What were you born to do?

What is your unique contribution?

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard it. I can recall my inward cringe and outward face-scrunch. I felt that familiar feeling of “Oh no, it’s going to be one of those courses”. It was the first morning of a three day long program, and the trainer had started talking about living the life she was born to live. She told us that she was living the life that only she was fully equipped to live.

If I’m honest, she lost me there for a while. I mean, seriously, how could someone possibly pin down anything and call it the thing they were born to do? Isn’t that incredibly arrogant? How can you know, unless you’ve tried absolutely everything (FYI – not possible).

For a little bit of context, at the time I was working at an engineering company, and the majority of the people in the room were engineers. For the unfamiliar, engineers tend to be the kind of people who like facts and figures, evidence, proof, science, process. I fitted in well. And so here we were, a bunch of statistic-o-philes listening to someone tell us that she was living the life of her dreams, doing the things that she was born to do. Needless to say, the room was not full of whoops, cheers and hugs all round.

Most of us didn’t really take the message in. We glossed over it. I know for sure that some people just shut down there and then, refusing to take anything else in. Thankfully my scepticism wasn’t so extreme, and I have come back to challenge my doubts many times since, but in that moment those statements made absolutely no sense to me.

I don’t think our reaction that day was especially out of the ordinary. A lot of people would scoff at the idea that they were born to live life a certain way. Not many people believe that they were born to contribute to the world in a particular way, or that they have something unique to offer. In fact, there are a huge number of people who believe the exact opposite about themselves. The more I come back to the idea though, the more convinced I am that there is some truth in what we were being told. There is something helpful in there.

Now, I don’t want to get too deep into ideas of higher callings, or destiny or anything like that (and I realise that I’m treading quite close) because actually, this can be helpful no matter what you believe. These are a couple of questions I like to revisit every now and again.

In my statistic-o-phile moments when I find it difficult to see my strengths, my skills and my contribution, I ask myself

What if you were born to contribute something unique to the world?

In the moments where I just need a bit more focus, clarity or direction, I ask

What is the life you were born to live?

My answers are sometimes surprising, and always useful. Quite often I find that once I give myself permission to imagine that really I do have something unique to offer, I learn something new about myself.

Give it a go. Just take 60 seconds now to answer whichever question fits with you the best. Let me know in the comments how you get on.

6 Comment(s)

  1. Mariah M

    August 10, 2012 at 3:12 am

    I think you’re on to something here Chris. While we shouldn’t expect to ever experience everything possible in the world (impossible), we should recognize that our strengths are a clue to what we should be doing with our lives.

    I gave my life some serious thought and because I was doing it alone, it took me about two years to figure myself out without the input of outsiders. I’ve found that it makes more sense for me to focus on HOW I want to live my life and then let my experiences fall into those guidelines.

    The result is that I can live up to my own standards without having to pin down a single occupation.

    What are your thoughts?

    • August 10, 2012 at 6:21 am

      Hi Mariah,

      I really like your phrase about recognising our strengths as a clue to what we should be doing with our lives – I totally agree. The difficulty can sometimes come choosing the right time to act on those clues, instead of searching for more.

      I think that somebody’s unique contribution is quite often more about HOW than WHAT. Sometimes it can be difficult to access the HOW, and so a good starting point can be to look at our various roles (one of which could be occupation), but eventually most people (just as you have) end up with an answer which is more about HOW they live their life rather than specifically where they live it and what they do.

      It’s interesting that you mention figuring yourself out without the input of outsiders. If you were at the start of that two years again now, do you think you would do anything differently? Would you look for input from anyone else?

      • August 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm

        Honestly, I probably would do it differently if I didn’t know what I know now about the whole process. Truth is, there are many ways to come to your own conclusion about a life purpose because we all lead different paths through life. Also, you can’t be sure when your personal epiphany will occur.

        I thought life purpose was pretty dumb about two years ago. Now I’m not so sure. True, you don’t need a purpose to get through life but I think it draws a line between floating and steering.

        By the way, congrats on the little one!

        • August 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm

          Yeah, the life purpose thing has been growing on me recently too. I’m convinced there is something in it, whilst a little wary about chasing it too much and missing out on life as it flies by.

          Thanks! It’s really not long now until nugget arrives. I can’t wait!

  2. Kim

    September 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    When I think about being born to do something…. I tend to think of it as “This is what I’m born to do…. right now.” I don’t necessarily think there is one thing I am meant to do in my whole life… but more that there is one thing I’m meant to do right now… and that thing could change next year, or next week. Though I think these things can be wholly different, and yet still somewhat connected. If that makes any sense.

    I like to help and figure out “puzzles” so that’s mostly what connects everything about me… a theme, if you will.

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