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 how you can ‘find out why’. It says that the purpose of your life isn’t something you find but rather something you build: it might not be just one thing and it might change during your lifetime.

The Churning, Inner Leadership agrees — partly.

We believe that the way we put our purpose into practice certainly can change over time, just as our understanding of our purpose can change. But we also think that the underlying purpose of our life is probably fixed — it’s part of who we are — and could have been the same if we were born a thousand years ago or a thousand years into the future. What can change is the way we think about our purpose, the way we understand it, and the ways we put it into practice.

For example, if your purpose was to heal people then today you might choose to become a doctor, a dentist, a nurse, a surgeon, a chiropractor, a therapist, and so on. And as your career progressed, and you gained more experience, so you might feel drawn to specialise in certain areas.

But if you’d been born a thousand years ago then your purpose could have been exactly the same but the options available for how you put it into practice, and even how you thought about putting it into practice, would have been extremely different. Similarly, who knows what options might be available to you a thousand years from now — or even one year from now.

What all this means is that the best way for you to find your life purpose is to start from where you are now, find what inspires you most, and move towards that. Then learn and adjust as you go.

Inner Leadership gives you the tools to do this: to find your best understanding of what your purpose is today, to find options for how you might then put that into practice, to choose the best one for now, and to inspire yourself and other people to long to make it happen.

All of this will bring you the energy and enthusiasm to begin. And then as you move forward, and your understanding deepens, so you can adjust course.

Scientists have discovered that when we live a purposeful life it changes our genes. Viktor Frankl said that our search for purpose and meaning is our “highest calling.” And in a time of change, knowing our purpose will also make us more motivated and more flexible

All of this will make us more antifragile: able to use change to become stronger and more valuable.

Are you living 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 can’t learn to swim just by reading about swimming, you also need to do the practice.)

Photo By Jolene Bertoldi via

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