When I had just turned 16 years old, I had a stunning realization. For the first time, I knew my life purpose. After giving a self-confidence empowerment workshop to a group of 8th grade girls, it felt as though God had spoken to me and let me know that I was here to continue the work I was doing on media, body image, mental health, relationships, and more.
At the time, I had no idea what the actual path of my newfound life purpose looked like, but I knew that I had one and that it involved utilizing my passions, public speaking and organizational abilities, and more.
Four years later, it has resulted in co-founding an organization called MOVE, dedicated to empowering young women through workshops and week long summer programs. It has resulted in me publishing a book, giving speeches at several conferences, developing important connections with girls, and much much more.
For the past few years, I have been wholeheartedly and entirely fulfilled. It is to such an extent that my heart was constantly aching with emotion and the understanding that what I was doing was critically important.
The number of times that I have teared up with gratitude and contentedness that I found my belonging is too many to count.
And then, somewhere around the start of this new school year, I started grew restless. For several months, I refused to fully confront it and instead commented on how unfulfilled I felt, without actually doing anything about it.
I hoped that my restlessness would go away, and told myself that when I gave workshops over my college break in January that I would feel better.
Yet, I didn’t feel better. In fact, it forced me to confront the sad but inevitable fact that I am growing and changing, and so was my purpose.
I am in the process of finding fulfillment again. Here’s what I know to be true, and perhaps some ideas on how you too can discover your purpose as I re-discover mine:
Growing up, my parents encouraged me to try everything I could. I learned that I hated sports, was not good at playing instruments, that dancing was not for me, singing was okay, and finally that I LOVED doing theater.
I was originally intimidated to try out theater and audition for the school play—so scared that I didn’t audition whatsoever in 6th grade—but conquered that fear a year later to learn that I really found comfort in creating something beautiful with friends.
Trying different things gave me an opportunity to figure out what I liked, and allowed me to develop my strengths in areas that I cared about. Taking the time to learn about and understand myself really benefitted me later on, as my public speaking and teamwork skills are critical to the work I do for MOVE.
So, try everything you possibly can. Especially if you’re a little intimidated to do it. I’ve found that a little fear (within a safe range) allows the most growth to happen.
If you have an idea, take it and run with it. My friends and I decided at age 15 that we wanted to give a workshop, and so we ran with that idea and made it happen.
When I gave the first workshop, I didn’t realize what would follow. I actually thought that I would give one, it would be cool, but that would be that.
Your ideas are worth a shot. They really are. And I encourage you to go for it. I know that social pressure and a desire to fit in make trying out ideas scary, but sometimes you need to put yourself and your ideas before your ego.
More than that, devote yourself to doing what you care about. Currently, I don’t know what my next purpose is. But, I do know that the way I discovered my original purpose.
I had the idea to write a book, and made it happen, because I took the time to learn first about the issues I cared about. I’m dead serious. Learning led me to understanding, which gave me ideas, and led me to creating my own ideas.
So, I’m spending my time learning about what does currently interest me: Political Science. I am so interested, that I changed my double major from Communication to PoliSci.
I’ve also made it a New Years Resolution to read 25 books on political issues this year. Two done. 23 to go. Speaking of which, the learning that I’ve done already has actually given me the idea for my third book!
Learning about what you care about works. It gives you ideas because you’re able to see what’s missing and you can fill in what’s needed with your own work.
At workshops, I always ask girls to consider the three things above. Previously, and to an extent still, I am passionate about ideas, bringing people together, and more.
I care about body image, media, self-esteem, mental health and more. And I am good at organizing, leading, and public speaking. So, I combined the three to create MOVE.
Today, my strengths and passions are still the same, but what I care about is shifting and I’m starting to consider how I can use what God gave me in another way. All I’m saying is that the more I learn and think about how I can do my part, that honestly running for office has crossed my mind more than a few times.
Now, how can you combine these? If you love it more than your ego, you’ve found it.
And finally, Elizabeth Gilbert describes her home as, “returning to the work of writing because writing was my home, because I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing, which is to say that I loved writing more than I loved my own ego,which is ultimately to say that I loved writing more than I loved myself.”
In other words, Elizabeth Gilbert loved writing more than she hated failing or her own ego.
For so long, I loved MOVE more than my ego. The things people would say to me or behind my back did not matter to me, and I would brush it off easily. Who cares what you think—I’m doing God’s work and nothing can stop me! And in many ways, MOVE is still my home. But I’m moving—or MOVEing—on.
Either way, think about what you love more than your ego. And that’s when you know you’ve found your purpose. To reach out to me, check out www.ashleyolafsen.com