You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle… – Steve Jobs
Do we have a purpose in life? Are we here on earth for a reason or do we have to find our own purpose in life? To be honest with you, I don’t know.
Whether we came to earth with a predetermined purpose or not, having a clear life purpose of our own creation gives us a sense of direction. It also inspires us to do great things and brings us a sense of fulfillment.
In the previous installment of this series, we talked about the importance of identifying your core values. They are intimately connected with your life purpose, as knowing your core values will help you find your life purpose. Once you know what inspires you and is genuinely important to you, you’re very close to discovering your life purpose.
Of course, the reverse is also true. If you don’t know your core values, you’ll struggle to find your life purpose.
Please note that this article is the last of a 4-part series on personal development. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to check out the first three article below:
Do I Really Need a Life Purpose?
If you’re like many people, you’re probably wondering how necessary a life purpose is. You might be wondering why you should bother having one. Well, having a purpose comes with a few benefits.
For starters, having a clear purpose gives you a sense of direction. Secondly, it enables you to focus all your energy on a long-term goal that inspires you. Focus is crucial to reaching your goals, as you can’t hit poorly defined targets.
Third of all, there’s strength in having a lifetime goal that’s based on your most important values. It allows you to persevere when the going gets tough. As Jim Rohn used to say, “When the why is stronger, the how gets easier”.
Once you know your “why”, or rather, your life purpose, can go about designing meaningful goals that revolve around it.
How Specific Should Be Your Life Purpose?
Your life purpose doesn’t have to be particularly specific. A general life purpose still holds value. It’s here to give you direction and facilitate your decision-making process. You may, in fact, derive a variety of goals from your life purpose.
People who love their jobs sometimes become depressed if they’re laid off or go into retirement. That’s because they feel a sudden loss of purpose and direction in life.
But what if they had a life purpose that goes beyond the scope of their job? In that case, they would maintain a strong sense of purpose whether regardless of their job. Their purpose would have to be expressed in a different way, but they wouldn’t feel lost and rudderless without their job.
For instance, my life purpose is as follows:
Improving myself on a daily basis, living up to my full potential, and helping others realize theirs so they can live happier, more fulfilling lives.
It may sound very general to you, but it resonates deeply with me. It goes beyond the scope of any job or position I hold.
The current way in which I express it involves striving to maintain a successful personal development blog, write books, and coach people in making positive changes in their life. Let’s assume that, in the end, none of these things work out for me. What if my blog never takes off? What if my books never sell? What if it turns out that coaching isn’t really my thing? What would I do then?
The answer is pretty simple: I’d just find another way to express my life purpose. For instance, I could become a teacher, entrepreneur, or counselor, to name a few options out of many.
The Characteristics of A Great Life Purpose
I gathered most of the upcoming points from life coach and blogger Celestine Chua’s e-book How to Discover Your Life Purpose. You can get her amazing book here. I think these are great points to consider when searching for your life purpose.
A great life purpose should be:
- Timeless: If you could time travel to the past or future, your life purpose would remain the same regardless of the time period.
- Universal: You could have been born in a totally different part of the world and your life purpose would remain the same.
- Inspiring: Your life purpose should be truly inspiring, allow you to unleash your full potential, and create a genuine sense of fulfillment. When you’re aligned with your life purpose, the effort you put into it won’t feel like work at all.
- Transcendent: Your life purpose should allow you to transcend your ego. Most of us work to survive, gain recognition, accumulate possessions, or feel accepted by society. A genuine life purpose comes from a place of love, not fear. A clear life purpose enables you to stop acting out of fear. Although we may not be able to eliminate our egos, we should aim to control them and act from a place of love as much as possible.
Let’s look at my current life purpose now to see if it fits the characteristics mentioned above.
- Is it timeless? Yes. If I were born a thousand year ago it would still work.
- Is it universal? Yes. If I were born in a different country, it wouldn’t change.
- Is it inspiring? Yes. For me, it’s very inspiring.
- Is it transcendent? Yes. I’m try to act out of love as much as humanly possible, but I should mention that my ego gets in the way sometimes.
