Let’s talk about purpose. This is a long article, but that’s just because this is such an important topic. If you have time to watch TV shows and play video games, please give yourself the time to read this article (or watch the video below) and zero in on your life’s purpose. It’s absolutely vital to living a good, fulfilling life and being happy.
In part 1 I’ll get into what purpose is and what it’s not, why it’s important, and how to get clear on what your purpose is.
In part 2, I’ll go further and discuss how to execute your purpose and mission.
Finding Your Purpose – Overview
We live in a time when we are becoming more and more isolated in our own little worlds and many of us are feeling a lack of connection and meaning in our lives. When we feel a lack of meaning, we may begin to feel alone and feel like something is missing from our lives. Like there should be something more to life.. that missing thing is your PURPOSE!
Purpose is a major driving force in life. It’s not just a nice to have. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s a necessity. It’s fuel for the soul. Without it, you’re floating through life with no clear path or destination,.. you’re lost. Just look at the people around you and it’s easy to see that many people are lost, have no direction in life, and are not connected to anything greater than themselves. It’s evident everywhere these days – you only have to look.
When people feel like they have no purpose, or sense of direction in life, it’s because they haven’t identified their values and what is important to them. When you don’t know what your values are, you will eventually become unhappy because you’re taking on others’ values instead of your own.
Many of us know this feeling.. we work the 9-5, living someone else’s priorities and not really loving our job. We are just making money to pay the bills so that we can keep on working to pay the bills.. it can be a ridiculous cycle of not getting anywhere.. not feeling satisfied.. and not really getting what we should out of life. Most of us have been there.
There are over 7 billion of us and I truly believe that each of us are born with a life purpose. So, ask yourself, what is my purpose? What do I want to do with my life? What do I value and what’s truly important to me? Like I said, if you have time to sit around and watch TV, videos, and play games, then you have time to sit down and seriously examine these questions deeply.
You need to get clear on what it is you really want, otherwise you’ll never ever get there. You deserve to do this for yourself, for your family, and for anyone else in your life. I mean, would you rather wander aimlessly through life or live a life that revolves around purpose, meaning, and what you really want?
Identifying, recognizing, and honoring your purpose is possibly the most significant action successful, happy people take. They take the time to understand what they’re here to do and then they pursue that with passion, enthusiasm, and a love for life.
Now, bear in mind that it can take some time to figure out your life purpose, especially in a world overpowered by materialism and consumerism. Our priorities and what we think we want have definitely been skewed by society’s view of what happiness and success are… so be aware of that. We will get to some more specific questions that will help pinpoint your purpose in life later in this article, but first let me hit on a couple key points about purpose.
Purpose in Life – Materialism
As I alluded to earlier, purpose isn’t about money and fame. It’s about self-actualization, community, and being part something bigger. Self-actualization is the fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities. It is about becoming the greatest version of yourself. It’s intrinsic in nature. Your purpose shouldn’t be about money, fame, wealth, and so on. It’s not about extrinsic things.
As you grow older, or as you go up in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you start to realize that all that material crap doesn’t matter. I get it, when you’re broke, you feel like, oh man, if I just had this or that, I would be happy. I would feel better about my life and myself. If I could just have that thing or get out of debt, I’d be set! I get it, I’ve been there and know exactly how that feels, but the truth is, we’ve all been brainwashed by society and slick advertisers. We don’t actually need all that crap to be happy! Many people will tell you the same thing – money and stuff really doesn’t make you happy. It just doesn’t. Even Ray Dalio, who is worth over 17 billion dollars, says that money isn’t the secret to happiness.
For many of us, that can be very hard to hear and accept because money is such a struggle at times. Some of you will want to call Bull shit when rich people say that money isn’t important. Sure, money is important up to a certain extent – you need it to cover the basic necessities (shelter, food, etc.), but at a certain point, money doesn’t help you grow. It doesn’t help you in reaching your greatest potential. That comes from within. As you go up in the hierarchy and get those basic needs met, you finally realize that doing the best you can, striving for your potential, and focusing on personal growth is at the pinnacle.
What really matters are your friends, family, relationships, your memories, meaningful work, and your experiences..
As Ray Dalio stated,
Meaningful work and meaningful relationships were and still are my primary goals and everything I did was for them… making money was an incidental consequence of that.
