You exist. But do you live?
If you’re like most people, you live the safe, comfortable life your parents and teachers told you to live. Go to school, get good grades, and try to get a reputable job.
The only problem is that it doesn’t lead to happiness.
I know it doesn’t work because I tried it for myself. Equipped with a Master’s Degree in Business from Aalto University of Helsinki, I then proceeded to find positions at HP and then Nokia. I thought I was on a roll.
Only thing was, I wasn’t satisfied.
It felt like I was giving up control for a big part of my life for a pay check. I felt short-changed and sensed that something significant was missing from my life.
Most of us go through life ticking off things we have to do. We’re busy earning an income, paying the rent, surviving and making it through the day and the week. Our goal is to make a living, not create the life of our dreams. We’re slaves to circumstance, not masters of our own fate.
Although that was probably a sensible strategy 50 years ago when opportunity to create and live the life of your dreams wasn’t as readily available, that’s not the case anymore. And deep down I knew it.
Today the world is brimming with opportunities. All the information in the world is right at our fingertips, the internet enables us to connect to anyone anywhere in seconds, and microbusinesses are popping up everywhere. The world is connected like never before, and the barriers for entry to many industries have fallen.
For the person with purpose, this is the land of plenty. There has never been a better time in history to remake your life and pursue your dreams.
In this post, I will reveal the blueprint for figuring out your purpose, and I’ll also describe how it worked for me.
Some Words of Warning
Part of discovering your purpose involves being aware and accepting a few things:
1. It’s not a gimmick.
If you are looking for a quick solution or a mathematical formula into which you simply plug in information and the equation spews out a purpose, you’ll be disappointed. There are no short cuts.
2. Don’t hold back.
Your purpose is directly confined by your imagination, your courage, and your ability to dream big. The more exciting and vibrant your dream is, the stronger the purpose it will give you. As Anthony Robbins puts it, “giant goals produce giant motivation.”
3. Have a little faith.
Total clarity of purpose is something you are unlikely attain immediately. Such clarity manifests itself only after you’ve walked – or sometimes stumbled – through the fog, but the process itself is crucial. So accept that you will initially feel like a fish out of water and approach finding your purpose with the mindset that you will keep going even if you don’t see results immediately. Because eventually, you will.
4. You create your purpose.
Most articles you’ll find online about purpose talk about a “god given purpose” that you were born into. I don’t buy into that idea, nor do I believe that everyone has only one purpose. You were born with certain strengths, weaknesses and tendencies, all of which are constantly evolving. As intimidating as it may seem, it is up to you to decide how you want to use them, and what kind of purpose you want to create for yourself.
5. Prepare to take action.
This isn’t a theoretical exercise. The only way for you to benefit from this article is by taking out a piece of paper and pen and completing the exercise below. So decide RIGHT NOW whether you are just satisfying your curiosity or whether you actually want to make a change and get something of lasting value from this.
The Blueprint For Discovering Your Purpose
Make sure you have about 45 uninterrupted minutes. You’ll need a pen and a couple of blank pieces of paper.
Yes, get them now!
There are four sections to this exercise. Spend about 5-10 minutes on each section, and write down everything you can think of, no matter how ridiculous or unrealistic it might seem. I’ve provided questions to guide you in case you get stuck.
At the end of the exercise, I’ll share my own answers to these questions and how I used the answers to figure out my purpose.
1. Figure out your goals.
Perhaps you haven’t spent much time thinking about your future goals, or you find that thinking about goals that seem “unrealistic” is hard or demotivating. Do not let that deter you. It is irrelevant and should not play a part in your brainstorming.
The key to this exercise is to completely forget about “how” to achieve your goals, and – with the mindset that everything is possible – focus all your energy on “what” you dream of. Dare to dream BIG.
Use the following questions to guide you:
- What do you dream most about in life?
- What would you want for your life if you could have it any way you wanted?
- What would you go for if you knew you could not fail?
- What would your perfect day be like?
