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

The best way I know to find your life purpose involves answering three straightforward questions. It takes only about ten minutes to complete.

The method is adapted from Jack Canfield®’s Life Purpose Exercise. He, in turn, adapted it from a tool developed by Arnold M. Patent in his book, You Can Have It All. And both are very similar to the so-called “Hedgehog Concept“, popularised by Jim Collins in his bestselling book, Good to Great.

In this book, Collins explains about the hedgehog and the fox: the fox, he says, is very clever and can do many things, Collins says, but still it cannot eat a hedgehog. The reason is that the hedgehog can only do one thing… but it does it very well.

Collins turned this into “The Hedgehog Concept”: a formula for success in business that says success comes when we identify and combine three things:

  • What we can be the best at in the world
  • What we are most passionate about
  • What drives our economic engine — the key factor that drives profitability

Adapting these steps we can create a very practical method for finding our actionable purpose in life.

The three steps for finding your life purpose are:

Step 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 a few trusted friends what qualities they see in you. 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 that you love expressing and which summarise the essence of who you are in the world.

Step 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 outcomes are you trying to create in the people around you? What’s the change you’re aiming to make in those people or in the world? How do you most love expressing your two best qualities?

Step 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 were perfect according to you?

Step 4: Put It All Together
To find your purpose in life, or a first draft that you can develop over time, take your three answers above and join them to form a sentence.
For example, “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, “The purpose of my life is to create [my ideal world] by using my [two main qualities] to [achieve what you said was the way you love expressing those qualities].”

Once you know your purpose in life it quickly becomes a useful tool for:

  • setting priorities
  • knowing what to ignore
  • identifying the outcomes you want to create
  • finding work with meaning and joy

Remember there’s no ‘right answer’ here and nobody else needs to see this unless you want them to. So spend ten minutes, create a first draft that feels right and then try it out: see what happens and adapt and improve it over time.

Summarised from Inner Leadership.

Photo By bm.iphone via

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