Fixer Upper Star Joanna Gaines Shares the One Thing That Helped her Let Go of Perfectionism and Live a Life of Purpose
The end of last year brought a yearning for healing, for clarity, for steadiness.
Things had gotten blurry. I’d gotten blurry. My 44th birthday was just around the corner, and I was realizing, for the first time, that it meant I was nearly halfway through this life of mine. I looked around at what I’d built with equal parts gratitude and exhaustion.
I love my life, and I love my family—deeply. But some of the ways I’d gotten here, some of the qualities I’d always relied on—like being really productive, superefficient, always running at high capacity—were beginning to turn on me. The last 20 years have been a heck of a ride, but I knew I couldn’t keep going the way I have. My adrenaline was slowing, revealing in its absence insecurities and unhealthy habits from way back when that I’d been moving too fast to deal with.
It’s hard to explain how I was feeling. I was grateful beyond measure, but exhausted. Loved, but feeling unworthy. Full, but running on empty. I started to experience anxiety for the first time in my life. It was taking me longer to be inspired but less time to become tired. And because my world kept me busy, I could still feel the wheels of my life humming.
For a time, I figured the fix had something to do with my schedule or a lack of something—focus, inspiration maybe? So I made space in my calendar to nurture things that filled me up. I took more days off, and I made more meals at home. I got a few facials, took a few naps. I decluttered closets and put away my phone more often. These things helped move the needle, but it wasn’t the turnover I was looking for.
I needed to figure out what, about the way I’d been living, was wearing me out. So I started to write—again.
Journaling is something I’ve tried to do every day for I don’t know how long. Writing is how I can make sense of things—problems, ideas, the world, and my place in it. My journal is where I talk to myself and to God.
After a while, I could sense that I was writing toward something. What, exactly, I wasn’t sure. But there, among the scribbles and notes and my heart poured out, it was starting to read like a story—like my story.
I’m going to try to persuade you to recognize the power of knowing your story and owning it in every way, because, like mine, your story is yours alone. It’s one of a kind. It seems to me that there are very few absolutes in this life; only a handful of things are true to their core. I believe your story is one of them, and there is infinite value in a life that seeks a meaningful story and is willing to be shaped by it.
You can approach telling your story any way you want. The act of writing—pen-and-paper style—brings in a whole other element. It isn’t just words on a page. It requires intention. Every word carries a certain weight—and when strung together, a certain clarity. From my experience, this very deliberate expression brings us closer to how we truly feel. You get to see your inner thoughts appear in front of you—no middleman, no critique. You get to see that what bubbles up from within is worthy.
I don’t throw around the word purpose lightly. I get that it can feel like a heavy notion. I know for me thoughts around “What is my life’s purpose?” have often kept me up at night. Mostly because I worry that if I don’t yet know, somehow I’m already behind—that I’ve already lost time. The idea of purpose also lacks tangibility—a “maybe, someday” revelation you cross your fingers hoping you’ll stumble upon.
But instead of choosing a mindset that makes it all too easy to live for tomorrow, what if the very things you’re meant to breathe life into are closer than you think?
Take your story. What if finding purpose is a matter of reading between the lines? As you jot things down, look closely. What in life thrills you? What lies need to be cut from your daily perspective? To what ideas do your thoughts gravitate? Is there a deep-seated passion that’s waiting to be brought to the surface? Then, it’s simply a matter of bending your life toward that pursuit.
There is purpose to be found in the story you’re living. But there’s no direct path to being truly known if you don’t allow yourself to be fully seen. No facades, no heightened portrayals. This kind of living requires vulnerability. It’s uncomfortable to unearth the parts of your story that bring shame or embarrassment to the surface. But, what if a few moments of painful exposure save you from a lifetime of hiding in halfness? Would it be worth it then?
I think so.
I don’t know about you, but when I look back, I don’t want to see a kind of kaleidoscope life—out of focus and jumbled—where the moments I swore I’d never forget become difficult to discern amid the chaos of thoughts and memories unresolved. I want to live the next season of this beautiful life in focus, and in full pursuit of the life I’m called to.
So join me, with a vulnerable and open heart, as we connect the chapters of our life stories and figure out where we go next, learning to move forward from within. Guard down, light shining. It’s an invitation to a kind of life where you know how to hold what you believe—about yourself and the quiet worlds of the people you pass—with gracious and open hands. To see your story as greater than any past or future thing, but for all the beauty and joy and hope it holds today.
What do you say? What beautiful story is yours to tell?
Taken from The Stories We Tell: Every Piece of Your Story Matters by Joanna Gaines. Copyright © 2022 by Joanna Gaines. Used by permission of Harper Select, a division of HarperCollins Focus, LLC. www.harpercollinsfocus.com
Joanna Gaines is the co-founder of Magnolia, a New York Times bestselling author, editor-in-chief of Magnolia Journal, and creator and co-owner of Magnolia Network. Born in Kansas and raised in the Lone Star State, Jo graduated from Baylor University with a degree in Communications. It was an internship in New York City that prompted her desire to discover how she could create beauty for people. Alongside her passion for design and food, nothing inspires Jo more than time spent at home with Chip and their five kids—whether they're messing with recipes in the kitchen or planting something new in the garden.
Interested in Joanna's Strawberry Pie recipe? Click here.
Question from the Editor: Do you feel inspired to tell your story? How do you think telling it will allow you to be fully seen?