For many people, this is an unanswered question. It’s all too familiar to meet people who feel like they’re not doing what they’re put here on earth to do.
‘What is my life purpose?’
There’s only one person who can answer that question.
No matter what I tell you, or others tell you. When you’re living your life purpose, it will resonate with you and you'll know it.
The reason why you'll know it, and perhaps I won't, is because of the way you feel.
When I'm living my life purpose, I feel balanced. There's something deep inside me that is satisfied. That feeling of life purpose is linked to an emotional state.
That's why the image above is very clever.
If you're great at something and you love doing it, you've found one of your passions. But even though you might be passionate about something, it's not necessarily your life purpose.
Take surfing as an example.
You might love the ocean, getting outdoors and surfing. You love it. You're good at it. But that alone isn't fulfilling you. You want to feel like you've made a difference. In that case, surfing alone isn't going to get you there.
What if you thought of surfing differently?
What if instead of surfing, you became a surf life saver.
You're in the ocean, you're great at swimming and using a board (one of your passions) but you're helping people and getting paid for it.
Now that could be your life purpose.
You'll have a sense of making a difference. You're helping others. You're making money. You've begun to feel complete.
Life purpose is linked to the essence of who you really are. The core of your being. It’s what most spiritual people would refer to as your soul. You might also describe it as your heart.
Doing something that fills your soul is the only time you can feel like you’re living your life purpose.
This guide will help you block out some of the noise that stops us from getting in tune with our soul – and finding and living your life purpose.
We think we know ourselves well, but for most of our lives we see ourselves skin deep, as if in front of a mirror.
As we get older we may spend time meditating. This is where we can get in tune with our real selves.
We start to see what is on the inside.
What we’re like in our darkest moments. We know our thoughts. Our motivations. Our secret desires.
Reflection on our own actions will bring ourselves into the light, so we can begin to see ourselves more clearly.
There are 4 quadrants;
The area we're focusing on in this first step is what is referred to as the Blind Spot. It's the part of ourselves that is Not known to self, but Known to others.
This is why there’s a faster way to identify your inner self than just meditation or self inspection.
People that know us well have already seen us and they know what our blind spot is. Unfortunately, in many cases they don't know that we don't know what our blind spot is.
Our close friends, family and work colleagues have seen us in action, at our best and worst. They've seen us put our foot in it. They've seen us excel and achieve success in various ways. They listen to us joke, laugh, cry, share stories and dreams.
They often know ourselves better than we do.
So here’s the first step I recommend you take.
Find a few people who know you well.
Not just friends or family either. Find work colleagues too. Find those you play sports with.
Then ask them “What do you think makes me light up?“ or “When do you see me at my best?”
I asked someone close to me, who knew me for years. Her answer surprised me.
“You come alive when you’re creatively solving other people’s problems.”
She has asked my advice countless times as I have also done with her. She reinforced what she said;
“Whenever I ask you about a problem I'm facing, you are at your best. You think of creative ways to solve my problems and give great advice.”
Up until that point, I had never worked formally in the capacity of a mentor or coach. But her comments indicated that is perhaps what I'm good at, but also that when I'm in that zone, it really energises me.
I’d never even considered that as a possible vocation before then or as my life purpose. But it does tick the boxes for me personally.
Let us imagine that you have no obstacles to have what you want, right this moment.
You can have whatever you want.
What would you list as your top 5?
A new car? A holiday? That dream home?
Every single business coach I've ever met has told me to create a ‘dream board.’
You've probably heard of a dream board.
A dream board is where you stick images onto a large piece of cardboard to help you visualise what you want in your future, just like this one;
Every dream board looks the same.
A house by the water, with an amazing swimming pool, perhaps a tennis court. A luxury boat that you can hop on any time you like and sail away. A few really fancy cars. A picture of a plane for that dream vacation.
What a load of rubbish.
