How to find your purpose in life

Mark Twain said:

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

Knowing our life purpose helps us to focus on what matters and ignore what doesn’t. It helps us identify the outcomes we want to create and find work with meaning and joy.

The best way I know how to find your life purpose involves answering just three simple questions. It takes about ten minutes to complete. Then you can try it out and evolve your insights over time.

The method is adapted from Jack Canfield®’s Life Purpose Exercise, which he adapted from Arnold M. Patent‘s book, You Can Have It All. Both are very similar to Jim Collin’s “Hedgehog Concept“, described in his bestselling book, Good to Great.

In that book, Jim Collins talks about what it takes for a business to succeed. He talks about the hedgehog and the fox. He says the fox is very clever and can do many things but it cannot eat a hedgehog. That is because the hedgehog can only do one thing, but it does it very well.

Success for a business, Collins says, comes when it is like the hedgehog and does one thing very well. This happens when it combines three factors:

  • What it can be the best at in the world
  • What it is most passionate about
  • What drives its economic engine, its profitability

If we translate these elements from the business world to the world of people we create a very practical approach to finding our life purpose.

To find your life purpose follow these three steps:

  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 the two qualities you feel best describe you: qualities you love expressing and which summarise the essence of who you are in the world.
  2. Say How You Love Expressing Those Qualities
    Next, ask yourself how you most love applying these qualities. When you are putting them into practice, what’s the change you’re aiming to make (in the people around you or the world)? What outcomes are you trying to create? How do you most love expressing your two best qualities?
  3. Describe Your Ideal World
    What would the world be like right now 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 would the world be like if it was perfect, for you?

Your purpose in life is to express your best qualities in the world, in the ways you most love doing, while creating a world that is more the way you want it to be.

So you might say, “The purpose of my life is to use my [two main qualities] to [achieve what you said was the way you love expressing those qualities], to create [your ideal world].”

Or you might say, “My life purpose is to create [my ideal world] by using my [two main qualities] to [achieve what you said was the way you most love expressing them].”

Try it out. There’s no right or wrong answer here. See what happens. Play with your answers until you come up with something that feels right to you.

Then test it. Ask yourself whether the times you feel happiest or unhappiest are when you are living most or least in line with this statement of your purpose.

And then use your purpose to help you set priorities: decide what you are going to focus on and what you are going to ignore. Use it to define the outcomes you want to create and remind you why you are working to achieve those outcomes.

See what happens. Create a first draft then try it out and evolve it as you move forward. This is a tool for bringing you a deeper understanding about who you are and what matters most to you. You can always improve and change it as you go forward.

(The book of Inner Leadership contains additional exercises that help you gain a deeper understanding.)


Adapted from Inner Leadership.

Photo By bm.iphone via

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