Amy Carroll » Do » How to Seek & Find Your Personalized Purpose

How to Seek & Find Your Personalized Purpose

I’ll go first… my personalized purpose often seems elusive. It’s not always obvious, and sometimes it takes some seeking to find it.

I’ve had seasons of life when I felt that I was simply surviving. I was doing well to change the next diaper, show up at work the next day, or give my people breakfast before they headed out the door. Life didn’t seem like it held much purpose. It seemed overrun with duties that became a blur as I accomplished them. Ever been there? I believe that’s normal, and sometimes we miss our purpose because of misconceptions we hold. Before I dive into trying to help to find our personalized purposes, let’s define it first.

Personalized Purpose is NOT

Because the topic of calling or purpose can be confusing, we need to confront the misconceptions first. Personalized purpose is NOT:

(Always) Big– Sometimes our purpose leads to big results, but more often it’s small. It’s quiet. Those blurry days of changing diapers and doling out snacks? Those days were filled with the purposes of mothering and loving well. The early days of teaching that I was so overwhelmed and depressed that I could barely drag myself to work? Those were purpose-filled too as I taught children and handled their little lives with love and respect.

Just last week, my spiritual director reminded me that few of us are Martin Luthers, creating whole movements and shifts toward grace. Most of us find our purpose in the small. In the faithful. In the quiet steps of faith.

For example, my participation in Designed for Joy’s Year of Impact is a big deal for me, but small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. I’m one of 25 women, wrestling our way through some big issues and feeling our smallness.

For the Rest of Your Life– Another misconception that we carry about purpose is that there’s one for our whole life. The older I get, the more I appreciate seasons. My personalized purposes have shifted with the seasons of my life. It’s a beautiful paradigm shift that allows us to grasp the grace of do-overs! As we mature, we watch for God’s hand in the seasons and the change that He often brings as things move.

Personalized Purpose IS

God Given– Anytime I talk about personalized purpose, you can be sure of this one thing. I’m referring to the purposes of God in our lives. Personalized purpose, as I define it, is never a try-harder program. It’s not a recipe for success. It’s not another self-help formula.

Because it’s centered in God and on you, a unique creation of the Father, I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all way to find your purpose. Seeking God is the only way to find our God-given personalized purpose. It’s hard and often painful work. It’s requirements are faith, time, silence, perseverance and patience. But God rewards those who seek Him. That’s a promise! (Hebrews 11:6)

Centered on Others– Please hear me. I believe in personal growth and loving yourself as an act of worship to our Creator (Psalms 139:14) But God also calls us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Personalized purpose is more than finding the next Bible study to attend. It’s more than checking off the giving of your tithe. Those are good things, but personalized purpose requires a de-centering of self and an attention to the needs of others.

Action Oriented– Even though my nickname is “Action Amy” (not a compliment… lol!), this is the hard part for me. There’s a time when we have to stop praying about it, reading about it, studying it, surveying others, etc. We have to act. To do something. My friend Lynn passed on a definition to me that’s really clear:

Personalized Purpose = Kingdom Usefulness

When we know what our purpose is, it’s time to put boots on the ground and start doing God’s work to benefit others. I know it’s hard and scary, but hang with this community. We’re in it together!

Seeking & Finding Your Personalized Purpose

As much as I dearly love a formula, I’m going to resist giving you one. It would only set us all up for failure and disappointment. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of questions to take into God’s presence. Ask Him to sit and think with you, to show you His ways, and to reveal His thoughts. Journal what He reveals in this time. It may take many sittings with God, but the time will be worth it.

  1. What needs are the people around me experiencing?
  2. What suffering is around me that makes my heart squeeze with pain?
  3. Where can I serve that most directly connects my heart with Yours?
  4. What gifts have You given me, Lord, that I can put to work?
  5. What resources have You provided that I can share?

Spending time with God and wrestling through these questions will bring us to our personalized purpose. I believe it’s often right in front of us if we’ll pay attention to the desires/pain God’s planted in our hearts and the gifts we already hold.

Question for You: Did these questions bring you closer to understanding your personalized purpose? What other points of clarity might you need?

Related Resource: I’m still working to embrace the small purposes. (Boy do I dearly love the grand gesture!) Here’s more of my processing in The Power of Downsized Expectations.

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  1. Debbie Glendenning says:

    I just read this message today and it really touched me.

    I am preparing to retire at the end of this year and will be devoting myself to supporting my husband, a pastor, and focusing on serving our members and community.

    Your messages are always so well written and I truly appreciate you sharing your “gift”.

    Keeping you on my prayer list as you continue to serve in such a wonderful way that lifts our hearts and keeps us in the Word.

    God bless you!
    Debbie G.

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Debbie, thank you so much for your kind encouragement! You and your message are fuel for me to keep going today. I’m praying now for your new season!