You want to think BEYOND the things. Beyond possessions. If you're going to find your life purpose then I'd suggest you ignore material wealth for now. I'm not suggesting that you choose poverty. I'm just saying that 'things' are not a result of living your life purpose. Things might be a goal you are aiming for, but don't get them confused with your life purpose.
Think about what those possessions represent.
The bigger home. What does that represent to you as a person?
Those are two items that you may want to add to your dream board.
So instead of writing "I want a bigger home" you could instead write “I want to feel good about myself” or “I want to feel secure about my future.”
Possessions may help you feel better in the short term, but if you have low self-esteem you'll still have low self-esteem even after you buy your mansion.
These boards have nothing at all to do with your life purpose. Instead, they are the noise that clouds our judgement of what is really important.
Now ask yourself again;
“If I could have anything I wanted right now, what would it be?”
Start working towards your answers and you'll be on the path to becoming a more complete person as well as living your life purpose.
At different stages of our lives we embark on new adventures. New jobs. New relationships. New sporting activities. New address.
Step 3 is about considering all of those different moments in your life and measuring them.
Having adventures in life is what reveals other parts of our character that we may not otherwise be aware of. So now I'd suggest you draw on those memories and experiences to help us get closer to identifying your life purpose.
Take a look at the image below.
As an example:
Living your life purpose, you'll find yourself centred. Because you'll be centred, you'll have feelings of positivity about yourself and your place on this earth.
Lets split out these 4 circles and consider each one individually.
I'm going to use my own example for you to see how this works.
When I first got a job, I wasn't well paid. I wasn't very good at my job - heck I was a trainee. I loved it though because it was new. I was meeting new people and learning new skills. Unfortunately, the world didn't really need it - or at least, there wasn't much sense of doing something positive in the world.
If I were to look at my emotional state, it would be pretty accurate to say the following;
Paid for it; I had a sense of lowliness because of my earnings and being the junior made me feel inferior.
Great at it; I didn't have much confidence doing what I was doing and would never get any kind of recognition for my work.
Love it; I was still pretty excited about my work and was passionate about learning whatever I could.
World needs it; I felt insignificant in the grand scheme of things where what I was doing wasn't really important.
6 Months later, the graph changes;
I was getting better at what I was doing and my wage was slowly climbing. But, because things were now routine, I wasn't as enthusiastic about what I was doing anymore. The World also still didn't care about what I was doing.
When I had about 3 years experience;
At this point, I was earning a decent salary. I was pretty good at my job and became the go-to person when things needed to be done. As you can see, the more I mastered my craft and the longer I did it, the less I enjoyed the position.
At the peak of my career in that industry;
Here's the catch. I'm well paid. I'm very good at what I do. But I really dislike my job.
Lets take another look at how I feel about myself;
Paid for it; I had a good lifestyle. I had the earned the respect of my peers. I had the money to pay for all the things I wanted. My wife felt secure because we had money in the bank.
Great at it; I had high self esteem. I'm very confident in my role and would get recognition for my work.
Love it; I suffered depression. I couldn't put my finger on it but this was real. I had a real dissatisfaction with where I was at. Ultimately resulting in feeling melancholy most of the time.
World needs it; I felt insignificant in the grand scheme of things where what I was doing wasn't really important.
Now rinse and repeat this exercise.
I've had several positions. Each encompassed different skill sets and had different requirements.
When I managed a company, I loved mentoring others. That's something the world needs. So although it was only a small part of what I did (about 2%) it was one specific area that I felt like I was making a difference with.
As you explore your past, you'll begin to isolate various parts of your role that you love, and parts that you don't really enjoy.
This is a good way to consider your perfect job.
Here's a real example from a past employee of mine on this very subject;
The 90’s would have to have been the most self-serving decade of my adult life so far.
It was all about what I wanted and what I thought I should have.
I was back at work and well out of the early primary school aged children scene. Just in my 40’s; old enough to believe I knew everything but young enough to have the energy to convince others to believe the same.
