When I think of Michelle, I think energy – vast, limitless energy. She and my friend Elissa seem to run on sunshine and air, and both of them are constantly moving. It’s inspiring . . . and so it is quite fitting that Michelle should have turned to her current line of work. . . read on to find out her purpose.

How the heck am I supposed to answer that? Let me back track a bit to give evidence as to how unqualified I am to even attempt answering it.

Growing up, I wanted to major in art and journalism and something science/math-related, which my 137 year-old nun guidance counselor said was not the purpose of college. I needed to study something that was going to get me “a good job”. So, I did just that: I studied Mechanical Engineering. It wasn’t my passion but I was interested in it and it guaranteed me “a good job”.

When I graduated, however, I couldn’t find a job. I had moved with my family from NYC to a town in Georgia the size of my living room and had no license to drive myself to civilization – an hour away. I was stuck at home, miserable and trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing with my life.

I finally got a job with a privately owned demolition company only to have my paycheck bounce – twice. Then, I thought I’d give teaching a try. I liked it but never quite got the certification I needed – I took the Praxis four times only to fail it by 1 question…ALL FOUR TIMES. I had always written and spoken on the side and loved it, so I figured I’d try that for a while. I even got a job as a speaker and trainer for a huge corporation, only to get laid off. By the looks of my resume (and my sporadic existence) I am the last person to give any advice on how to find one’s purpose in life…or am I?

Despite my dizzying journey, one thing has remained constant, I kept trying. Discovering your purpose is just as much about figuring out what it isn’t as what it is. It’s about searching, allowing yourself to make mistakes, forgiving yourself, and finding the courage to try again. For me, it was speaking and writing. Throughout my life, whether publically or privately, I have always spoken or written. This is the core of who I am and doing these things is when I feel most like myself rather than a character I must play to appease the masses.

So, I have concluded the following: Your purpose in life is directly connected to your passions in life. I was created with everything I’ll ever need to excellently fulfill my purpose. So, if I want to know what that is, I need to start with what I already have and who I already am. I’ve even created a mantra: Find something you’re passionate about and make somebody pay you to do it. Start with your passions and natural abilities and do whatever it takes to sharpen them – classes, conferences, books, prayer, etc. – then create a space to spend the rest of your life doing it. For me, it’s motivational speaking and writing.

Michelle Ayala-Rivera is a wife, international motivational speaker, and Nuyorican from the Bronx who earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. She is currently the Director of The Sabbath House in Lansdowne, PA, where she lives with her husband, Ariel, and is completing her first bilingual book.

Michelle Ayala-Rivera