Finding Your Purpose Through Trial and Error
The conversation surrounding the word purpose is fraught.
There is an idea that it’s imperative to find a purpose, that without it your life doesn’t have meaning.
The world says if you don’t have a purpose, you haven’t done enough self-reflection.
The world says if you haven’t figured it out, you’re behind.
That’s the kind of pressure that Natalie Loranger felt around her purpose.
Natalie is a licensed esthetician and blogger living in Madison, WI. Her journey toward discovering her purpose and unraveling her feelings around this complicated word is undeniably relatable.
Like many of us, Natalie felt frustrated and overwhelmed by the concept of having a purpose. Unlike many of us, she decided to take action, instead of waiting for a fateful moment when her purpose would magically appear.
She dipped her toes in different waters, allowing herself to test the temperature and see what felt right. At times, she returned to shore with the knowledge that she could try again. At others, she waded deeper, pursuing the next level of knowledge and fulfillment that was promised at the horizon.
In the beginning of our conversation, Natalie defined it like this: “My purpose right now is bringing the experience and self-care side of skincare to the Midwest in a local way.”
By the end, she had experienced a mini purpose journey, and had redefined her purpose so that it could lead every aspect of her life.
If you had asked me about my purpose three or four years ago, I would’ve said, “I can’t even talk about this right now.”
“It’s all I think about. I don’t know what it is. How do people ever find this out? Everyone else seems to have it figured out - even people in their twenties.”
It was a paralyzing concept for me. I felt because I didn’t have something that I was uniquely, deeply passionate about, I was behind in the game of life.
I felt like I didn’t have a direction, and that that was a very bad thing.
I would lay down in bed at night and think, “Nothing I did today felt right. It didn’t feel like me.”
At some point, sure, you have the rest of your life to figure it all out, but you want it to start now.
You want to feel good, now.
I started my blog because I was so lost. I was asking myself questions like, “What do I even care about? What could I see myself doing in the future so that I feel good about my day-to-day life.”
I would write about anything: recipes, fashion, home - very broad topics. I never thought that skincare would be the missing piece of the puzzle.
Over time, it became clear that I loved researching, writing about, and taking pictures of skincare.
That realization was the first step in my current purpose journey. The only way that I can describe what I felt when I discovered this path was relief.
I felt it flood over me in waves.
Maybe this was my purpose. Maybe everything could be alright after all.
I needed to chase it with my entire being, immersing myself without the fear of failure or changing my mind.
I enrolled in an esthetics program soon after.
When I’ve laid awake in bed at night pondering my purpose, there is one thought that continued to cross my mind.
I believe that each chapter of your life has its own purpose.
Even just saying that makes me feel like I just got out of a soothing meditative yoga session, smelling of lavender. I can feel myself taking a deep, full body breath as I articulate it.
Every chapter of your life has its own purpose - whether your know it or not.
That mindset helps me feel really calm about the whole, overwhelming concept.
It can feel really comforting to realize that purpose and feel in your gut that you’re working toward something that feels right for you, but I think it’s also okay if you don’t know your purpose right now. I didn’t understand mine for so long.
Right now I feel happy that I have a purpose that I’m working toward, and that there’s a direction that I want to go, but I’m open to the fact that it can change.
If you had asked me three years ago, I would have thought I had to find this one thing that I’m going to do my whole life. One thing that would fulfill me entirely.
Now, I feel a lot more calm about just letting it fly.
I’m starting to feel like life is long, in a good way.
I don’t feel the pressure that goes with, “Life is short. Figure it out right now. Do it do it do it.”
Life is long, so let it unfold as it happens.
Give yourself room to change along the way.
Who knows who you could be in ten years? Twenty? Fifty?
I don’t think we should put ourselves in boxes and expect to fit even after we’ve grown.
The phrase “finding your purpose” is such an interesting use of phrasing.
It seems final, as though you’ll come to the end of a long journey and accomplish the goal, never having to revisit it - like passing a driving test, graduating from college, or learning how to draw the perfect wing with your eyeliner.
I prefer to think of the whole “finding your purpose” thing as more of a process, something that requires refining, evaluating, and putting yourself out there over and over again to see what sticks.
It’s this path with all these different branches, and I don’t see it as a place where you run down one walkway as fast as you can to find what you’re looking for. You just have to move forward and then if you like one option, you’ll go this way, if you like another, you’ll take a different turn.
You find your purpose along the way.
It takes work. While I think that every chapter of our lives has its own, specific purpose, these things don’t just fall into your lap. You should be trying different things and seeing what feels right at every stage in your life.
