If you’ve ever felt like you have no purpose in life, you’re not alone.
Full disclosure here: I’m one of those annoying people who’s always known what their purpose is and who’s never had any problems with working towards it. However, my partner is still trying to discover her purpose, and I’ve learned a lot from supporting her.
I think that leaves me in the perfect place to write today’s article, which is all about discovering your purpose in life by asking the right questions. Once you know your purpose, you can start to work towards it, and your life will become a thousand times more fulfilling.
But what questions do you need to ask? Well, I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look!
1) What do you want your obituary to say?
There’s a Latin phrase that goes “memento mori” and which essentially means “remember that we die”. The idea is that death is inevitable (death and taxes, anyone?), and by acknowledging that fact and tackling it head on, we can live better lives.
When it comes to identifying your purpose, I find that it helps to ask yourself what you want to see in your obituary. By identifying what your obituary should look like, you can start to do the things that will lead you down the path towards that perfect obituary.
In my case, I want my obituary to refer to me as a “New York Times bestselling author” and to talk about the friends and family that I left behind. For me to work towards that, I need to keep on writing books and building that family.
2) Why do you do the job that you do?
Assuming that you’re currently in employment, the next step is to take a closer look at the job you’re doing. Ask yourself why you’re doing that job, because that will help you to decide whether you want to continue doing it or whether it’s time for a career change.
Of course, it’s likely that at least part of your answer will be “for the money”, and that’s okay. Living is expensive, and we all need to find a way to pay our bills. The key is to find a job that’s about more than just the money.
I can use myself as an example again.
Writing has always been my passion, and so I work as a writer to pay the bills but also because it allows me to spend my day doing something that I love. Even when I’m writing for other people and not myself, I’m still practicing the skills that I need to write my books.
3) Why do you believe in what you believe in?
This question takes us a little deeper than the last one and cuts to the heart of your beliefs.
Ask yourself why you believe in what you believe in, from your approach to religion to your beliefs about global warming and whether aliens exist.
The first step to this is to list out what you believe in. You can’t examine your beliefs until you know what your beliefs are, and you’d be surprised by how many internal beliefs we have that are just ticking away in our subconscious.
For example, the latent misogyny in our society stops a lot of women from achieving their full potential by pushing them to artificially limit themselves.
Those working in STEM environments may have the internal belief that there’s no point pushing towards their goals because the field is too male-dominated for them to break through.
4) Are you surrounding yourself with the right people?
They say that we’re all the average of the people we spend the most time with, which is why we end up turning into our partners when we’re in a long-term relationship. It’s also why we take after our parents and why there are often unusual similarities amongst the different members of a group of friends.
We also need to remember that it’s up to us who we spend time with. True, we can’t pick who our family is, but we do get to choose how much time we spend with them. We also have a lot of choice when it comes to who our friends are and who we enter relationships with.
That’s why it’s so important to ask yourself whether you’re surrounding yourself with the right people and whether you need to make any changes. Look to surround yourself with people who encourage you to reach for your dreams and to chase your goals.
5) What makes you feel proud of yourself?
Another great way to identify your purpose is to look at the things you do that make you feel proud of yourself. In my case, finishing a piece of writing makes me feel proud, and I get the biggest kick of all from holding a printed book.
The things that make you feel proud of yourself will depend upon your personality, as well as your passions and interests. For example, perhaps donating to charity makes you feel proud of yourself, or perhaps it’s the feeling you get after you finish a workout.
Whatever the case, if you’re able to identify the things that make you feel proud of yourself, you’ll be able to put those things at the center of your purpose. You can then start to restructure your life so that they’re given the importance and the priority that they deserve.
6) If today was your last day on Earth, how would you spend it?
This brings us full circle and relates back to that very first question about what you want your obituary to look like. However, instead of looking at the way that you want to be remembered, it’s a different kind of memento mori that looks at how you value your time.
The idea is that if you found out that you only had one more day to live, you’d be sure to spend your time doing something that you’re passionate about. The chances are that the passion you identify here is the same passion that gives your life purpose.
Once you know how you’d spend your last day on Earth, you can start to live your life as though every day is your last. You can pursue your passion every day, and that’s going to make it much, much easier for you to live a life of purpose.
7) What could you stay up all night doing?
This works in a similar way to the last question, except it’s not quite as extreme.
Most of us have stayed up all night at some point or other, whether we were playing online games or whether we were out clubbing with our friends. A lot of people do it when deadlines are looming, too.
But I want you to forget that and instead to think about the things that you enjoy so much that you get lost in them. We’re talking about the things you get so absorbed in that you could do them all night without looking at the clock, because these are the things that can give your life meaning.
I’m a night owl, and so there are a lot of things that I could stay up all night doing. In fact, I’ve been known to stay up all night cleaning my house, and so perhaps I’m not the best example here.
Nevertheless, I think that figuring out your answer to this one is a great way of determining what you love so much that you’d sacrifice your sleep to do more of it.
8) What do you want to try that you’ve never tried before?
Life is all about trying new things and enjoying new experiences, and this becomes more and more obvious to us the older that we get. Even when we start to sink into a day-to-day routine, we still long to do new things and to visit new places.
One great way to find your purpose when you’re struggling is to write out a list of all the things you want to try. You can then start to work your way through that list and to find new passions and new things that make you tick.
This can help you to find your purpose in two different ways. The first is that by trying out these new things, you might discover something new that becomes your passion and which helps to give your life purpose. The second is that ticking off the items on the list might in itself become your new purpose.
9) How can you change the world for the better?
Most people want to change the world, even if that just means by having children or making a difference in their local area. For example, my friend Mike changed the world for the better by spearheading the creation of an arts center in the city I live in.
This example shows that you don’t need to cure cancer or become the leader of your country to change the world for the better. In fact, every decision that we make has an impact on the world around us, which is why it’s so important for us to think critically and to vote with our dollars.
If you spend some time thinking about how you can change the world for the better, you may well discover a passion and a purpose that you were unaware of.
10) What kind of person do you want to be?
Last but by no means least, you should ask yourself what kind of person you want to be. This one takes us full circle too, because the kind of person that you are will have a big impact on what your obituary looks like.
For me, I find that the best way to answer this question is to look at some of the people that you admire and to identify the characteristics of theirs that you like. You can then create a kind of amalgam of all of these different personality traits that outlines the kind of person you want to be.
You can then find purpose in your life by working towards becoming that person. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but it’s going to be super rewarding and it will take you on a journey that will change your life for the better.
At least, that’s what happened to me!