6 Keys to Living Your Purpose

Beautiful autumn scene with colorful leaves
Photo by Lucas Calloch on Unsplash

Becoming vegan has been a path of personal transformation for me. When I learned about factory farming and awoke to the immense suffering of farmed animals, I became determined to make changes in my own life to reflect compassion for all sentient beings.  I also wanted to help others move toward and sustain a healthy and compassionate plant-powered lifestyle.

This led to me finding a deeper sense of purpose than I had ever experienced before. I saw that in the choice of what I ate daily, I had power to say No to cruelty and oppression – and “vote” through my choices for a kinder and healthier world.

I also found my Voice. As an introvert, I’ve generally lived a quiet and private life. After becoming vegan a little over 4 years ago, I was trained as a Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator through Main Street Vegan Academy (an educational experience I highly recommend). This gave me confidence to share my vegan values with others. I started a blog and website about 3 years ago and began research for a book on the transformative power of a vegan lifestyle. I now speak and teach about the benefits of compassionate vegan living for our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

It gives such deep meaning and fulfillment to live our purpose. And through each of us living our purpose, we contribute to healing our world.

Living our purpose doesn’t mean we will be happy all the time. When we awaken to suffering and injustice, it can be really painful. And yet, research (and personal experience) shows that making choices that are aligned with our values and being guided by our higher purpose is more fulfilling than simply trying to “feel good” all the time.

Here are some keys to living your purpose in a way that is healthy and impactful.  You may want to have a journal to write in as you reflect on these ideas and questions.

1) Notice – what are your passions, what do you care about deeply, what intrigues you, and what makes you curious?

2) Also notice what makes you angry – what feels unjust or not right? What problems in the world around you are most upsetting to you? Where do you feel most called to make a difference?

3) Make a list of your gifts, abilities, and skills. Think of all the different areas in your life where you have shared your gifts. Ask others for input – they may see gifts that you overlook because they come so naturally.

4) Where is the intersection between your passions, your gifts, and the issues that most concern you? Create a list of ways that your gifts can be applied to help the causes you care about. Write down all the ideas you can think of… and then see where you feel the most energy and excitement. Choose one idea to start, take one step forward – and see where it leads. 

5) Don’t forget your own self-care in the process. When we are empathetic to the suffering of others, we can forget or neglect our own well-being. But to be a sustainable and truly impactful advocate, we must include healthy lifestyle practices, have a good support system, and remember our own limits. We are most effective when we take care of ourselves emotionally and physically.  Consider what daily practices will help you stay healthy and well.

6) It helps to be connected to something larger than yourself – whether that be your love of nature, your deepest values, spiritual faith, and/or sense of connection to a Higher Power.  For me personally, a strong spiritual faith and trusting my inner guidance have been integral to finding and sustaining my purpose.  I also have found that it helps to visualize the compassionate world I hope to see – this helps me to stay connected to my larger vision, even during difficult times. To be even more impactful, connect with others who share your vision – we can accomplish more when we collaborate with others.

The vegans I have met through my research have found countless ways to bring their unique passions and gifts toward their vision and purpose.  This includes: Cooking and sharing great vegan food, working for animal protection organizations, coaching, mentoring, activism, gardening, volunteering, creating vegan businesses, artwork, writing, nutritional guidance, and educating others about the benefits of veganism and plant-based living.

There are many ways we can make a difference. Our individual steps may feel small – but when we work together, we create momentum and synergy.  As each of us shares our individual gifts, we are part of a greater whole.  Together, we can envision and create a more compassionate, healthy, and sustainable world.

Angela Crawford, Ph.D. is a psychologist and transformational coach. She is passionate about empowering people to create healthy, purposeful lives that nurture mind, body, spirit, and the planet. Dr. Crawford is certified as a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator (through MSVA), and has a Plant-Based Nutrition certificate (T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at e-Cornell). She is currently doing research for a book on the psychological and emotional impacts of a vegan lifestyle. She serves as a psychology advisor for WeDIDit.Health, an on-line community that shares the benefits of a plant-powered lifestyle. She is also a supporting psychology expert for Compassion Rising, a compassion-based educational program. She hosts a YouTube channel, The Vegan Transformation. For additional resources to support your veg journey (e.g., books, websites, documentaries), CLICK HERE.

The Healing Power of Vegan Values

Trees in forest, with sunlight streaming through
Photo by Jacek Smoter on Unsplash

Like many of us, I have always loved animals.  As a child, I adored my pet cat, and I had a family of stuffed dogs that I took with me everywhere.  I also didn’t like to see any animal (or insect) suffering – I remember once rescuing a grasshopper that was floating in the lake where I was swimming.  I let it jump onto my raft and brought it back to shore.

Even though I loved animals, I was raised to believe that meat and dairy were necessary for my health and well-being.  I enjoyed the meals my mother cooked, which generally involved some sort of meat, potatoes, and vegetables in a cheese or butter sauce.

I had little awareness of the animals who were bred, raised, and killed to be part of my daily meals.  Growing up in Midwestern farm country, I only saw the cows grazing in the fields.  I never saw the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – aka factory farms – that were kept out of sight.

In fact, I rarely thought about the fact that meat comes from animals.  If this thought did cross my mind, it was fleeting.  I did not see any other option.  I had no idea what to eat if I stopped consuming meat or dairy.  I was not the healthiest eater – often choosing what was convenient, easy, and comforting – fast food, microwave meals, chips, and sweets.

It wasn’t until I was 40 that I had my awakening. I saw a program about meat processing plants that shifted my awareness of the whole animal agriculture process – and I realized I did not want to participate in this anymore.

It was freeing – an epiphany that allowed me to live by values that I had long held.  I was able to embrace my compassion.  I no longer had to turn away from the truth about animal suffering – so that I could have a hamburger or fried chicken.

And far from being depriving as I had feared, a whole world of abundance opened for me.  The very next day after watching that program, I tried out a recipe for roasted red pepper and artichoke lasagna. It was delicious, full of vibrant colors and sumptuous flavors.  Wow, who knew I could cook?

I began trying spices, ingredients, and condiments I had never used before.  I expanded my food palette and found new freedom, joy, and creativity.

When I stopped eating animals and embraced the bounty of the plant kingdom, I became freed in ways I hadn’t anticipated. 

I was freed from past food preferences, habits, and addictions that weren’t healthy for me. 

I was freed from an inner weight I hadn’t known I was carrying. 

I was freed to find my voice and a deeper sense of purpose.

In more fully living my values of compassion, peace, health, wellness, and sustainability, I become more authentically me.

The peace and freedom that I found through living my vegan values is shared by many other vegans.  In fact, in my book research on the transformative impact of a vegan lifestyle, the number one positive impact reported by survey respondents is “being true to inner convictions and values.”

My research participants reported a cascade of positive outcomes from aligning daily choices with vegan values: 

  • Greater peace
  • Confidence
  • Integrity
  • Happiness
  • Purpose and meaning
  • Satisfaction
  • Harmony
  • Contributing to something greater
  • Doing the least harm
  • Freedom from inner conflict

Far from being limiting, restricting, or depriving, becoming vegan often brings a surprising sense of empowerment, fulfillment, and freedom…and the hope that we can unite our common values to create a healthier and more compassionate world.

May you enjoy the peace of embodying the values you hold most dear.  And in honoring our shared values, may we create a world of greater health, compassion, sustainability, and flourishing for all.

Note: This article has also been featured in New Mexico Vegan Magazine, January 2023.

For more on my vegan journey, check out my earlier article: How Veganism Inspired Me to Find My Voice.

The research referenced in this article is based on my book research on the emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual impacts of a vegan lifestyle.

Angela Crawford, Ph.D. is a psychologist and transformational coach. She is passionate about empowering people to create healthy lives that nurture mind, body, spirit, and planet. Dr. Crawford is certified as a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, and has a Plant-Based Nutrition certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at e-Cornell. She is currently doing research for a book on the psychological and emotional benefits of a vegan lifestyle. She serves as a psychology advisor for WeDidIt.Health, an on-line community that shares the benefits of a plant-powered lifestyle.