We’d just moved into a spacious and gracious old house which was to be our much admired home for the next 14 years and I’d bought my first new car in 20 years.
My husband had moved from sales to an admin position within sales; this was seen as a promotional move, but more importantly, it meant a steady income in place of the precarious commission income we’d been used to. At the same time, I was offered my dream job at the building company where I worked. I was out of the drudgery of the drafting office and focused purely on design, doing all the displays, new models, grouped dwellings and one off designs.
I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
I was on fire: my ego was blooming; my inner peace wasn't something I gave a rat’s arse about. I couldn't afford to.
All seemed good. We even bought an investment property, which, in spite of the fact that we eventually got to enjoy living in it for a while, it was a venture I was never really comfortable with. From the beginning, we had endless heated debates about affordability and if the minor fissures of failure in our marriage weren't already becoming too numerous to ignore, then this was certainly the start of one of the bigger cracks to appear.
But to quote Leonard Cohen: “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.
By mid 1998, I’d crashed.
Not physically, not mentally and not outwardly. I just had a knowing that the rat’s arse of my inner peace was starting to shit itself.
A couple of significant factors were in play: firstly, my husband’s position (which he’d always sworn he ‘d have till retirement) had become fragile and secondly, the fabric of my workplace had evolved to such an extent that long term staff were beginning to leave.
At the time, I was not only buckling under the weight of office politics and decidedly concerned about the tenure of my husband’s job, I was also trying to deal with a teenager who’s behaviour wasn't quite going according to plan.
It was decision time.
If the rumours that the company was going to close down were true, I needed to find another job. Now! With an almost guaranteed source of work flow from the company, and from a new builder who was just starting out, I chose to contract from home. It meant I could carry on earning and still be at home to monitor my teenager.
In hindsight, it was a fairly hasty decision, based on worrying about the trees growing instead of standing back and admiring the forest …… with all it’s deadwood, twisted branches and bent trees being a part of it’s natural wonder.
The next few years ran their natural course; The Universe unfolded just as it was meant to.
I still had the odd private drafting clients and one other builder to contract for but it was barely enough to pay for my ink cartridges. Not that this mattered as much as it did in the past; my husband’s new job paid much the same as he was on before, we’d sold the investment property, re-jigged the mortgage and paid off a few debts so although we weren't going great, we were at least still going along.
Admittedly, alcohol played a big part in our ability to keep things ‘going along’. Previous heated debates, job issues, fissures and cracks still remained unsealed though and as a consequence, didn’t weather well during stormy outbursts.
As far as the idea of me returning to a builder’s drafting office went, I’d decided it was out of the question.
By this time, I’d got used to being my own boss and not having to front up to an office everyday. Coupled with the fact that I was about to turn 50, the idea that I’d walk into another drafting job somewhere just seemed ridiculous and remote. Not to mention the fact that I found what I was doing to be increasingly unsatisfying, to say the least.
Of course, the bigger part of my dissatisfaction was due to the state of my life at the time, not so much the drafting. A fact I didn’t realize until I got off the merry-go-round. So now, with the ever present thought that I needed to supplement my income, I started doing catalogue deliveries. It didn't require enough commitment to negatively impact on any drafting work I had and it also doubled as an exercise routine. Considering what it involved and that I did it quite on impulse, it turned out to be profoundly beneficial in the long run.
The income it provided was negligible but the one thing I hadn't accounted for, was the thinking time it gave me. Even household chores, gardening and cooking take some thought or focus, but this was sheer, repetitive boredom: one foot in front of the other, shoving the same old catalogues into the same old letterboxes.
My physical was on auto-pilot but my mind was in overdrive and on easy street.
There were days when I couldn't wait to get out of the house and get started on my deliveries, just to think, plan, imagine, reflect and create.
The beauty in all this new found creative thinking time I had, was that it coincided with my other current activities.
With little drafting work coming in and time on my hands, I was reading a lot; self-awareness publications in particular.
I couldn’t get enough of them and early in 2002, I started attending a Psychotherapy and Counselling course to extend my interest.
