Some lucky people know their life purpose from an early age.
For years, I searched for my purpose in life but could never figure it out. Then I realized that the way I was going about it was all wrong.
You see, most people assume that a purpose is the same as a goal. They work towards it as though it’s a specific destination to arrive at.
I now understand this is the wrong way to find your life purpose.
Instead, your life purpose comes from your values. It is something that has always existed inside you and just needs to be discovered.
When you think of life purpose in this way, it’s easier to define.
To help you define yours, I put together 8 thought-provoking (yet a little weird) questions that will help you to discover your own life purpose. I encourage you to jot down your answers to each question in notes as you move through them.
(Note: If you’d like to go a little deeper in finding your life purpose and creating more meaning from life, check out my free salon on living a life of purpose and meaning.)
8. What were you passionate about as a child?
The games we played as children are often a gateway to our potential to excel at something when we grow up.
Think about your Barbie dolls. Did you dress them, or did you make clothes for them?
Think about your trucks and cars. Did you race around with them, or did you construct a town, complete with streets, houses, trees, shops, and garages?
What did you play for hours? Can you still relate to that? If you can, how can you incorporate that into your adult life now?
Were you advised that you should forget your childhood dreams, and do something practical with your life instead? Did you go on to study something other than what you really wanted to in university?
Do you wish that you went a different route instead?
Hidden in our childhood passions, are our gifts, the things we are naturally good at. Think back and see what treasure you can find there, which can hold the key to your life purpose.
PRO TIP: While thinking about what you were passionate about as a child, try and jot down some of your favorite memories. Write down what happened, and also importantly how you were feeling in these moments. This will help you connect with your “inner child”. Over time, your inner child will start to communicate with you about your overriding purpose in life.
7. If you didn’t have a job, how would you choose to fill your hours?
Here is something to ponder. If you didn’t have to work and you weren’t allowed to stay at home and do nothing, how would you choose to fill your time? Where would you go and what would you do?
Let’s say you use some of the time to relax and unwind and some to exercise, what would you do with the rest of your time? Would you spend the day doing something active like exploring the town, would you go to a museum or visit art galleries? Would you read, volunteer somewhere, take a class? Where would you volunteer? Which class would you take?
When money isn’t an issue, and you can devote yourself solely to your passion, what would this passion be?
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: I did this exercise a few weeks ago, and realized I wanted to read more educational books. The kinds of books that help me learn more about myself and the world around me. It helped me to see that one of my values is learning. I love nothing more than experiencing an “aha moment”, a surge of inspiration when I connect the dots. My purpose is to help others experience this.
6. What makes you forget about the world around you?
Is there something that you really, really love to do? Something that makes you lose track of time?
If you have ever been completely absorbed in an activity you will understand the state of “flow” where you lose your sense of time and are completely caught up in what you are doing.
We have all experienced it. For some of us it’s the process of creating something, for others it’s organizing an event, for others, it’s taking care of other people’s needs.
When you’re completely caught up in the “flow”, you forget about time, food and drink or where you are. Being in the flow, you are intensely focused and concentrated, and there is a sense of ecstasy. There is a sense of inner clarity, and you have complete confidence in your skills. All your worries are gone, and you are completely in the present moment. Yet you can lose track of time. This sense of flow is a source of joy and a reward in itself.
When last did you experience this?
GOING DEEPER: The concept of flow is very powerful. When you know what it is, you’ll start to identify areas of your life when you experience it. This will help you uncover your purpose. The best description of flow I’ve come across is in the below video where the speaker describes awareness merging with the activity. Watch it now:
5. What issues do you hold close to your heart?
Is there a cause that you feel strongly about? What topics do you like to read about? What topics on the news do you follow, what issues do you keep returning to? What kind of websites attract you? What topics do you discuss with family and friends? Are there any that you get worked up about, that you want to do something about?
When you are passionate about something, then the work you do for this cause will be meaningful and rewarding.
