You don’t find your purpose, you build it (HBR)

Mark Twain famously said:

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

Harvard Business Review recently published an article about finding that ‘why’. It argues that the purpose of your life isn’t something you find but rather something you build: it might not be only one thing and it might change during your lifetime.

Inner Leadership agrees — partly.

We believe that the way we put our life purpose into practice can change over time, just as our understanding of that purpose can change. But what that purpose is is probably fixed and could have been the same if you’d been born a hundred years ago or a thousand years ago. It’s how we understand it and how we put that purpose into practice that changes, depending on the times and the country and the family we happen to be born into.

For example, if your purpose is to heal people you might choose today to become a doctor, a surgeon, a chiropractor, a therapist, and so on, depending on what you feel drawn to and what is possible in the country you live in. And during your career you might feel drawn specialise or to switch to another direction. If you had been born a thousand years ago your purpose could have been the same but the ways you would have been able to put it into practice would have been very different.

This means that the best way to find your purpose today is to start somewhere and learn and improve as you move forward.

Inner Leadership gives you the tools to find your best understanding of your purpose today and start putting that into practice. This will bring you more energy and enthusiasm. And as your understanding changes and deepens, so you can repeat the process to refine and refocus your purpose, and find new ways of putting it into practice.

Scientists have discovered that living a purposeful life changes our genes. Viktor Frankl called our search for purpose and meaning our “highest calling.” Knowing our purpose is also another step towards becoming antifragile because it gives us direction and momentum and yet also allows us to be flexible.

Are you building your life purpose? Would you like to begin, starting from where you are now?

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

You can sign up to daily posts here.

You can buy the book here and the workbook here.

(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)

Photo By Jolene Bertoldi via

Leave a Reply