4 Ways to Move Forward with Purpose
By Carina Alanson, Crosswalk.com
As Christians, we know God has created each of us for a unique purpose (Ephesians 2:10), and I think most of us want to do our best to fulfill our purpose. But you might be wondering, How exactly do I figure out what my purpose is?
Something I’ve found hugely helpful in my own journey is the realization that my personality, interests, gifts, and dreams are clues to what God has created me to do. In my 20s, I understood this concept to some degree—I knew that my gifts could help me discern the good work God has for me. Yet, despite knowing this, there was a lot about myself that I essentially deemed arbitrary and unimportant.
But eventually, God revealed that the very traits I’d once considered superfluous—my love of art, beauty, reading, and writing, to name a few—were actually the raw materials through which He wanted to work through me to reveal His love to the world around me.
Once I understood this, I had a second epiphany: because God had planted the seeds of my purpose within me, I could live with purpose no matter my life situation or physical location simply by sharing what God had put in me wherever I found myself. For example, one area I’m gifted in and passionate about is writing, and I know that part of my purpose is to encourage others through words. I also believe that God has called me to write books, but I don’t have to wait until I publish a book to encourage people through written words. I can share this part of myself now by doing things such as writing blog posts, letters, or encouraging texts even as I work toward bigger goals (such as writing a book) because the big goals are just variations of the underlying themes God has put inside me.
In other words, I realized our purpose isn’t confined to one big thing we’re supposed to do—rather, it’s something God has woven into our very being and, therefore, can be integrated into our daily lives in some form or another.
If you’re not sure what your personal purpose is, taking stock of the unique traits and treasures God has given you can provide insight into how He might be calling you to shine His light to those around you. To help jump-start your self-exploration process, I want to share four free assessments with you that I have found helpful and I think you’ll find helpful too.
1. The 16 Personalities Personality Test
Do you feel recharged when you spend quiet time on your own or when you spend time with other people?
Do you prefer to plan ahead, or do you love being spontaneous?
Do you base your decisions primarily on logic or what feels right?
The answers to these questions reveal a lot about your personality—your characteristic way of interacting with the world—and understanding your personality can help you know how to best steward your mind and body, communicate more clearly with others, and see the value in traits you might otherwise ignore or view negatively. Additionally, the more we understand who we are and how we operate, the more we come to understand the unique contexts and communities in which we best fit and where God may be calling us to make an impact.
There are a lot of great personality tests out there, but I like the 16 Personalities test. (For those familiar with the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, this test is similar.) After guiding you through a series of questions, the test generates a report that identifies your personality type and explains your type’s strengths and weaknesses, typical workplace habits, and general ways of operating within romantic relationships, friendships, and as a parent. You can take the test here.
2. The VIA Character Strengths Survey
According to the Via Character Strengths website, character strengths “are the positive parts of your personality that make you feel authentic and engaged,” and the VIA Character Strengths Survey measures 24 such strengths, including bravery, courage, curiosity, gratitude, love of learning, honesty, hope, and more. After guiding you through a series of questions, the survey generates a report that ranks your strengths from greatest to least and then provides a brief description of each strength.
I first took this assessment when I was an undergraduate studying psychology, and it proved helpful in identifying a strength I didn’t realize I had: Appreciation of Beauty. Seeing this listed as one of my top strengths was a surprise because while I have always enjoyed art, nature, and beauty, it had never occurred to me that the ability to appreciate these things was actually a strong point. But having it presented as a strength shifted my mindset. And, even though it was many years before I finally began to understand my calling as a writer and artist, God used that survey to start communicating to me about the value of art and beauty and how the appreciation of art and beauty was not an irrelevant character trait but an important part of who I am. If you want to explore your top character strengths, you can take the survey here.
3. CareerExplorer by Sokanu
Billed as “the most comprehensive career, interest, personality, and preference assessment ever built,” the CareerExplorer provides a TON of information, including your best career matches, your best degree matches, your personality traits, and how they impact your ways of thinking, ways of interacting with others, and your work preferences. The website also has a job search service where you can search for and find actual jobs. Even if you’re not searching for a new career, this assessment can help you learn a lot about yourself, and if you want to take just one assessment, it’s a great all-in-one option. You can find this assessment here.
4. LifeWay Spiritual Gifts Survey
The Bible tells us that every single believer has at least one spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12), and we may have more than one. If you’re not sure what yours are, a spiritual gifts survey is a good place to start.
There are many great options online, but one of my favorites is the LifeWay Spiritual Gifts Survey. It assesses 16 spiritual gifts and ranks them according to which seems to be your strongest. You can find the survey here.
One thing to be aware of as you explore your spiritual gifts: there are many ways spiritual gifts can be expressed, both inside and outside the church. For example, someone who has the gift of teaching has a gift for conveying information and helping others understand processes or concepts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are meant to hold a traditional teaching job, such as a school teacher or Sunday school leader.
Rather, a person with the gift of teaching can teach in many ways: they may teach their children about nature while on a walk. They might lead a Bible study or write how-to articles. They might teach a class on how to bake bread. They might enjoy inviting friends over and showing them how to knit. It’s generally best to take a broad view when considering what your gifts are and how you might apply them, so lay aside any assumptions about how any given gift should look and trust God to reveal how He’s gifted you and the unique ways He wants you to express your gifts.
As you work your way through these assessments, I encourage you to have a conversation with God about what you learn. Ask Him questions like: “God, why did you give me these particular personality traits, strengths, and gifts? What do they reveal about Who You are? How do You want me to share what You’ve put in me with those around me?” God has deposited precious treasure within you, and you can trust Him to help you understand what He’s given you and to inspire you with creative ideas on how to share it with others.
Whether you utilize just one of these assessments or all four of them, I pray that the insights you gain will bring clarity and joy as you seek to understand and walk out your personal purpose and callings!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/YakobchukOlena
Carina Alanson is a former professional counselor turned writer and artist who is passionate about helping women live with purpose and grow in their relationship with God. She lives in the subarctic town of Fairbanks, Alaska, where she enjoys going on scenic drives with her husband, skiing, snowshoeing, and reading by the fire. Visit carinaalanson.com to connect with Carina and get her free journaling workbook, How Do I Know if a Desire is From God? 5 Questions to Help You Decide, plus other resources for purposeful living. You can also connect with her on Instagram @carinaalanson and on Facebook @carinaalanson.