I encourage you to grab your magic wand and paint that picture. Then get back to me.