What is your life purpose?
It’s a very subjective question and (much to the chagrin of my old man and other baby-boomers) becoming a core concern for a lot of us, now that we have the relative luxury of building passion/purpose careers.
But the exploration can get a little uptight, so here is a compilation of some mind-expanding wisdom that will help you to put the playful back into purpose.
1. ‘Part of life’s purpose is just to be fully alive’ – Brendon Burchard, Author and motivational speaker
Burchard, who is purpose personified, says that the “piano of purpose never falls on top of your head. It’s more self-defined then discovered.”
And we define it using the three hints that are right in front of us every single day:
1. We are alive! – And thinking about what animates you the most as a human being is a big pointer towards purpose.
2. We are all unique – So the question becomes, am I living my life uniquely? Are my expressions authentic? If not, what actions can I take so that it would be more so.
3. We all share similarities. For a lot of us, our overriding purpose is the same – love! Love is a purpose of itself. Are we really connecting with people we love and adore?
He adds: “Vision is what gives us intentionality to live our days. We all need something compelling for the image of ourselves. We have a unique capability for self-direction but that ability comes with responsibility, because when we aren’t directing ourselves, that’s when we feel the most lost.”
So what vision do you have for yourself, at your highest possible expression?
That’s an image to hold onto.
2. ‘Ask yourself: what’s your flavour of shit sandwich?’ – Mark Manson, Author
You can always rely on Mr Manson to keep it real. Unconventionally, his perspective on purpose is this:
“Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.”
Manson suggests a total of seven questions to help you to uncover purpose.
3. ‘It’s not about the purpose, it’s about who you are being when you live it’ – Tony Robbins, life success coach
Another living embodiment of passion-fueled purpose, Tony Robbins says that in a world that is changing rapidly, there needs to be something that you come back to and that guides you. That thing is self-defined purpose.
The important thing about a purpose is what we become in the process of working towards it. Some other wisdom offered by Robbins:
- What makes a compelling future for you? Sometimes, living a life of significance is simply loving people.
- It may be that you are living out your purpose right now and you are not appreciating you purpose.
- What did you want to be growing up? What was it about that thing? Are you doing that now? Did you, in fact, find a different route to the same feeling?
4. ‘Identify your category or worthy goal’ – Deepak Chopra, Author
World renowned author and wellbeing advocate Dr Chopra says the key to finding a goal to sustain us for a long time is self-awareness – knowing what we enjoy doing. In India, the one pursuit that will allow you to thrive in life is your Dharma. Chopra recommends breaking this down into ‘worthy goal’. You can select from possibilities, for example:
- Love and compassion for all.
- Improving knowledge and education about something.
- Protecting the weak and dispossessed.
- Being in service without judgment.
Once you think about the goal, ask yourself seven questions:
- Am I already living out my goal, even if it only occupies part of my time?
- Is this activity really enjoyable to me?
- Does it come easily and naturally?
- Am I in the right situation to keep pursuing my goal?
- Does it energize me rather than take away my energy?
- Does it make me feel more like the person I want to be?
- Do I have the sense that the activity is allowing me to grow?
5. ‘Find where your abilities and personal drive intersect the needs of others’ – Jeff Goins, Author
The author of the The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do suggests being informed by your past accomplishments/failures, recognizing life’s ‘teachers’ and being willing to grind it out.
The key is finding where your abilities and personal drive intersect the needs of others. According to Goins you can find that juncture by answering the following three questions: what do I love; what am I good at; and what does the world need?
6. ‘Recognize other people’s purposes’ – Viktor Frankl, Author
Viktor Frankl wrote probably the world’s most important book on finding meaning in life. In this talk, he explains how if we relate to our fellow man as the highest version of themselves (or at peak potential), then we will elicit that from them and make them what they are capable of.
Therefore, if we want to realize our own potential, recognizing other people’s (looking out for it in what they say and do) is a good place to start.
7. ‘Realize that you can’t get off purpose’ – Mike Dooley, Author
A little counter-intuitive, but when you’re experiencing what you don’t want in a job, or when you’re ‘selling out’, then that too helps you to know purpose.
Dooley also says we need to acknowledge that our unique talents and gifts (our superpowers!) aren’t going away, and to remind ourselves that each day that we ‘follow our bliss’ in some small way, we get closer to figuring things out.
8. ‘Watch what others are doing, work out what inspires you about it’ – Jim Carry, Actor
In possibly the most inspiring Stanford address ever, Carry explains how he connected with purpose by watching his father.
“I watched the affect my father’s love and humor had on the world around me, and I thought, ‘That’s something to do, that’s something worth my time.'” He adds “the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.”
9. ‘Get outside of your bubble’ – Leo Babauta, Founder of Zen Habits
The awesome Leo has this off-key advice – getting ‘off it’ to help you find stuff that matters. He says once we get out of our inward facing bubbles, we begin to concern ourselves with how we can contribute to others. And that’s when purpose becomes clear.
“What career you choose is not important — what matters is the bigger purpose. You can always change your career and learn new skills later, as you learn other ways to fulfill this purpose. You’ll learn over time. What matters is becoming bigger than yourself. Once you do, you learn that you have a purpose in life.”
10. ‘Trust that the dots will connect’ – Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple
You’re probably aware of the inspiring story of how college drop-out Steve nurtured a passion he had for calligraphy…which later led to Apple.
