Note from Kate: Since sharing my personal story I've had many heart-to-heart conversations with friends, clients and strangers who found me through social media. I have learned more about others' real life adversities and the scars they leave on the human spirit. I've also heard dozens of stories of hope and healing. For those of you who have let me in your heart and shared your story with me, thank you. You are the reason I continue to share my experience with depression.
Tool #3: Purpose
What is the meaning of life?
Why am I here?
Does my life mean anything?
How will I make a difference?
How can I find purpose?
Have you ever asked yourself those questions? For a majority of my adolescence , I certainly did. I had no idea what the value to my existence was. I felt like that's all I was doing, existing. But I aspired to live a life full of passion and meaning. There has to be purpose in the pain. Right?
At 21, I worked as a sportswriter. I love to write and consider myself a sports enthusiast so I assumed it was the perfect fit. I soon realized that as a writer you spend a majority of your day sitting at an event to go back and sit at a desk to write about things you'd rather be doing. I later worked in sales, then a women's athletic company but wasn't content in my work. A year later, I worked at a venture capital firm in San Francisco. It was challenging but incredibly lucrative. I was young, living in San Francisco and making six figures so I sucked it up and kept going. I found little moments of happiness in materials and possessions. But happiness and purpose have to be discovered for yourself. It isn’t something you can buy. But I didn't know that yet...
There is a defining moment in every person’s life. Within that moment everything that person is, shines its brightest.
At 24 my life came to a screaming halt once we found out that the terminal cancer my stepdad had was spreading like fire in his body. Fourteen tumors traveled quickly to his brain. I spent all of my time outside of work researching the best foods and alternative therapies. I moved home to cook for him during hospice and make sure he had the best nourishment. I found solace in the kitchen, the place my stepdad enjoyed most in the home (he was an incredible cook!) In between radiation appointments and planning his service, I would make meals for my family. I wasn't expecting to cure him by any means but I had experienced such terrible inflammation in college with my liver and spleen that I knew firsthand how medicinal food can be and wanted to show him love with as much nourishment as possible.
After we lost him, I knew I had to stop living life with the assumption that I had time. Losing a parent made me grow in every way imaginable but especially emotionally and spiritually. I began to think a lot about my life and what I want to accomplish before death. I thought about how precious life is and how it can change in an instant. I thought long and hard about what experiences I wanted and the relationships I valued most. Most of all, I wanted a life with purpose. I prayed,
Lord, where would You have me go? What would You have me do? What would You have me say, and to whom?
In time I stopped aiming to serve myself and looked outward. Materials and possessions lost their hold over me. I left my fancy job and pursued work I felt drawn to. For two weeks, I trained in New York City with Sonia Sumar, who founded Yoga for the Special Child. The experience changed me. When I returned home, I found part-time work while working as a yoga and pilates instructor. Soon after, I went back to school to become a certified wellness coach (Institute of Integrative Nutrition). I began to take night classes at Stanford to learn more about the brain and psychology. Recently, I studied with Jillian Pransky to become certified in restorative yoga although I’ve been practicing for several years. Each experience brought me closer to my purpose.
Without purpose, we become more vulnerable to negative emotions such as depression and anxiety. Studies show that those who have a strong sense of meaning, who feel that their life matters, tend to live longer and happier lives. Purpose motivates us to keep going and provides the gusto and resilience through hard times. Purpose has also been linked to:
- Better health
- Emotional well-being
- Increased longevity
- Less depression
- Greater relationships
To live with purpose, you have to consciously carve time in your life. If you can't carve out a significant corner of your life, take baby steps. The world needs what ya got!
In time, opportunities will emerge and soon enough you will feel so purpose-driven that you’re looking for more and more ways to get involved in activities that matter to you.
Suggested material on purpose: