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Journey to Wholeness

Finding Jane Goodall


By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.



As Jane Goodall celebrates her 90th Birthday, this amazing woman; world-renowned primatologist, author, and founder of The Jane Goodall Institute, and Roots and Shoots (worldwide organizations dedicated to mobilizing “the power of individual action to save the natural world we all share”), we can hopefully find some inspiration to find the purpose in our lives. To be sure, we are not Jane Goodall but she inspires us to begin or continue this quest.

We know that having a purpose or meaning in what we do is tied to better mental and physical health, longevity, and even financial success. Perhaps you already are living your sense of purpose. Maybe you are looking for it or re-inventing yourself as you move from one stage of life to another. Our purpose often changes over time or takes on a different direction. A younger person’s meaning may be study, friends, or engaging in favorite activities like sports, art, writing, etc. Sometimes education is preparing us for the living of our purpose in a career. Perhaps a parent may focus primarily on parenting until the child or children are older, then finding or redirecting to another primary purpose is important.

Each life stage brings a fresh challenge to discover, re-discover, or create a new sense of purpose. Adolescents might find purpose through life experiences. Maybe a child who experiences racism might become a civil rights advocate. Or a person experiencing an illness, poverty, or other hardships may lead to a life purpose. Think about your early experiences and how they may have contributed positively to your life choices.

My younger brother’s struggles with learning and mental health in the 1950s were part of my desire to help. As a Sister of Charity I was assigned to teach elementary school. After some years of this, I became more and more depressed. I saw a psychologist who suggested that my talents might lie elsewhere and recommended further education and a career change. I was preparing to go to school when I was asked to work full-time taking care of eighteen little boys, 6-10 years of age. I lived with them and was their primary caretaker. All these children had experienced severe trauma. I found myself loving this and, over some time, realized this is what I wanted to do. This became my rationale for moving forward in my life, going to graduate school for Professional Counseling (1971), and beginning my practice as a mental health professional. This is my life purpose for the last fifty-three years!

Again, look at your journey. What experiences, interests, and skills led you to find meaning in a career or life work? Sometimes it is a hardship, experiences life sort of throws at you, sometimes it is self-reflection, or encouragement from others that jumpstarts your purpose.

Jill Suttie in the article, Seven Ways to Find Your Life Purpose, makes these recommendations:

  • Identify the things you care about: think about what you would like to change and concrete steps you might take to contribute in a meaningful way.

  • Reflect on what matters most: Some good values surveys are : The Valued Living Questionnaire, Portrait Values Questionnaire, and Personal Values Questionnaire.

  • Recognize your strengths and talents: What are you good at or enjoy? Get feedback from those who know you. They will see things you do not.

  • Try volunteering: this might help you experience what you like, are good at, or give you a sense of purpose.

  • Imagine your best possible self: Imagine asking yourself at an older age, “What are you doing? What is important to you? What do you really care about, and why?”

  • Cultivate positive emotions like gratitude and awe: As we do this, we have a greater sense of well-being, caring about others, and finding meaning in life, all helping us focus on how we can contribute to the world.

  • Look to the people you admire: Think about people in your life; mentors, friends, colleagues, or public figures, like Jane Goodall, whom you admire.


You may be starting out in your adult journey, or at a juncture of change, needing inspiration and joy in your life in a different direction. Wherever you are in your journey I encourage you to find, invent, discover, or re-discover your purpose, your unique sense of being. Find your inner Jane Goodall and be your True Self in this time of your life.

Jude LaClaire, Ph. D., LCPC is a counselor and educator at the Heartland Holistic Health Center. She is the author of the “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” that teaches creative, effective, holistic problem solving. For counseling appointments, seminars, in-service training or speaker’s bureau, call 816-509-9277 or;

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