How to find your purpose in life


Bullseye target with dartsWhen we work on something in line with our purpose we feel happy, more at peace, and more energised. Living in line with our purpose also brings us focus and alters our genes so that we live longer.

As Mark Twain put it:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review describes how there might be more than one way to achieve our purpose and this might change over time.

But how can we find out what our ‘purpose’ is today?

The best way I know to uncover your life purpose is to follow these four simple steps*. Then you can find ways to put them into practice, see what you learn, and update your understanding as you move forward.

To begin, start by asking yourself these three simple questions:

  1. Identify Your Two Best Qualities
    What are the two best qualities you bring to the world? Not skills or knowledge but qualities. If you find it difficult to pick only two, ask some trusted friends. Listen to their answers, ignore what you don’t like, and keep what you do. Then pick out the two qualities you feel best describe you: qualities you love expressing and which summarise the essence of who you are.
  2. Say How You Love Expressing Those Qualities
    Next, ask yourself how you most love applying these qualities. How do you love to use them or what outcomes are you trying to create when you put them into practice? How do you most love to express your two best qualities?
  3. Describe Your Ideal World
    What would the world be like if it were perfect according to you? What would you see, hear, feel, taste, or smell? What would that mean? What kind of a world is that? What is a perfect world for you?

Do this now.

If you want to find your life purpose, don’t read any further until you have answered these three simple questions.

The simplest and most practical way I know to define your life purpose is to say that your purpose is to express your best qualities in the world, in the ways you most love doing, in order to create your ideal world.

So to define your life purpose, combine your answers to the above three questions to make a sentence. For example, you might say, “The purpose of my life is to use my [best qualities] to [do what you said was how you most love expressing them], in order to create [your ideal world].” Or you might say, “My life purpose is to create [my ideal world] by using my [two best qualities], [in the way you love expressing them].”

Do this now. Take the answers you uncovered and rearrange the wording until you find a way of expressing your life purpose that works for you. The other tools and exercises of Inner Leadership will bring you greater clarity on what the three answers are and how to put them into practice, but these four steps are what lies at the heart of defining your purpose.

Now you have a first draft you can apply it, move forward, and update it as your understanding grows and changes.

So what is your life purpose? What parts of your life are you are living most in line with your purpose today? What parts of your life are you are living least in line with your purpose? What simple changes you could make to increase the amount of time you spend living in line with your purpose?

*This method is adapted from Jack Canfield®’s Life Purpose Exercise. He, in turn, adapted it from Arnold M. Patent‘s book, You Can Have It All. Both approaches are very similar to Jim Collin’s “Hedgehog Concept,” as described in his bestselling book Good to Great.

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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