  2. apolonia capili says:

    Thank you for this wonderful and enlightening message that God sent me thru you Amy. Sometimes I feel lost and confused if I are really placed on a situation which is pleasing to God or it is my own choice. Some questions are still in my mind but with your message, I know God will lead me to accomplish my plans in sharing Good News to the people around me.To God be the Glory

  3. Melany Villate says:

    Siento que mi Padre Amado ? me está respondiendo. Mi propósito. Gracias Amy DTB ??

  4. Thank you for your words. My adult children are 43 and 38. These two have caused me great anguish and one is in prison, one is a homeless alcoholic. They had an abusive Father. I am now re married (9 years) and these two still look to me for pity and help. They both have been helped greatly by me and now I am feeling done with it but they cause me a lot of guilt feelings. I should have left their father much sooner than I did . What is God’s will for me to do with these two? I have searched scripture and I pray about it. Sometimes God tells me to give it to him but does He want me to continue to help them or leave them to what their life decisions have made them? I am so conflicted but if I continue to help them I feel that my marriage will suffer. Any comments truly appreciated. Thank you and God bless.

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Linda, I’m praying with you right now that God will “restore the years the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25) I encourage you to walk by the Spirit and in unity with your husband as you consider when to help your adult children. I’m in the empty nest phase too, and often God has prevented me from stepping in or speaking up. It’s so easy for us as moms to get in the way of what God wants to do, especially when His work is painful in our children’s lives. There’s no formula for when to help or not, but I’m praying that you’re strengthened to respond out of God’s direction instead of guilt. Husbands are such a great help in overcoming mommy-guilt! 🙂

  5. The questions where conformation! Thank you for this.

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      That makes me happy. I see your personalized purpose in everything you do! LOVE.

  6. Brilliant!
    Loved the practicality with the questions to ask ourselves
    Thank you

  7. One of the hardest times God confirmed His purpose for me was when He told to stay. To sit in the very place and ministry I was so tired of and seeking to move on from. Which I did eventually move out of and into a fun and glorious phase of purpose that lasted 5 years. In my new, now season of purpose I’m working hard on our little block of 13 homes supporting 2 overwhelmed elderly neighbor ladies caring for their declining husbands, a soon to be new mom across the street and several newer gals who haven’t gotten to get to know their neighbors yet because they have demanding jobs and young children at home. It’s probably not something I would have picked out of the What do You Want Your Purpose to Be Catalog but it’s where He has placed me and I can see how bruised and welcoming these ladies are for friendship. I do think it’s important though to understand just because you’re studying about Gods direction for your purpose and gettin excited about the possibilities, it may be Gods will for you right now to realize and rest in the knowledge that His purpose may be what He’s already given you to do…for a little longer.

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Oh, wow, Pamela. So well said! I had a job for years that I’d cycle in and out of discontent. Every time I reached max-discontent, I’d ask God to either bring me back into contentment (if not complete happiness!) or show me the next thing. He brought me back several times before He moved me on.

      I LOVE that you’re personalized purpose is investing in your neighbors. How Jesus-like!

  8. Amy – thank you for not giving us a formula, but still providing direction. Our purposes do have seasons. I’m excited about my new season, while at the same time not holding it tightly, but being in a place of flexibility where the Holy Spirit can redirect at His will!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      It’s wonderful to walk this with you, friend. Your no-hustle season is inspiring me to look at my own work prayerfully. I love you!

  9. Thank you, thank you – every word spoke to my heart and what I have been asking myself and God for a long while. This was so helpful and I truly appreciate the breakdown of what it IS and what it is NOT – in my blur of days and too much thinking; I know I confuse the two. Thank you again – this was exactly what I needed.

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Jen, I’m so thankful that we can do this together! After writing last week, I realized that I hadn’t defined personalized purpose well enough for myself. That’s where this blog post came from, so I’m truly learning it in real-time with you. <3

  10. These messages mean so much to me, Amy! I’ve been trying to partner with a woman who is looking to build a ministry to the homeless in my hometown. The population she’s targeting is not an easy reach for most people. Many are still active in their addiction. She has found a faith-based program that’s already been set up by an inner city church, and we are going there on Saturday. Our prayer is we find the niche that’s right for us and fill that need. It could be cooking meals, serving them, managing clothing donations or whatever. Pray for us please! I need strength especially when I get pushback from family who don’t want me “in that neighborhood” helping “druggies”.

    1. Hi Mary, Sometimes those we love and those who love us move at a slower pace to understand us and where God is leading us. We are excited because the Holy Spirit is moving in us and revealing new and fresh things to us. That same revelation may not be happening in them yet. 🙂 We can pray for that revelation and also ask the Holy Spirit to help us be patient
      as we remain in love even as we move into new things God has for us.

    2. Amy Carroll says:

      Mary, I had a similar experience years ago. Before my first trip to India a precious, older believer in my life told me that I didn’t need to go because “those people” don’t want to hear about Jesus. (Sigh) I’m praying for your compassion both for those who you’re serving and those who are pushing against your serving. I believe they have something to learn in this situation too! And I’m totally in love with the fact that you’re going to serve with a group that’s already established. I always think I need to reinvent the wheel, but I’m learning that it’s wisdom to come alongside those who are already effectively doing the work.