How to find your purpose in life

Bullseye target with darts

Knowing our purpose can help us succeed in times of change.

Living in line with that purpose also brings us focus and energy. It even alters our genes so that we live longer.

As Mark Twain put it,

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

So how can we find what our purpose is?

The best way I know to uncover your life purpose is to follow these four simple steps. I’ve adapted them from Jack Canfield®’s Life Purpose Exercise, which he in turn adapted from Arnold M. Patent’s book, You Can Have It All.

To begin, answer these three questions:

  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, which summarise the essence of who you are.
  2. Say how you love expressing those qualities
    Next, ask yourself how you most love applying these qualities. What outcomes are you trying to create when you put them into practice? How do you most love to express your two best qualities in the world?
  3. Describe your ideal world
    What would the world be like if it were perfect, according to you? What would you see, hear, feel, taste, or smell? What kind of a world is that? What is a perfect world for you?

The purpose of your life is to express your two best qualities, in the ways you most love doing, to create your ideal world. This is how you can best express the fullness of the unique person you are.

To summarise your purpose, combine the answers you just created, in any way that works for you. For example, you might say:

— “My life purpose is to create [my ideal world] by using my [two best qualities], [in the way you love expressing them],” or

— “The purpose of my life is to use my [best qualities] to [do the way you love expressing them], in order to create [your ideal world]”

Play with this. Adapt the words and put them into any order that feels right to you.

An article in the Harvard Business Review tells us there can be more than one way of achieving our purpose and that can change over time. So once you have a first draft, try it out, see how it fits, and then you can update it later as your understanding changes and grows.

As a starting point, once you have defined your purpose, you might like ask yourself:

  • What parts of your life are you living most in line with your purpose today?
  • Are these the times when you feel happiest, most fulfilled?
  • Where in your life are you are living least in line with your purpose?
  • Is this where you feel least fulfilled?
  • What small changes could you easily make now, to spend more time in line with your purpose and increase your energy?
  • What bigger changes might you start to think about later?

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

The book contains other tools for helping you get deeper insight into your purpose and how you might apply it. But this is the essence of the exercise.

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