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Answering the Age-Old Question: What Is My Purpose?

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At some point or other, we’ve all asked ourselves: “What is my purpose?”; “Why am I here?”; “What am I meant to do with my one and only life?” The thing is, most of us are at a loss when it comes to answering such questions and it leaves us feeling aimless. That word, “purpose,” with all of it’s promise, often makes those of us who haven’t found ours yet feel inadequate — like we’re missing a key to solving our own life’s mystery.

Of course, we’d all love to know what our purpose is, to live it. Connecting to our purpose is necessary for staying centered in the current of our lives and not getting stuck in any eddies. When we live in our purpose and understand our personal “Why?”, we are able to access all of ourselves with our various skills and gifts. It creates resonance and the feeling of being alive that we crave, but often fail to find.

But where does one even begin to find it? Start by imagining the below scenarios and jot down your answers and reactions. Try closing your eyes after each one and writing down what you see and hear before continuing on to the next one. 

  1. You are about to go on stage in a giant auditorium. You have 30 seconds to make the impact you want to make. What is it that you want everyone in that room to walk away thinking about? How do you want everyone who heard your message to change as a result of hearing it?
  2. You have three billboards on display in Times Square. You can write any message you’d like on them. What does each billboard say? What will reading these boards incite in those who see it? How will they think or act differently as a result of seeing your messages?
  3. It is your 100th birthday and your family and friends are throwing a party in your honor. They want to celebrate the person you are, the life you’ve lived, and what they’ve learned from you. Everyone at this party comes up to you one by one and gives you a hug and whispers something that they recognize about you into your ear. What do they say, and how do you feel when you hear them say this?

Now, take a closer look at the things you wrote down. Some of these scenarios may have come to you more easily than others. Do you recognize any themes? What does the impact that you want to make in your speech have in common with the messages that you’d display on the Times Square billboards? How are those personal mission statements reflected in what you imagine that your friends and family would say about you. Circle the words, phrases, and sentiments that are connected. This is the summary impact that you at your core care about having on this world.

The next step, now that you’ve identified your life purpose, is to determine your purpose statement. Your purpose statement is the lens through which you will want view every decision you make and every action you take to ensure that you are living in your purpose (the key to a happy, fulfilling life). Based on the purpose (or purposes) that you’ve identified above, brainstorm possible concepts that could fill in the below purpose statement. But first, a few things to keep in mind:

  1. You have permission to brain dump! Write down everything that comes to mind and then narrow the list from there.
  2. Your imagination gets richer and wider when you start with the impact first because this was just primed by the three scenarios. So start there, then let the metaphor pop from that.
  3. Don’t worry about picking a metaphor that logically makes sense with the impact. Instead, write down what you’re feeling now and then keep coming back to your purpose statement and honing in until it lights you up.

Here’s the version we’re working with right now: “I am an alarm that wakes us up to our own inner truth.”

Now you try.

I am a ______________ (metaphor) that_____________________________________(impact).

Together, these exercises will not only help you more clearly understand your purpose, but also give you a mantra to repeat to keep you on the path of living in that purpose. Of course, the point of all this is not to perpetuate the idea that your life purpose is tied to an action or goal. That you set a goal, achieve it, and then feel fulfilled. Far from it. To feel fully alive, we have to be fully living in our purpose, always — not just when we want to attain the next thing. From this place, action is exciting and compelling and grounded in meaning. The ideal is to live for-purpose so that everything we do resonates with our inner truth. That’s when we will begin to see that our actions create ripples that positively impact everything they touch.

So, with your newfound purpose statement, go out there and make work you love, make money, and change the world.


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