It was not long after this that I also started babysitting my toddler nephew on a regular basis and because of his delayed verbalising, and engagingly different character (he was eventually diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome), I found myself putting a lot of time into developing semi-educational activities he might enjoy on his visits.
Nearly every time I did deliveries, I’d spend the entire time in coming up with some action plan or new idea for his next play date. Further to this, because of the course I was attending, I was encouraged to choose a form of volunteer work to pursue which involved dealing with people in need. I found the choice an easy one and ended up as a student mentor at a local high school.
I can’t remember exactly how or where I first heard of this type of work, but I do know I’d been aware of it some years before I actually applied. It had always been in the back of my mind – just waiting for the right time to bring it to the fore. Although the work was unpaid, I found it incredibly fulfilling and became totally immersed in this new venture.
Within a matter of months, I could see positive results in my student and was receiving some wonderful feedback from staff. I hadn't felt so achieved about a job well done in probably 10 years. By the end of that year, when I learned that a position of a Special Needs Education Assistant would become available at the school the following year, I was encouraged by a supervisor to enrol in the Certificate III of Children's Services and apply for the job. I did so and in mid 2003, I started my new job as a Teacher’s Assistant, working specifically with two 13 year old boys; one of whom was a high functioning autistic student; the other being a bright but undereducated student who could neither read nor write at the age of 13.
I found the job equally as rewarding as it was challenging but it did totally consume me and I spent a disproportionate amount of time developing learning aids for the boys considering the rate of pay that I was on.
My efforts didn't go unnoticed though and I often received special thanks and a certain amount of freedom to work with the students as I saw fit.
The following year, I continued with the same students but had more and more duties involving other students in small groups. My actual hours were only part-time but I was often completely drained on the days I worked. The students were unpredictable at times and there was a constant need to be on guard to stay one step ahead of them.
Not surprisingly, the part of the job I enjoyed most soon became the actual planning and making of the resources I needed in order to hold their attention enough to learn something.
The learning aids were always about getting information across in a simple but easily digested visual display.
I was doing what I did best: creating a plan with numerical and notational instructions for the reader to complete a physical task.
Again the Universe was unfolding as it should.
The only difference between developing student resources and drafting houses was the client.
In home building, the client (whether it’s the Managing Director of a building company, the Sales & Marketing Manager or the man in the street as the customer) has desires which are driven by want.
In the case of the students, the desires are driven by need.
Once I had got back to the basics of my talents and recognised that I had a fundamental ability to create a map, I became comfortable in knowing that as long as I have to earn a living, it will always be in drafting.
I don’t need to draw for clients who’s wants and wish lists are based on the latest fads; most of the jobs I take on require a practical solution to a need….. and at the same time, fulfil my own dire ‘need’ to make a living!
Being able to do that with a talent that comes naturally at a pace I enjoy and without office banter, must be the best job in the world.
I didn't need to change jobs at all.
I only needed to change my attitude towards my current job.
In this account, Liz shares how she came to the realisation of what she enjoyed and why.
It's important to recognise that some components of what you're doing right now might be something you love, if you can just remove the components you dislike.
Using Step 4 above, will help you identify activities that fit with your life purpose and hopefully illuminate them so you can re-write your ideal daily activity - one that ticks all the boxes.
Discover your blind spot.
Ask your friends, family and colleagues what makes you tick.
Ask yourself what you really want.
Knowing what is important to you will help you discover your life purpose.
Consider life up to this point.
Really think about how you felt doing what you have previously done.
Reverse engineer your past.
Break down each role you've ever had, to visually assist you.
Design your dream job.
Now you know what you want, describe it in words - then go for it!
I don't know who created this originally - there's an early source that mentions a junior school teacher who originally came up with a more simplified version. However this current version, shown above, is currently un-attributed. For the record, this isn't my creation and I would like to attribute it properly. If you know who originally created this, please let me know so I can.