Remember, you must believe that if you come up with a compelling enough “why”, the “how” will somehow take care of itself. Whatever you do, don’t let your current life situation put a muzzle on your dreams.
You usually know you are on the right track if the goals you’ve chosen excite and scare you at the same time. The best goals are always the ones that motivate you to start taking action immediately, even if it is just a few small initial steps.
2. What are you passionate about?
Don’t think only of your hobbies or things you do in your free time, also include things you enjoy at work. The key is to understand what motivates you intrinsically.
Use the following questions to guide you:
- What are you passionate about?
- What do you do for fun?
- What do you really enjoy doing?
- What brought you immense joy as a child?
- What did your parents have to drag you away from?
- What activities make you lose track of time?
3. What kind of person do you want to be?
It is often easier to discover your purpose by trying to think of what kind of person you’d want to be rather than what you would like to do. Feel free to choose different aspects you admire from different people.
- Who do you admire?
- What specifically do you admire about them?
Write down the name of each person and the thing that you admire about them. These will become your action points for pursuing your purpose.
4. A life of purpose means you create value for others.
To do this, you need to have some skills or abilities. You may have skills, knowledge or abilities that you are not aware of. This is not uncommon and often derives from the belief that you are too ordinary or not good enough. Chances are, you possess skills that you don’t think much of but might be valuable for someone else.
Use the following questions to help you identify your skills:
- What are you good at?
- What skills do you have?
- How do you create value for friends and family?
- What do people typically ask you for help with?
- If you could get a message across to a large group of people, what would that message be? Who would those people be?
Putting It All Together
Now that you have your goals, passions, actions and skills written down, take a moment to see if there is any overlap between the different categories. What kind of life would allow you to include as many things as possible on your list?
Use the following questions to guide you:
- Which goals are you most eager to start working on right now?
- Which goals are the best match with the personality traits you admire?
- Which skills and passions work best together?
- Are there obvious skills that you could learn that would be a perfect fit with your goals?
The key to this exercise is how well you are able to use your imagination to figure out how to combine all four areas into one. If you’re lucky, the answer is obvious and you only need to figure out how to put it into action. Many of you, however, will initially find it challenging to connect the dots. Don’t be deterred. There is a connection. Discovering the connection, however, may require some time and imagination.
If you’ve completed the exercise but you are struggling to put it all together, here are some techniques I have found useful:
- Discuss it with close friends. Ask questions such as “if you were me, what kind of life would you lead?” or “what kind of life do you think I am best suited for?”. Listen carefully and see what resonates within you.
- Let the exercise sit for a few days before doing it again. Think about it before going to sleep. It’s amazing what time, friends and sleep can do for the creativity of the mind.
- Do the exercises in reverse. Instead of listing your goals, list the things you don’t want to happen in your life, the things you hate doing, the people you despise and the skills you don’t have. Sometimes shedding light on what we don’t want helps us figure out what we do want.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. You’ve come so far and you are closer than you think. Above all, enjoy the process and don’t let a little uncertainty scare you off. Your compelling future is calling. The question is… are you going to answer?
How I Used This Exercise to Create My Purpose… and This Blog
I first created this exercise for the sole reason of figuring out my own purpose. I borrowed liberally from various sources until I had an exercise that covered the areas I felt were important. Here are my answers when I did the exercise:
When I read through my list of answers now, the outcome (this blog) seems so obvious. But at the time when I was working through the process, it was anything but.
By becoming aware of my goals, desires, skills and actions, and having them clearly in mind, it allowed me to quickly evaluate any potential new idea for my purpose. This may sound trivial, but it’s far from it. As I’ve spent time with various friends discussing and evaluating business ideas, this exercise has been my invaluable ally.
Many of the business ideas sounded like great opportunities, but upon reflection of my list, I promptly realized I was only going to sign up for another job that I probably wouldn’t enjoy.
The ability to cross things off your list is often just as important as being able to add new items to it. I recommend this exercise to anyone without reservation. It helped me get off the sideline and into the game, and it can do the same for you.