Finding Your Purpose in Life

Do you know what your purpose in life is?

Are you living it?

If you do and you are, I'm pretty sure you are in the minority. More likely you're trying to work out if you even have a purpose, and if so what it is, so that you can start living it.

This page takes you through a process for clarifying your purpose, by imagining:

  • that you've lived your life (from this point on if that's easier) in harmony with your purpose
  • ..and now it is over

The next steps are to imagine:

  • Who will come to your funeral?
  • What will they say?
  • How will you be remembered, when you've lived the best possible life for you, in harmony with your purpose?

Identifying and living your life's purpose is almost certainly not what you were taught as a child. In school it's all about finding some things you seem reasonably competent at, and then finding someone with a job that requires something similar doing, who will pay you to do it.

It's a bonus if you feel okay about doing that work – but how about feeling really fired up and passionate, totally absorbed and involved in what you do?

For most people growing up, certainly in a typical Western family and social setting, finding your purpose (and your values, your passions, your element) just didn't figure. If you were unusually lucky you might have had a teacher, a parent, or some other interested adult who inspired you and encouraged you to follow the lead of your soul, but if you're like most of us you grew up around adults more worried about you making a living and getting by in the world, than about finding your true self. Even if they saw that as a worthwhile goal, chances are it was relegated to a pipe dream.

So how do you know what you are supposed to be doing, why you are here? Well for starters, let's leave work and earning a living out of it for a minute. Yes, those things are important, but when you are in alignment with your purpose (and your values) you will find ways to integrate these elements into your life.

Here's a way to find your purpose. It's in two parts, the first part takes the longest, and it starts at the end.

Find your purpose, step one.

Get some alone time, an hour or so, and somewhere quiet to work. Get yourself and pen and paper, or a word-processor, or whatever is the quickest way for you to write.

Start by imagining that you've lived your life from this point on (forget about the past for now) in harmony with your purpose – and now it's over.

It's your funeral day

You've lived a long, happy and fulfilled life and expressed your purpose in life fully and abundantly. You died in peace, content in the knowledge that you had lived your life in harmony with your true self. As you left this life you were surrounded by those you love, respect and admire, and now all these people are gathered in a beautiful place of your choosing, to honour your passing and share their thoughts and feelings about you.

Who do you want to be there?

Who is there? Write down everyone you would like to be there to remember you when you've gone. You can have whoever you want - all your family members, whether living, dead, ones you haven't met yet, ones who aren't born yet. List friends, work friends, colleagues, collaborators, partners and acquaintances, people from your neighbourhood, people you admire - whether you've met them or not, whether they are living or dead, real or fictional.

You can have people from your present, past and future – perhaps your future partner, children and grandchildren, future business associates and so on, deceased relatives, even ancestors. Everyone you want to be there will be there.

It doesn't matter how many people you have on your list, but once you've gone through people in your life, go further. Think as broadly as possible. Think of all the people you interact with as you go through your life and list them – as individuals or as groups – people you buy goods and services from, people you employ to fix your house, the people who collect the rubbish, and so on. List them all.

Got them all? It's quite a long list, isn't it? What a lot of people in your life, and yet to be in your life.

What will they say about you?

Now, look at your list of family, and choose a spokesperson. This person is going to give a eulogy – a speech describing the sort of person you were and what you meant to them and to others.

Remember, you have lived the best possible life for you, in harmony with your purpose, values and goals.

What will that person say about you? How do they feel about you, what did they value about you, what are there most cherished memories of you? What did they learn from you? As they speak, how does everyone else at the gathering respond? Are there nods and callouts of agreement, tears and laughter of recognition? Does anyone get upset or angry or leave (let them; listen to your family member speak and notice the responses of the majority of people there)?

Do the same with a spokesperson from:

  • your friends
  • your working life
  • your community
  • and the other people you came into contact with throughout your life.

Work on this over several days if need be, taking time to reflect on what has come up for you.

Then come back and do the second part of the “Finding your Purpose”.

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