The sensation of happiness and pleasure you get from “stuff” is fleeting.. it’s not real happiness.
If I still haven’t won you over to this way of thinking, try this thought experiment. Pretend you’re on your deathbed… think back over your life.. What do you remember? What was important? What would you wish you did differently? What are your fondest memories? It’s not you getting that new car or phone. It’s not things. It’s other people and experiences. That’s what actually matters.
So, again, your purpose is about self-actualization, community, and being part something bigger. It should be tied to altruism, making others’ lives better, and helping them in some way.
As Einstein said,
Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.
And he didn’t mean sacrificing yourself and burning yourself out for the sake of others. He meant doing something that you love that also benefits other people at the same time. It should involve other people and the community… not just your own selfish desires. A selfish life is a lonely and unhappy life.
Purpose in Life – Keep it Simple
Your purpose doesn’t have to be this big intimidating thing (that’s what it can feel like sometimes). Your purpose is simple – connect to the highest within yourself. Plug it into the highest version of yourself or god, or the universe or whatever you want to call it. It’s feeling alive and passionate and excited to live life. It’s being plugged into something bigger. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as Oprah’s purpose statement:
To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be
Or Amy Ziari’s:
To live life with integrity and empathy, and be a positive force in the lives of others.
Now, with that said, you may only have this one purpose, but you will have several missions in life and these will change over time as you grow and develop. That’s normal. Your mission today will be different from your mission in 1, 5, or 10 years. A lot of us struggle because we are trying to find that ONE thing we are here to do. Saying we only have this one thing is limiting us. There isn’t just one thing for us to do, there are many missions and passions for us to follow.
Start getting in touch with your passions and start doing those things. Go with your gut and trust your intuition. Once you are living a life of passion and taking daily action, you will be living a life of purpose. More to come on that in the next article – how to execute your life purpose.
You deserve to find your purpose. You owe it to yourself and everyone else to find it. It is well worth your time and effort so that you can create the life that you want. Your purpose is something you need to get clear on and you need to get clear on it now. Right now. Don’t put it off any longer. Just do it!
How to Find Your Purpose – Questions
With that said, lets finally talk about how to actually find it. This is the fun part. Get out a note book and start jotting these questions down! The purpose question can take some time and reflection to get clear on, so ask yourself these questions now and throughout the next few days.
1- What makes you completely lose track of time? What makes you forget to eat?
2 – When you’re in the zone doing something you love, you will be so lost in it, you will forget everything else. That’s when you know you’re in the state of flow.
3 – What makes your heart race? What energizes you? What inspires you?
Your answers to these should shed some light on what you’re passionate about and what you have enthusiasm for.
4 – What are your values and what’s really important to you?
5 – What can you do with your time that is important? We have a finite amount of time, so we need to get clear on what matters to us and what we should actually be spending our time on.
6 – If you had unlimited money, let’s say 10 billion dollars, what would you do with your life? If money were truly no object, how would you spend your free time?
Warning.. Big tangent coming!
If you had unlimited money, I think we would all go on vacation for a while, but really think that scenario through. That would get old eventually. You would feel like you want to contribute somehow. You would want to help solve problems, help your family and friends, or make the world better somehow. We all have that drive deep down inside of us, because we are not separate from the rest of the world. We are an integral part of it.
We don’t always see that though because that deep drive to contribute is just buried under a little bit of selfishness. Many of us have this fantasy vacation/retirement mindset. If I can just get to this level then I never have to work again and I can do nothing. YAY! But if you really think this scenario through, you would actually get very bored with that life.
Having no fulfillment in life would be an extremely lame life. We shouldn’t be working just to go on vacation or working our whole life just to save up for retirement. We need to break out of that mind-set. We need to find a way to make your passions a lifestyle – find a way to make a living doing what you love!
If you think life is just about making it to retirement so you can do nothing, then you’re missing the whole point of life. The idea of retirement hasn’t even been around for that long – in 1889, German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck invented it! Retirement is no good, it even increases your risk of depression by 40%. That study can be found here.
When you stop pursuing a purpose, when you stop finding a reason to wake up in the morning, you die! You die mentally, spiritually, and physically. Without purpose we are just wasting oxygen. If we aren’t contributing, then we are a waste – we are just sucking up resources. And we all know what happens to wasteful things in nature.
