It’s almost impossible not to notice the litany of advice out there on how to find your purpose in life. The suggestions and recommendations are everywhere. Even if you’d never even thought about it before, just seeing all the information on this subject, will make you start questioning. You’ll start wondering if you are living your life purpose and if not, how to find start living it.“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.” ― Steve Maraboli, Click To Tweet
Some advisors will suggest doing exercises and searching your life for clues and all manner of other activities. But this is all leaving something vital out. It’s leaving out the very first, and most important, step of all. That’s the step of defining what purpose even means to you. It is rare that peopel talk about this. And because noone talks about it, noone thinks about it. But we have to reflect on it. We have to get to the root of what the question even means for us. Before you go on a journey of finding your life purpose, you have to know where you are starting and where you want to go.
If I asked you what life purpose means to you, what would be your answer? Can you give me a clear, deep-seated response? Not what it means to someone else. What it means to you. There’s a lot of suggestions that we are bombarded with about the concept of purposeful living. It’s easy to internalize these suggestions, without even questioning them.
How to find your purpose in life, first, start by defining what purpose means to you
Question #1: Is it about getting paid to do work you love?
The concept of finding work you love doing is often associated with purposeful living. You hear expressions like find your purposeful work and working for a purpose. It all sounds good. But is it true for you? Do you believe that doing work that fills you up passionately, that you love doing day in and out, that feels meaningful, is what will feel meets the definition of purposeful life?
These are not trick questions. There’s no right or wrong answer. There are only the answers that feel true for you. Did you know there are plenty of people who feel they are living on purpose because of the work that they do. And also, there are plenty of people who have a job (that they don’t love), yet engage in purposeful voluntary/charitable/spiritual work that feels purposeful? Again, there’s no right or wrong. Just what’s best for you.
Question #2: Is it about following a calling?
Could finding your life purpose be about some special calling? This is closely tied to the idea of paid purposeful work but is exclusive of remuneration. You can feel called to do something that never pays you a penny. In which case, if you feel deeply called to the work, you wouldn’t care less about the pay (or lack thereof).
A calling is typically a path that touches people from their early days and carries through to adulthood. Do you have friends who swear that they always had a strong sense of what they were meant to do from early childhood? I have three friends like this. One is a medical doctor, one a teacher, and the other leads a spiritual ministry.
How they feel about their work is that it is a calling. It’s not so much that they feel they chose their work, but rather that the work chose them. They would all gladly do it (or some form of it) without pay, in fact, one of them does.
Question #3: Is it about living on purpose in every area of your life?
Is finding your life purpose about something much bigger than your what you do for a living? Maybe, for you, it’s about living on purpose. Living on purpose is a grander concept than the two we’ve discussed so far. It is more about how you live than what you do in your life related to your career.
Living on purpose includes living a full, present, engaged life. This affects every area: work, family, relationships, health, hobbies, etc. It spans the work you do every day and also the everyday interactions you have with people. It’s everything. This is such a powerful concept that there’s a high chance you relate to it, even more than you relate to merely working on purpose.
It encompasses every vital aspect of life and it’s not partial to any of the concepts we’ve already discussed. For example, You could be living on purpose and your work may be your calling. On the other hand, you could be living on purpose, working in a job that isn’t a calling or passion, but you bring full passion to your work. You work purposefully. You create meaning from the work you do (rather than looking for meaningful work). You bring purpose to your work, and to every area of your life.
Similar to how you work, you interact in your relationships with deep purpose and connection. So you see that purposeful living is more a how than a what. It’s a guide for every aspect of life. There’s no search involved for a particular purpose or calling or passion. If you believe this is the definition of living a life on purpose, then you already have everything you need to live a purposeful life. Right now.
The key to life purpose
When you feel yourself wondering about finding your life purpose, put that thought out of your mind. Instead get clear on what purpose even means to you. This is the first and foremost step to take before reading any books or following any leaders on the subject. Get clear on this first. After you are clear on this, you can then start making moves in the right direction. Your steps will be in line with your desired purpose, and so you will have a better result. It’s worth it to take the time to think about this before you do anything else.
What does purposeful life look like to you? Is it related to the (paid) work that you do? Is it about stepping into a calling? Or is it an overall theme for how you live your life (relationships, work, etc.). Through this clarity, you can then set out on a journey to find your purpose—if you so choose. Or, after answering these deep questions, you may just feel you don’t need to find anything. Instead, you can start right now, right where you are to live purposefully.