PRO TIP: A useful way to think about this is identifying things that happen in your life that make you want to take a stand. It usually means some kind of boundary has been crossed. Maybe someone is treating a close friend of yours badly. Or perhaps there’s a local political issue making you want to get active. Whatever it is, we set boundaries of what’s acceptable around our values.
4. Who do you spend time with and what do you talk about?
Most of us spend time with people who share our interests and outlook on life. There might be a clue in there for you. Are you spending most of your free time with cycling buddies or just drinking buddies? Do you talk mostly about your shared passion for cycling and improving the sport or do you just chew the breeze with some friends at the local bar?
Do the people you spend your free time with help to give you an indication of your real passion?
What do you talk about? Do you find people ask you for advice? Why would people ask you for advice? Do you have any specialized knowledge? How did you come by that knowledge? Is it something that you feel is what you were meant to do?
The answers to those questions could be very illuminating.
ANOTHER WAY OF THINKING ABOUT IT: Throughout history, humans form into tribes, even in modern-day societies. What is it that connects a tribe? It’s usually a shared focus, purpose or passion. Herein lies a secret to discovering your purpose. Who are the people you’re naturally gravitating to? What are the tribes you want to be a part of? You may start to see the purpose you already have in life.
3. What is on your bucket list?
What do you want to accomplish before you die? This is another exercise that could be very soul searching. Creating a bucket list crystallizes your thinking on what you desire most in life, what you really would not like to miss out on. There is passion there. Why wait?
MY BUCKET LIST: To give you an example that hopefully gets you thinking, I want to learn to fly a plane. I love getting an aerial view of the land around me and feeling in control of my own destiny. This helps me to see that my guiding purpose is to create a system that results in independence for me.
2. If you had a dream, could you make it happen?
Give this serious thought. Even if you have a dream and never attempted it for whatever reason, it’s still a valuable window into what you regard as somehow achievable, otherwise, it would never have entered your mind.
Think of the many people who made seemingly impossible dreams become reality and take heart from that.
Who do you look up to? What is it about them that inspires you?
You can make steps towards following your life purpose right now.
Ask yourself, what is really stopping you?
There’s help everywhere. You don’t have to know everything yourself and you don’t have to do everything yourself. You can get help to make your dream come true.
Think it through. That dream and your life’s purpose is probably one and the same thing.
HERE ARE THREE EXAMPLES: J.K. Rowling was recently divorced, on government aid, and raising a baby on her own when she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She was initially rejected when she first sent out her manuscript to publishers.
Ludwig van Beethoven did not allow his bad hearing and later on, complete deafness, to stop him from composing some of the most beautiful and influential music in the world.
Helen Keller was deaf and blind from the age of 19 months. Yet she was able to be educated and became an author and educator herself.
1. What are the feelings you desire right now?
This is the final and most powerful question that I believe will help you to finally discover your life purpose.
Think of the feelings that you desire right now. Is there anything you’re frustrated by for not feeling?
Exploring your own feelings opens you up to your emotions. Our emotions are often more powerful than our minds and provide us with a lot of guidance about what we really want in life.
Here’s the next step:
Once you figure out the emotions you want to experience, start to identify the areas of your life where you’re helping others to have this experience. You’re probably already doing this in little ways.
For example, I know that I value the feelings of intimate love, authentic connections with others and financial security. Upon reflection, I can see that I’m helping others have these experiences through the Ideapod platform, our education services and how we bring people together in cyber-tribes.
What are the feelings you desire right now, and how are they guiding you in your life purpose?
BONUS EXERCISE: I learned about the importance of finding my purpose for life in my emotions from the shaman Rudá Iandé. We were walking together on the streets of São Paulo and I told him I was finding it challenging to discover my purpose. He shared with me the importance of finding your purpose in your emotions. I immediately pulled out my video camera so I could capture it and share it with others because I saw how valuable and counter-intuitive it is. Watch the video below. It will help you discover your purpose.
Have these 8 questions helped you to discover your purpose? Let me know in the comments below.