As I was driving down the road with my 16 year old son I noticed him more glum than usual.

"What's up?" I ventured.

"I just don't know what to do with my life," he replied. "I don't know what I could possibly do to make a living that I would be good at."

" You'll spend most of your adult life at work," I advised, "so do something you love."

"I don't know what that is. I don't know what I like to do that I could make a living at."

"Well, what I notice is that many times when I come home from work thinking I have groceries I find them missing because you've been cooking for your friends. Every after school job you've had has been in a restaurant and you talked the manager into promoting you from busboy to line cook and you've done really well. Do you think you'd like to be cook?" He brightened and turned to me with an actual smile. "No," he said. "Not a cook. I want to be a chef!"

This boy, who had been a rather bored, lackadaisical high school student went on to culinary school and was one of the top students. He received accolades from his instructors, his original dishes always sold out and he even got excited about the papers he had to write. When you are passionate about what you do, everything changes.

Studies by the research company Harris Interactive have shown that 80% of working Americans don’t enjoy what they do for a living. The highest incidents of heart attacks and suicides are on Monday mornings. Clearly something is missing in the lives of most people.

We all come into this life with a purpose. Each of us has a unique contribution to give to the world and that gift will always be in the form of something we love to do. If you are spending your days out of touch with what you feel most passionate about because you think that's the only way to make a living, you will feel it as stress, boredom, false fatigue, poor health and a general state of unhappiness. How successful do you think you will be under those conditions? Who would you rather do business with or have as an employee--someone who is charged up with enthusiasm for what they are doing or someone who is forcing him or herself through each day?

When you are engaged in work that you are passionate about you are fulfilled. You feel a sense of aliveness, vitality and joy. Your actions come from a sense of inspiration. Many people limit themselves because they don't believe they can make a living from doing what they are naturally drawn to, they feel afraid, they think they lack the necessary skills or they are under pressure from family to take a certain path in life. This is your life and no one else can live it for you. Not only are you healthier and more fulfilled by following your passions, you are actually more attractive to abundance and success. Think of Oprah Winfrey, for example. Her passion was talking to people and look what she did with that!

The first step toward moving in the direction of a purposeful life is to get very clear on what your top passions are. The things that "fire you up" are your clues to your highest purpose and life's work. Think of how you feel as you are preparing to go on vacation. Now think of how you feel as you get up to go to work. Wouldn't it be nice if you felt the same excitement for both?

The answer for my son was right in front of him but he couldn't see it because he wasn't asking the right question. He was trying to figure out what a good job would be that would pay the bills and he might be able to do reasonably well. He wasn't asking himself what it was he really loved. What did he enjoy spending time doing? What fulfilled him? Our highest purpose is not about figuring out what the world needs. It's about what has meaning and is fulfilling for each of us. Sometimes we just need a little help to see what is already within us.

Here is an exercise to help you get started.

Find a quiet place and time when you will not be disturbed. Imagine your life as if you were already living it joyfully and abundantly. Let your imagination flow freely, with no restrictions. Don't judge your answers or limit yourself in any way. This is just you and your imagination. Allow yourself to drill down until you find the things that light the spark for you!

On a sheet of paper answer these questions:

1. What kinds of activities am I engaged in and what skills am I using? Think of anything you enjoy as hobbies or volunteer work such as traveling, gardening, painting, writing, cooking, organizing, being with children, singing, meditating, counseling, working with machines, numbers, exercising, surfing, reading, teaching, woodworking….and so on. Think of things that have always come easily or naturally for you and hold nothing back.

2. Where do you like to spend your time? Are you inside or outside? Do you work from home or in an office? Do you travel for work?

3. Who are you with? Do you prefer to work alone or with others in a team? If you are with others, what kind of temperament do they have?

4. Do you have your own business or work for someone else? If you have a boss, what is his or her management style?

5. How much time do you devote to money making activities and how much time do you have for family and self-renewal?

6. Are there classes you need to take or people already successful in your area of interest that would be willing to mentor you?

7. Ask yourself: Who do I want to be? What kind of person am I and what do I most value?

Now, using the answers from above, imagine your life ten years from today. Imagine you have followed your passions, no matter what obstacles or fears may have appeared to pull you off course. Write a story of your life including all the juicy details and feelings you have as you look back to see all you have accomplished and the person you have become. By always choosing in favor of your passions opportunities have opened up for you in ways you could not have imagined!

Now, write another story, where you allowed fear, excuses or well-meaning family or friends to hold you back. How does that life look and feel?

When you step back from your purpose you not only deny yourself your most joyful life, you deny the world your unique gift. Your purpose could be baking the most delicious cupcakes or making scientific discoveries. All that matters is that it has meaning for you.

Author's Bio: 

Estra Roell is known as America's Life Purpose Coach. She is a certified Law of Attraction Life Coach and a Psych-K facilitator. She helps clients get in touch with their highest passions and purpose and assists them to create their vision, shift limiting beliefs that may be holding them back and take the action steps to move into a life of meaning, joy and abundance. Estra has been a featured guest on radio shows and is the co-host of her own internet radio show, Coach Cafe, on Blogtalk Radio. Please visit her website at to receive her free report on "Six Essential Steps to Discovering Your Life's Work" and to subscribe to her free monthly newsletter.