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 that ‘finding out 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 purpose into practice can change over our lifetimes, just as our understanding of our purpose can change. But the purpose itself is probably fixed and could  probably have been exactly the same if you were born 100 years ago or 1,000 years ago. It’s the ways we understand our purpose and how we put it into practice that change, depending on the world we happen to have been born into.

For example, if your purpose was to heal people then today you might today choose to become a doctor, a dentist, a nurse, a surgeon, a chiropractor, a therapist, and so on. As your career progressed you might then feel drawn to specialise in other areas, as your understanding of your ‘purpose’ became clearer. But if you had been born a thousand years ago these options would not have been available to you, though your purpose could have been exactly the same. A thousand years from now, who knows what options might be available.

This means the best way to find your purpose today is to start somewhere, find what you feel drawn towards, and then learn and improve as you go forward.

Inner Leadership gives you the tools to do this: to find your best understanding of your purpose today and find more options to put 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 understanding of what your purpose is and how you might best put it into practice.

Viktor Frankl called our search for purpose and meaning our “highest calling.” Scientists have discovered that living a purposeful life changes our genesKnowing our purpose also gives us direction and momentum while also allowing us to be flexible in a time of change. All of which helps to make us antifragile.

Are you building your life purpose? Would you like to begin?

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

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

Photo By Jolene Bertoldi via

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