When I was in college, I began to find my purpose in life. I was actually a Chinese history major, but in my senior year, I took an elective course for an “easy A” called Social Relations 10.
In that class, we talked about our feelings and got to know each other on a deeper level than anyone I had ever talked to in college. I realized I loved human behavior — how people interact with each other, how they set goals, what human psychology is all about. I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life.
Over the next several years, one opportunity led to another, and I discovered that my true purpose in life was inspiring and empowering people to live their highest vision in the context of love and joy.
Since then, my whole life has been developed around that purpose. Once I was clear with that, I could align every single behavior and goal with my purpose.
So today I want to talk to you about one of the most important, yet challenging things you must do: how to find your purpose in life.
Determine What’s Keeping You From Finding Your Passion
One of the biggest challenges we face is figuring out exactly what we want to do with our lives.
For some of us, our purpose and passion in life are obvious and clear. We’re born with a set of talents and through persistent practice, we develop our talents into skills.
My children are prime examples of clear purpose. It was clear from the moment they got on the planet what they were interested in.
One son wanted to draw all the time, and he is now in the art world. Another son was always tapping out rhythms on paint cans and dishes, and he’s now in the music world, along with one of his brothers.
My daughter is in the literary world, and my stepson is definitely in the business world.
My stepdaughter is also in the arts – she began singing and drawing when she was two. And my stepson is in the business world. He was making business plans and selling things to his friends by the time he was in middle school.
They all had natural talents that were clear indicators of what they ended up ultimately being passionate about.
For others, it’s not as easy to identify a passion. You may even have asked yourself at one point or another, “What should I do with my life?” “What is my passion?” or “What is my life purpose.”
Alternatively, you may enjoy what you do, but on deeper exploration, discover that you’re passionate about something different than what you do.
It is these people who I hope to offer some useful guidance.
Before we can address how to go about finding what it is you want to commit to in your life, it’s important to better understand why it can be so difficult to figure out. Several factors can make finding your purpose in life hard.
Problems Affecting Your True Purpose
When seeking your true passion, there will always be problems or obstacles that come up and hold you back. Pressure from outside influences is often the root cause that leads people down life paths they don’t enjoy.
Another is that people often prioritize things such as money and prestige above doing what they love. However, it’s beneficial to know that those things will most likely come to those who pursue their true purpose and passion.
Oftentimes, people may also feel that it is too late for them to find their true purpose. They believe they are too old or too established in their current life. This, however, is rarely ever true.
It’s never too late to start doing what makes you happy and the belief that it is too late is nothing more than another factor holding you back.
It’s Time to Move On From Any Setbacks
Once you’ve identified the factors that may be keeping you from finding your purpose in life, you can silence them and follow your true calling.
Thankfully, we’re all born with an inner compass that tells us whether or not we’re on the right path to finding our true purpose. That compass is our experience with happiness or joy.
If you enjoy what you’re doing and it fulfills you, you’re on the right track. If not, it’s time to readjust your course.
By listening to your inner compass and learning to ignore any outside influences or factors that point you in the opposite direction, you’ll find that discovering your true purpose isn’t so hard after all.
How to Discover Your Purpose in Life
Identifying, acknowledging, and honoring your true purpose in life is perhaps the most important action successful people take. They take the time to understand what they’re here to do – and then they pursue that with passion and enthusiasm.
After pinpointing the things that could be holding you back from finding your purpose, it’s time to start uncovering what it is you were truly meant to do with your life.
To do this, start by following these 10 tips that will help you determine how to find your purpose in life.
1. Explore the Things You Love To Do
We are all born with a deep and meaningful purpose that we have to discover. Your purpose is not something you need to make up; it’s already there. You have to uncover it in order to create the life you want. You may ask yourself, “What is my purpose in life?” You can begin to discover your passion or your purpose by exploring two things:
- What do you love to do?
- What comes easily to you?
Of course, it takes work to develop your talents- even the most gifted musician still has to practice-but it should feel natural, like rowing downstream rather than upstream.
I love to teach, write, coach, facilitate, train, and develop transformational seminars, workshops, and courses. I love to bring other leaders together for conferences and to co-create new approaches to our work.
These things come easy for me. Although I invested many years in learning how to master these skills, I loved every minute of it. In other words, work is required, but suffering is not. If you are struggling and suffering, you are probably not living on purpose.
