51% of Americans want to figure out their true purpose: An author, entrepreneur, and death doula offer tips

"What do I want? Why am I here? What makes me feel fulfilled and most happy?"


In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many people are reassessing their career paths and priorities. Nearly 73% of Americans interested in starting their own business say they are more passionate than ever about it now, according to a recent survey by the South West News Service. Another poll from the Waking Up app found that as a result of the pandemic, 51% of Americans are now more curious about "figuring out their true purpose in life."

Not everybody has the flexibility or freedom to choose what they do for a living, but for those who can take a step back, getting clarity on a career path that aligns with your values can make those hours at work more meaningful. "We live in a society that constantly tells us what we have to wear and how we have to be and what success means," says lawyer and entrepreneur Hannah Genton. "That stuff is different for every single person."

Here are three ways to find the career that helps you feel fulfilled, according to an artist, an entrepreneur, and a death doula in training who figured it out for themselves.

Ask yourself, 'What do you want?'

Mateo Askaripour had worked in sales at a start-up for years when he realized he was burned out and something wasn't working. Though he initially thought sales was the best way to live out his purpose — which he defines as turning "my ideas into a reality that positively impacts others" — he ultimately realized writing was a better way.

Askaripour quit the start-up, and after the first two book manuscripts he wrote and pitched to potential agents did not work out, his third led to a more-than-six-figure book deal. That manuscript became his debut New York Times bestselling novel, "Black Buck," published in January.

We live in a society that constantly tells us what we have to wear and how we have to be and what success means.
Hannah Genton
Co-founder, CGL

To help home in on the best career path for you, Askaripour recommends you begin by asking yourself some big-picture questions: "What do I want? Why am I here? What makes me feel fulfilled and most happy? What are the steps that I can take in order to get there now that I've answered these questions?"

Be honest with your answers and remind yourself of them periodically to make sure you're still aligned. Know, too, that the answers to these questions might change or evolve over time. The point is to stay attuned to what's most fulfilling to you, Askaripour says.

Use potential end-of-life regrets 'as a lens'

Genton had been working days, nights, and weekends at her law firm when her son was born, and she realized she was missing all of his firsts. Seeking a way to practice law that would give her more time with family, she co-founded CGL, a distributed law firm offering its employees flexibility.

The company has helped her find balance, and she's now also training to be a death doula on the side, a passion project in which she'll help bring people comfort in their final moments of life.

[Ask yourself] what do I want? Why am I here? What makes me feel fulfilled and most happy?
Mateo Askaripour
Bestselling author

Genton's past experiences coping with death have helped guide her in identifying what's important. She suggests using "death as a lens" to figure out if your career is truly where you want to be, or if there is something else that could fulfill you more.

When considering your career path, ask yourself, "What is the deathbed version of me going to say?" she says. Which decision will that version of you most stand behind? "That really helps clarify whether something is meaningful or important to me or not," she says.

Ask yourself 'how much joy' you feel

Jennifer Kem worked her way up the corporate ladder for a decade, believing that's what success meant to her. Eventually, she realized she felt "empty," she says: "I was not living a life based on my values. I was living a life based on other people's values." So she left.

Since then, she's founded both a $10 million underwear store in her then-home state of Hawaii and an eight-figure consulting company called Kemcomm. Today she's leading another venture, the Master Brand institute, a consulting and educational campus for entrepreneurs.

To help figure out if you're in the right career or it's time for a pivot, Kem suggests asking yourself the question: "How much joy am I feeling, really?" That "really" part is key, she says. Be honest with yourself.

While work likely won't be the only thing that brings you joy in life, people who have figured out what work best aligns with who they are can have a higher "joy quotient," she says. They're often more satisfied and content.

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