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finding your higher purpose

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It’s never the wrong time to discover the why behind what you do, or what you want to do. If you’re in the process of figuring out what you’d like to do with your life, discovering your why is a great starting point. What is the bigger good you get to do for society when you take on a certain role? Only focusing on the outward title can lead to a rather unfulfilling life. In fact, it can leave you feeling lost as you throw all of your energy and hopes into chasing roles without connecting to a deeper drive and desire. When we talk about a deeper drive, we’re talking about things beyond money or status. We’re even talking about things beyond liking the actual task that accompanies a particular opportunity.

It’s wonderful if you enjoy the day-to-day duties involved in your work, but if that’s where the joy stops for you, remaining motivated can be difficult. Think about how often things will stand in your way of even doing the simple stuff. If there isn’t a deeper drive behind the work, you might give up. So really, understanding your why is like lighting an eternal flame that will fuel you in your efforts. In one of my favorite books, Grit, by Angela Ducksworth, the author interviews dozens of highly impressive individuals and finds that they all connect their pursuits to a greater why. Doesn’t that inspire you to find yours? Now the question is, how do you find it? We spoke with a self-trust coach and a Pinterest creator named Nory Pouncil (pictured below) about finding your why. Here’s how to get started.

Nory Pouncil

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Finding your why can be uncomfortable at first

Powerful experiences can be driving forces for many of us, and they may have been powerful in a negative way or a positive one. At the time, those experiences may have felt terrible, but the depth of that emotion sparked something within you. “When it comes to discovering our why, it often lives in a place we don’t want to go to,” explains Pouncil. “The why lives in our trauma…in our pain. When we were children, there may have been things we wished we had, that we didn’t have. When those things are lacking, we learn to develop this mechanism to be able to compensate for the lack.”

finding your higher purpose

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Confront past trauma

Perhaps as an adult, you’ve grown to move away from the pain you endured as a child. But that very pain could have driven you to learn ways to help others heal – and remember that some adults still feel the type of lack you had as a child. Maybe it was lack of attention, lack of safety, or lack of support. “When we look into trauma we had, we can find what our purpose is,” Pouncil says. She offers up her own story of having her parents move to another country, leaving her at a young age. “I didn’t grow up with my parents. I grew up feeling abandoned by them. Because of that, I grew this desire to help people develop their authentic self so they can feel whole so they don’t feel lacking because someone else isn’t there for them.”

finding your higher purpose

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You can find your why in the present, too

“I wasn’t able to discover my why until I went into that suffering from my childhood,” says Pouncil. She does, however, recognize that not everyone will find their purpose in their childhood trauma. Or perhaps they’d like a different approach. “A less painful way of going about it is asking friends ‘What is my unique gift?’” she says. Pouncil actually asked her friends to answer a few questions about her, including “What am I great at?” “What do I suck at?” “What is my unique gift?” and “What can I not be counted on for?” She says that her friends shared very telling information about her, revealing to her a love she has of helping others.

finding your higher purpose

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You already have some answers

“Your why is already here,” explains Pouncil. “If you look around in your life and you see the things that you’re the most amazing at, you can find your why there. If you see the things you’re avoiding the most, you can find your why there. Your why is this thing that helps you compensate for a thing you didn’t have growing up.” She admits that the exercise of asking friends to tell you your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the act of admitting what you’re avoiding, can be uncomfortable. But in that discomfort, you’ll find answers. In fact, the more uncomfortable it gets, the closer you’re likely getting to your why.

finding your higher purpose

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Try visualization techniques

Visualization is something we already experience the power of often, without noticing it. Like when we feel intense emotions around a memory—that’s visualization. That thing isn’t currently happening but you’re experiencing feelings as if it is. You can use that to your advantage, says Pouncil. “Visualization techniques are amazing because the mind doesn’t know what’s in the past or present. It has one thing: right now. If you feel like something happened just yesterday, it’s because you replay a movie and go through those emotions and feelings. When you use those powers of visualization to exude feelings of joy and calm and happiness, you can get a lot going.”