The late and great Steve once said: “You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
11. ‘Don’t put your purpose under pressure’ – Elizabeth Gilbert, Author
Ok admittedly Liz has made money from her passion. But that wasn’t always the case. In her fantastic book Creative Living Beyond Fear, the writer of Eat Pray Love says don’t expect your career to pay for your passion. She recommends nurturing and growing your creativity or your art by supporting yourself with a day job.
12. ‘Ask these five questions’ – Adam Leipzig, Director
Director Adam says the unexamined life is not worth living; but if all you’re doing is examining, you’re not living. He suggests asking these five questions to help you connect with purpose.
- Who are you?
- What do you love to do? Write, cook, design, crunch numbers, teach? What is the one thing you feel supremely qualified to teach others?
- Who do you do it for?
- What do they want or need?
- How do they change as a result of what you give them?
13. ‘Uncover purpose one life area at a time’ – Matthew B James, Author
“Start with one area,” says author Matthew. “Maybe it’s health and fitness. Maybe it’s relationships. Start with just one facet of your life. On a piece of paper, write down what that area is. Next, fill out the entire page (or more if you need it) describing what fulfillment in that area looks like for you. This is your definition, not your parents’ or society’s definition. Don’t edit yourself. Instead, just keep writing until you feel complete.
“Next, ask the question, ‘Why?’ Why does this represent fulfillment or happiness to you? Keep asking ‘why’ until your gut instinct tells you that you’ve landed on the truest answer.
“Run this exercise through all the areas of your life: career, health and fitness, relationships, spirituality, family, and personal growth. As you do so, you’ll start to find a pattern or theme that will lead you to a sense of your overall purpose.”
14. ‘Visualize your eulogy’ – Michael Gerber, Author
Author Michael Gerber recommends you imagine your funeral and asking what you want your eulogy to consist of, your lifetime achievements to be, the difference you made. How many of these are you doing right now?
15. ‘Create a mission statement’ – Stephen Covey, Author
The author of 7 Habits of High Effective People wrote that writing or reviewing a mission statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply, carefully, and to align your behaviour with your beliefs.
A personal mission consists of three parts:
- What do I want to do?
- Who do I want to help?What is the result? What value will I create?
16. ‘Connect with your vision of your ideal self’ – Steven Pressfield, Author
The author of the War of Art wrote: “We have an ideal Self in our imaginations … This Self is a New York Times bestselling author. This Self stopped a bar fight with a witty joke.” That’s his. What does your ideal self get up to?
We can use that vision to appreciate how we already embody those qualities, or to connect us with what we could be doing to be living them.
17. It’s ok to have a ‘day job’, you may need to ‘get out of your own way’ to know purpose, and notice when people tell you you are good at something – Quora contributors (various)
1. “A few people can align their careers with their passions. They are very lucky. Many of us can’t do that, which isn’t the end of the world. The trick, then, is to do whatever you have to do to (a) make money doing something you don’t hate, and (b) figure out a way to let your career support your passion. (This is what many people call ‘having a day job.’)”
2. “Your life purpose should be right in front of your nose.
There may be some beliefs -maybe unconscious- blocking your own way of perceiving it, such as:
– this [what I like] is not supposed to be a valid life purpose
– this won’t make me money
– this is not like other’s life purpose
– this is not productive or constructive to society.”
3. “Maintain awareness for things you do that makes time fly.
Think about activities that you love to do, that you would pay to do.
Take note of your unique skills and characteristics. Be mindful of things you do that make a lot of people say ‘You’re really good at that.’
Your purpose lies somewhere in the middle of those things.”
18. ‘Let go of the idea of there being ‘one’ thing’ – Shannon Kaiser, Author
Shannon suggests letting go of thinking there is only one purpose for you, and instead embracing the idea that our purpose in life is to live life fully.
“The notion that we have only one thing we are meant for limits us from fulfilling our greatness. Take me for example; I have six different job titles. I’m a life coach, travel writer, author, speaker, teacher, mentor, designer, and each thing I do brings me joy, but none of these are my purpose, they are my passions. So start getting in touch with your passions! When you lead a passionate life you are living your life on purpose.”
19. ‘Find something to contribute, instead of a way to spend time’ – Joe Rogan, Comedian
In this powerful interview, Rogan says don’t be part of a heartless shitty machine that makes money – find a unique way to contribute, that resonates with you. Once Rogan found what he wanted to do (make people laugh), he was ‘a hundred percent sure’ he was doing that for the rest of his life.
20. ‘Seek out your resistance’ – Seth Godin, writer
In his awesome book, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly, Godin states that: “The resistance (to your chosen ‘art’) is a symptom that you’re on the right track. The resistance is not something to be avoided; it’s something to seek out.”
‘Go to the places that scare you’ – me 🙂
Here’s a bonus perspective from yours truly.
If I was to give one piece of advice on finding purpose, it’s this:
Move towards the things about yourself you hide or that you’ve been avoiding.
You will uncover treasures there that will fuel your personality strengths. For a fuller guide to finding passion and purpose, and how I found my way to those things, read this.
My friend Nish says the purpose of life is to be happy. I agree.
But I would add that the secret to happiness is using your strengths in the service of others. And to do that requires a sense of your own uniqueness and purpose.