Finding Your Life Purpose
Below are some powerful questions that will help you identify your life purpose
What Life’s Challenges Have You Been Through?
Sometimes, your greatest difficulties can fill your life with a sense of purpose. As a result, you may feel a strong urge to help others who have encountered the same difficulties, and this desire may even turn into your life’s work.
For example, you may have been abused as a child and decide to spend the rest of your life helping those who have gone through the same experience.
Doing this would involve choosing to turn your pain and anger into a positive force for change. You would stop seeing yourself as a victim and instead empower yourself and others.
Assisting others with difficulties you’ve successfully faced works well as part of a great life purpose. Generally speaking, helping those who are struggling is universal, timeless, inspiring, and transcendent.
What about you? What are your biggest challenges in life? Can you leverage them to give your life meaning? Can you use them to help others live happier lives?
Who Do You Envy?
When it comes to figuring out what you want in life, you don’t necessarily have to ask yourself. In some cases, it’s more effective to ask yourself, “Who do I envy?”
In her book Quiet, Susan Cain mentioned that she realized that being a lawyer wasn’t her calling during a meeting with her former law school classmates. They spoke with admiration of a classmate who was arguing regularly before the Supreme Court. However, she didn’t felt the envy, excitement, or even jealousy that her classmates did. She then asked herself who she envied, and the answer was instantaneous. She envied her friends from college who had become writers and psychologists. She went on to become a writer, and penned Quiet, a popular book on introversion.
I had a similar experience. I regularly envied successful personal development bloggers like Steve Pavlina and Leo Gura from actualized.org. The envy continued until I realized the reason behind it: I wanted to do what they were doing. I wanted to spend my life studying and writing about personal development so that I could make a difference in other people’s lives.
What about you? Who do you envy?
What Work Do You Gravitate to?
The title of this section is another great question from Quiet. You may not enjoy your current job, but is there something you can do to redefine your job description and increase your fulfillment at work? Maybe you volunteer for specific tasks that interest you or join some committees.
At my first job, I wrote articles in Japanese that were intended to share French culture with Japan. I also held seminars in which I discussed the cultural differences between the French and Japanese. I didn’t have to do these activities; I chose to. They weren’t specifically part of my job description, but they helped me enjoy my work more. In hindsight, I can say that they already reflected my current interest in both writing and psychology.
What about you? What work do you gravitate to?
What Did You Love to Do When You Were a Child?
When I was a child (and before I was introduced to video games) I spent lot of time reading books. In fact, I sometimes spent my entire day reading them. I also wrote some short stories about heroic princes saving princess in primary school. Strangely, I didn’t resume writing for pleasure until the age of 29.
What about you? What did you enjoy doing when you were a kid? What did you want to be when you grew up? The answers to these questions be immensely helpful as you search for your life purpose.
What Are You Compelled to Do?
Ask yourself what you’re drawn to. What is it that you feel compelled to do?
Personally, I’m drawn to studying. I spend considerable amounts of time reading books. Unfortunately, my memory was so bad that I struggled to remember even a fraction of what I read. I became so frustrated that I considered cutting out reading and studying altogether.
Even so, my desire to study, learn, and grow was so intense that I continued to do it. In fact, I started to do it with increased frequency. It was as if I couldn’t escape it.
So take a good look at what you’re constantly drawn to and what you can’t stop no matter how hard it gets. Doing so might give you some clues about your calling.
Don’t Make Finding Your Life Purpose a Big Deal
You may be working hard to find your life purpose, but don’t overdo it. Your life purpose doesn’t have to be something extraordinary. Simple things like being a great parent or an amazing teacher may very well constitute an inspiring life purposes for you. It doesn’t matter if you inspire one person or a million. If your intentions are pure and your purpose fulfills you, isn’t that all you need? If it truly excites you, why not follow your calling regardless of what it may be?
If you want to delve deeper into this subject, you might want to read Steve Pavlina’s popular series of articles regarding life purposes, which can be found here.
Now, for one final question to help you find your life purpose:
What would I do if I had all the money and time in the world?
I hope this article was helpful to you and gave you some insight on what your life purpose may be. If so, leave me a comment and let me know what your life purpose is. I would love to know!
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