finding your higher purpose

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See yourself responding to stress

Visualization techniques can be very useful in preparing yourself for the stressful and expected events that can arise from pursuing your goals. Pouncil uses them to see herself responding with ease to challenging moments. “I like to visualize myself before going into uncomfortable situations. When it comes to finding your dream role, part of that process is looking at, what are the things that are challenging for you? I put myself in a calm space. I meditate,” she says. “Once I’m in a calm space, I like to visualize myself in situations that feel uncomfortable to me. But I am calm responding to those situations.”

finding your higher purpose

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Take a cold shower

“Another technique I love to do is I take cold showers every day. It’s good to expose your body to cold water for the somatic response. It’s also a controlled discomfort exercise. When I take it, I’m teaching myself that I can do hard things that I don’t want to do because it’s what’s best for me. I’m teaching myself that I can be uncomfortable on my own behalf,” Pouncil explains. “After my warm shower, I set the water to freezing cold. I visualize myself calm the entire time. I’m controlling my breath. I’m being as calm as I can, so that my body knows I can be in stress and respond with calm. That’s what it’s about; living life with calm and with courage.”

finding your higher purpose

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Find your why without fear

This cold shower exercise can be helpful when it comes to exploring your trauma to find your why, without reacting to it. You can take the positive from the experience and ignore the negative. “We can all do it if we practice it. It’s all about the fact that you can experience fear and overthinking and being scared of the unknown, but you can do it with calm and with courage,” Pouncil says. “You don’t have to give into reactive behavior. You can tell your fear, ‘It’s ok.’ That’s why I love the cold shower exercise. I’m uncomfortable, but I’m finding the calm in the space. If you can do that, you can do that in any scenario.”

finding your higher purpose

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You’ll always need calm in the storm

Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable will be a skill that serves you well at every stage of your career – from the formative years to the years when you’re killing it. Every new level of achievement will come with a new level of stress. Don’t expect things to get easier: expect yourself to get stronger. “Having a dream is chaotic,” Pouncil says. “There are lots of moving pieces that coexist that we must manage with calm and courage. Don’t take things personally. Remain grounded. You can show up as your best self and not give into beliefs that are not a manifestation of who you really are.”

finding your higher purpose

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A few Nory-isms

“My clients call these ‘Nory-isms,’” Pouncil endearingly explains about some of the mantras she gives clients. “They’re my uncomfortable truths to help them thrive. They are, ‘I accept that all parts of me can coexist in harmony and peace.’ ‘I am grateful because unconditional love is uncomfortable,'” she says. (Self-discipline is uncomfortable and is a form of self-love. It’s okay that it doesn’t feel good.) “And ‘I plant seeds of self-love in myself and others.’This last affirmation I really lean into when I’m having a difficult interaction with someone. When I think of unconditional love, it’s uncomfortable. I’m here to plant those seeds.”

finding your higher purpose

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What does it mean to plant seeds?

Planting seeds can look like many things, Pouncil explains. “Sometimes you’re saying no to the other person, but saying yes to yourself. Sometimes you’re saying something they aren’t ready to hear, they respond negatively, and they take it personally. I’m just planting the seed…in them and in me. If I plant the seed, my job is done. The best way to plant the seed is to plant it in myself so that my behavior can be the seed.” A great example can simply be responding in kind to someone who is being nasty. Right now, they may not learn or change, but you behave in the way that’s important to you. You planted the seed of kindness in the other person. It may grow or it may not – it depends on how they water it. But you did your job.

finding your higher purpose

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Plant seeds in you and see what grows

A big part of finding your why will be exposing yourself to ideas that you’ll digest, and use or not use. Planting seeds in you and seeing what you naturally water. Which ideas do you intuitively nurture and which skills do you feel driven to grow? “Planting seeds is the easiest part. It won’t happen right away. You can plant as many seeds as you want and allow the seeds that are meant for you to flourish. That’s why Pinterest is great…for affirmations. Affirmations are seeds, and opportunities for people to foster something about themselves. It’s why people gravitate to quotes and affirmations. They are seeds.”

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