2. Ask Yourself What Qualities You Enjoy Expressing the Most in the World
First, ask yourself, What are two qualities I most enjoy expressing in the world? Mine are love and joy.
Second, ask yourself, What are two ways I most enjoy expressing these qualities? Mine are inspiring and empowering people.
I inspire people with the moving stories that I tell in my seminars and that I write about in my books, and I empower them by teaching them powerful success strategies that they can apply in their own lives.
3. Create a Life Purpose Statement
Take a few moments and write a description of what the world would look like if it were operating perfectly according to you. In my perfect world, everybody is living their highest vision where they are doing, being, and having everything they want. Finally, combine all three into one statement, and you will have a clear idea of your purpose.
Mine is “Inspiring and empowering people to live their highest vision in a context of love and joy.”
4. Decide Where You Want to Go
Use your inner compass to clarify your vision and figure out where you want to go. Then, lock in your destination through goal setting, affirmations, and visualization, and start taking the actions that will move you in the right direction.
With every picture you visualize, you’re “inputting” the destination you want to get to.
Every time you express a preference for something, you are expressing an intention.
A table by the window, front row seats at a conference, first-class tickets, a room with an ocean view, or a loving relationship.
All these images and thoughts are sending requests to the universe.
If you stay out of its way—meaning you don’t interrupt the process with a stream of negative thoughts, doubts, and fears, your inner GPS will keep unfolding the next steps along your route as you continue to move forward.
In other words, once you clarify and then stay focused on your vision (you can do this with a vision board or meditation), the exact steps will keep appearing along the way in the form of internal guidance, creating ideas, and new opportunities.
5. Be Clear About Your Life Purpose
Once you’re clear about what you want and keep your mind focused, then how will keep showing up—sometimes just when you need it and not a moment earlier.
You were born with an inner guidance that tells you when you are on or off course by the amount of joy you are experiencing. The things that bring you the greatest joy are in alignment with your purpose and will get you to where you want to go.
When you present your goals to the universe with all its powerful technology, you will be surprised and dazzled by what it delivers. This is where the magic and miracles truly happen.
Take some time to think honestly and openly about where you currently are in your life and what you want to do with your life.
What is your financial status? How are your relationships going? How is your health? And so on…
Next, think about where you would like to be.
If your life were perfect right now, what would it look like? What kind of job would you have and where would you be living? By continually doing this exercise, you’ll send powerful triggers to your subconscious mind to help you get there.
6. Conduct a Passion Test
Developed by Chris and Janet Attwood, The Passion Test is a simple, yet elegant, process. You start by filling in the blank 15 times for the following statement: “When my life is ideal, I am ___.” The word(s) you choose to fill in the blank must be a verb.
When Janet took me through the process, my statements looked like this:
- My life is ideal when I’m being of service to massive numbers of people.
- My life is ideal when I’m helping people with their vision.
- My life is ideal when I’m speaking to large groups.
- My life is ideal when I’m being part of a spiritual leaders network.
- My life is ideal when I’m creating a core group of ongoing trainers who feel identified with my organization.
Once you’ve created 15 statements, you identify the top 5 choices. To do this, you compare statements #1 and #2 to identify which is most important. Take the winner of that comparison and decide whether it’s more or less important than statement #3.
Then take the winner of that comparison, and decide whether it’s more or less important than statement #4, and so on until you’ve identified the passion that is most meaningful to you.
Repeat the process with the remaining 14 statements to identify your second choice. Then repeat the process until you’ve pinpointed your top 5 passions in life.
Next, create markers for each of your top five passions, so that you can look at your life and easily tell whether you are living that passion.
For me, a life goal would be, “When I’m helping people live their vision I’m giving at least 20 workshops a year for at least 10,000 people total, and at each event, people are coming up afterward and saying, ‘You’ve really empowered me to live my vision.”
Once you know what your passions are and how your life will look when you are living it, you can create action plans to turn your dreams into reality.
7. Conduct a Joy Review
Another technique you can use to help you identify your purpose is to conduct a joy review. Simply set aside about 30 minutes and make a list of all the times you’ve felt the greatest joy in your life.
When I did this it was when I was a patrol leader in the Boy-Scouts, when I was an officer in my military high school, when I was a summer camp counselor at a camp in Maine, my years as a leader in my college fraternity, my years as a high school teacher, when I was conducting workshops and training, when I was telling jokes, telling stories and when I was traveling.