When I was struggling to put my finger on my meaning, I looked to others for inspiration.
I’d see what people were doing on social media and around me in real life, and I’d try these different hobbies, interests, and potential purposes on like I was playing dress-up.
I felt comfortable with this process, trying on different things that I was seeing, then taking what I needed and building my own purpose from the pieces.
Those pieces that I took were the ones that fit, the ones that felt like me, the ones that made me feel light and right.
I have spent just as much time figuring out what isn’t right for me as I have figuring out what is.
There is a feeling that you get when you realize that something may not fit the direction of your life.
It’s an inkling that starts in your gut, a stirring uneasiness, a questioning sensation. You know it when you feel it, and it doesn’t feel good.
I believe that in these moments we recognize that our purposes are changing.
When I was first blogging, it felt really “me” to talk about certain things. I thought that maybe my purpose was to bring the conversation about ethical fashion to people in the Midwest. That felt right.
Then, you check in with yourself and realize it just doesn’t feel quite right anymore. You get that feeling, and things start to become less clear.
I think this applies even to your job. You can really love it and feel right there, but maybe there comes a point where you don’t even feel like yourself anymore.
Maybe this isn’t it. I don’t feel as happy and good and light about this as I should.
Even if you’re doing hard work to get to your goals and defining your purpose, it should still feel light.
I’ve decided to let go of the heaviness. There have been so many times along the way where I’ve felt like I was forcing something, forcing myself to write a new blog post every day, to post on social media constantly, to talk about clean eating and slow living.
That was right for me then. It’s not right for me now.
It can be so hard to let go of something that you’ve been pursuing once you start to get that gut feeling, even when it’s something that you’ve built up to a small degree.
I would tell myself, “I’ve been focusing on this for two weeks, I can’t just give it up now.”
The best thing you can do is give it up now because it’s still not feeling right. Don’t waste any more time with things that feel wrong. There’s no point.
Through it all, I've realized that I don’t want to feel that heaviness and I don’t have to.
It’s my choice.
At one point, I asked myself what part of my day made me feel most inspired, most calm in my soul, in my self, and I kept going back to my nighttime routine.
Standing in the mirror, looking at yourself, your makeup is off, you’re in your barest form.
You’re going through the process of massaging different serums, lotions, and oils into your skin. It’s a meditation.
You’re thinking about your routine, but you’re also thinking about your day. You’re thinking about the next day.
You’re processing all that you’ve learned since you last approached the mirror.
When I started thinking about this conversation on purpose journeys, I believed that I understood my purpose.
I wanted to bring the self-care side of skincare to the Midwest in a local way, through the creation of my own products.
Now that I’m articulating how far I’ve come, I think it’s actually deeper than that.
I think that moment is so important, that little routine and the connection with not only your thoughts, but with your body.
I want to help people connect with themselves, mind, body, and soul, through quiet moments of self-reflection and self-care.
It almost feels personal. It’s not something that happens with someone else. Of course, I want to make people feel a certain way, but I think that my purpose can lie even just within me.
By advocating for this practice, I can find peace within myself, and help others find the moments that bring them peace as well.
If this wasn’t an epiphany, I don’t know what is.
When I spoke with Natalie, I knew immediately that her story would be relatable to so many in this community.
We’re all going through an evolution of sorts each and every day, making choices that steer us down one path or another.
I took away so many lessons from my conversation with Natalie, the most impactful of which being that it’s necessary to re-evaluate constantly.
Does this feel right to me, right now?
Could I be doing something different that would feel more right?
These questions can strike fear into the hearts of those of us who like to feel comfortable, to feel like we’ve chosen the right path and that all we need to do is follow it to the end.
It might seem pointless to continuously check ourselves for uncertainty, for chinks in our armor that could reveal that we aren’t as confident in our choices as we thought we were.
However, every trial and error is an opportunity for growth and personal development.
Deciding to start again from square one is not an admission of failure.
As Natalie puts it, “The best thing you can do is give it up now, because it’s still not feeling right.”
Don’t ignore that inner voice, that gut feeling, when it comes calling. Don’t push aside in the hopes that it will just go away.
I can promise you that if you’re questioning the steps you’re taking to achieve your goals and pursue your purpose, that those feelings won’t go away without some serious self-reflection.
My advice if you’re struggling with this step: talk it out.
Whether you choose to confide in a trusted friend, a mentor, or a coach, simply saying your concerns out loud can be helpful in moving forward with clarity.
What questions do you ask yourself when you’re wondering if you’re on the right path?
How does your body feel when you’re confused about your direction?
What holds you back from pivoting on your purpose?