You may think that you are this little me, by myself, alone in the world, but you’re not. You are a part of something so much bigger. If you’re contributing to society somehow, then you will feel good, you will feel like you’re making a difference. Think about yourself as part of a larger system. You would not be happy just living a life of being on vacation all the time. You would eventually look for purpose and meaning in your life.
Alright, a bit of a rant, I know. Here are some more questions to consider:
7 – If you were going to die soon, what would you do for the remainder of your days?
8 – What does your ideal day look like? Literally write down what your ideal day looks like. Write down how you want your life to be. If you don’t define it, it will never happen. You have to begin with the end in mind.
9 – Have you accomplished all you thought you would by now? Are you where you want to be? Be honest with yourself. What’s missing?
10 – What did you want to do as a kid?
11 – What do you want to do on Saturday morning?
12 – What do you spend money to do? What hobbies do you enjoy?
13 – Follow your hobbies and find a way to make a living from it. How does that quote go? “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Plenty of people live their life this way and you can too!
14 – Pay attention to how you respond to things throughout the day.. What makes you light up? What makes you excited? What do you stay up late at night reading and researching? Find a way to engage with these activities more often. Also, start journaling so you can document the things that inspire you and then look for a pattern.
15 – What world problem would you like to improve/change? Yes, the world’s problems can be big, and we can feel small, but it doesn’t need to be some massive thing like saving the planet or being like Elon Musk! It can be small. Don’t let the scale of those things overwhelm you. Start small – we can each contribute a little bit and make the world a slightly better place, whether that be inspiring, helping, supporting, or educating people.
16 – What pain or injustice or unhappiness have you witnessed that you just can’t live with? Is there anything that touches you so deeply that it drives you? Sometimes a powerful purpose can come from powerful pain.
17 – What are you willing to sacrifice for? Not burning yourself out, but something you’re willing to give up something for because everything involves some sort of sacrifice. Nothing is enjoyable or inspiring all of the time. What struggle are you willing to tolerate? If you don’t care about it enough, you won’t really stick with it.
18 – How do you want to be remembered? When you put it like that, this question really forces you to zero in on what’s actually important in your life. What are the stories people are going to tell when you’re gone? What is your legacy going to be? Will you even have one? If not, what would you like it to be? How can you start working towards that today?
Zoning in on your Purpose
Now that you have some idea of what it is that you really want, ask yourself this – What is it that you can do, that the world needs, and that benefits others and also benefits you because you enjoy doing it? Wordy question, but if you can find something that hits on all these, you’re on the right track! Go with your gut and trust your instinct. Don’t get me wrong – it will take work, and you will have to practice, but you will love it. It should feel natural and you will love mastering these new skills.. it shouldn’t feel like suffering and struggling.
When you begin to get clear on your life purpose, go even further and create a life purpose statement like the ones i mentioned earlier. Just jot one down and don’t worry about it being perfect. you can change it later.
This purpose statement will keep you living life consciously and help you continue to be in alignment with your purpose when making any important decisions. It gives you direction and helps you stay on course. It’s something you can constantly bounce your ideas and decisions off of. It puts the intention there and drives you. Write it down, keep it with you, read it often.
If you’re still totally lost on what you want, first, you need to spend more time thinking about it. Think it through thoroughly. Some of us are very visual, so try vision board. Cut out pictures of your ideal life and see what kind of story begins to emerge. You can learn a lot about yourself and what you really want by creating a vision board. The important thing about the vision board is, you have to act. You can’t just look at it and hope it comes true – you have to take action towards those things – that’s covered in the next article.
If you’re not really a visual type, then write instead – tell your story and make a narrative of your own life. Write a story about the challenges you’ve overcome thus far and where you see yourself in the future. This can help you understand yourself and your own life on a much deeper level.
Finding your purpose and your various missions in life fundamentally comes down to finding a few things that are bigger than yourself. It’s not some great big daunting achievement, it’s finding a way to spend your limited time here well. Take the time to think bigger than yourself and then act on it. Don’t hesitate, start now. How to execute that purpose and those missions is covered in the next article.
Let’s continue on to part 2 – how to execute your purpose!