Then look for a pattern among all these times.
In my case, it was when I was teaching, inspiring, and empowering people to reach for their dreams and to have more love, joy, and abundance in their lives.
Since we know that the secret of happiness is part of your internal guidance system telling you when you’re on course, you can determine a lot about your life purpose from completing this joy review.
8. Take Time for Yourself
One of my coaching students, a successful cardiologist, was struggling to identify his purpose. I suggested another exercise, and asked him to look back over his life and answer the question, When have I felt most fulfilled?
He shared three periods in which he felt the happiest and most fulfilled.
First, he told me about a time with his grandfather when he was growing up in India.
The second was his experience of playing with his own grandchildren.
The third was a time he spent vacationing on a sailboat.
When I asked him what was common to all three of these experiences, he told me that it was the sense of freedom that he felt.
Noticing that none of his three experiences related to his profession in medicine, I asked him to tell me about his most fulfilling experiences as a doctor.
As we examined his life further, it became apparent that he took very little time for himself. He was always on call, always working late, always over-scheduled with little or no free time for self-care. I asked him why this was so. He answered that people could die if he didn’t attend to them.
The problem became clear: By attending only to patients and never to himself, he was in a sense- dying.
To drive this point home, I asked him what he would do in the following situation: “A patient comes to you for an operation. If you operate on this patient, you will die. If you don’t operate on him, he will die. It’s him or you. What would you do?” He reflected quietly on this scenario for a long time, and then finally, he said, “I would choose to live, rather than die myself. It doesn’t make sense to kill myself to save others.”
This was a turning point in his life. He later told me that while he still wants to serve people, he now knows he has a right to take care of himself, his mind, his body, and his needs.
This cardiologist now places a higher value on doing what truly comes from his heart, not someone else’s.
9. Align Your Goals With Your Life Purpose
We’re all gifted with a set of talents and interests that tell us what we’re supposed to be doing. Once you know what your life purpose is, organize all of your activities around it. Everything you do should be an expression of your purpose. If an activity or goal doesn’t fit that formula, don’t work on it.
Aligning with your purpose is most critical when setting professional goals. When it comes to personal goals, you have more flexibility.
If you want to learn how to paint or water ski, go ahead and do so. If your goal is to get fit and lose weight, move ahead with confidence. Nurturing yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually will make you more energized, resilient and motivated to live your purpose on the professional front.
However, don’t ignore the signs that your job or career is not right for you. If you dread Monday mornings and live for the weekends, it may be a sign that it’s time to follow your heart and pursue the work you long to do.
10. Lean Into Your True Life Purpose
Once you have gained more clarity about your purpose, you don’t need to completely overhaul your life completely all at once. Instead, just lean into it, bit by bit.
Start living your purpose a little more fully every day, and pay attention to the feedback you’re receiving from others and in terms of the results you are producing, and also to how you are feeling.
Let’s Find Your True Purpose in Life
You’ve got big dreams and ambitions. Now, it’s time to start acting on them while taking your life to a whole new level.
I want to leave you with a bit of homework. Think about your true purpose. Assume that the world is perfect right now. What does this world look like? How is everyone interacting with each other? What does it feel like?
Write down your answer as a statement, in the present tense, the way you see a perfect world. Remember, that a perfect world is a fun place to be. Once you determine this, go back and read it every day.
Your purpose most likely has something to do with creating that world in some way. Maybe in a small way with your friends, family, neighborhood, community, or workgroup, or maybe on a grander scale.
Simply close your eyes and visualize that perfect world for a few minutes every day. Then you can watch for opportunities that help create that world wherever you are.
And if, like me, you’re interested in helping others transform their lives along with your own, register for my Train the Trainer Online program. You’ll discover the Success Principles that have helped thousands of people achieve their biggest dreams, learn how to speak, teach, and coach others.
Undoubtedly, you can find your true purpose in life. And remember, nothing will change for the better until you do.
As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and Jack speaks around the world on this subject. Check out his newest book The 30-Day Sobriety Solution: How to Cut Back or Quit Drinking in the Privacy of Your Own Home. Follow Jack at www.jackcanfield.com and sign up for his free resources today!
Image courtesy of Hakan Hu.