This is part 2 of my 7-part series on how to find your life purpose.
“When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” — Seneca
“Having a purpose is the difference between making a living and making a life.” — Tom Thiss
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” — John F. Kennedy
What is a “life purpose”? Is it some woo-woo thing that only people who meditate and chant in a cave get? Is it some religious term for holy saints? What exactly is it?
Well, there are multiple interpretations of what a “life purpose” is. For the spiritual folks, they may see it a higher calling. For the religious, they may see it as an instruction from God.
Beyond religious connotations, a life purpose is simply your life’s message. It is the message you wish to drive in the world during your time on Earth. An example of a life purpose is “To inspire everyone to greatness” or “To touch every human on Earth” or “To relieve every living being of suffering.” Having a life purpose applies to all of us, whether we are religious or atheists.
Other terms for life purpose are “life direction,” “purpose statement,” and “life mission.” They are all the same thing.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re 10 years old, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, or older. As long as you wish to live a more meaningful and conscious life, a life purpose is for you.
Why Have a Life Purpose?
Some of you may ask, “Why have a life purpose? Why not just live life as we know it and ignore everything else? Why not chill out and relax until we die?”
Here are 5 reasons why you need to have a life purpose.
1. Life purpose is the starting point of life
(Image: Chiot's Run)
I assume you’re reading this blog not because you're looking for shopping tips or gossip. Chances are, you’re reading this blog because you see the importance of personal growth… your personal growth. Deep inside, you are passionate about living your best life, and you feel that the content here may help you do that.
A life purpose is the first step to live your most conscious life. While you can be busy with a million tasks every day, when you don’t have a clear purpose, you may be heading down the wrong path. That’s because your goals may have nothing to do with your purpose, which means that you can pursue your current goals for the next 10, 20 years, only to realize that this isn’t what you wanted after all. As Stephen Covey once said, "If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster."
On the other hand, when you have a life purpose, that’s when conscious living begins. While it doesn’t mean that all your problems disappear, at least you know what you want to drive in this world. With a clear purpose, you can then set the right goals and plans, and take the right daily steps to create your most meaningful life.
No purpose → Vague goals or no goals → Vague plans or no plans → Random daily actions, Procrastination, or Constantly busy with others’ agendas ✗
Clear purpose → Clear goals → Clear plans → Clear daily actions ✓
You want to make sure that your ladder is leaning against the right wall first, then climb up the ladder. Make sure you get the big picture right first, then perfect your goals/ plans/ daily actions. This big picture is your life purpose.
2. Clarity on what's important vs. unimportant
When you know your purpose, it helps you differentiate between the important and unimportant. Most people today are so caught up with so many things that ultimately do not make a difference in their lives. Earn more money! Get a house! Get a second house! Get a car! Get a second car! Get a fleet of cars! When you have a purpose, you can immediately see which goals are important and which aren’t vs. your long-term life path. You can cut through the BS and get right to the things that matter.
For example, after I found my purpose, I realized that almost all the goals that I had been working toward previously were pointless in the grand scheme of things. Rather, the most important thing for me is the ability to raise the world’s consciousness and help others grow. I share more in my purpose story in part 4 of the series.
The great thing is that investing a few months of my life to discover my purpose allowed me to work on it right away. Rather than waste some 20, 30 years of my life pursuing things that I thought I wanted and needed, I could start paving the path toward my highest life — even if I couldn't act on it right away. Two and a half years after I found my purpose, I started my blog, PersonalExcellence.co. Today (2017), it’s been a decade since I started the site and PE grows bigger than ever. We have a million pageviews at the blog every month, with readers from over 200 countries/territories. The great thing is, I feel like I’m just getting started and I can’t wait to see what the next few years will bring!
I often talk about the 80/20 principle, where you focus on the 20% big rocks to get maximum change. However, you can’t know what your 20% big rocks are unless you are clear about what’s truly important to you. This starts from knowing your life purpose. When you discover your purpose, you can direct your focus to the real important things. Instead of wasting your time on the inconsequential stuff, you can focus on your 20% big rocks. Big rocks that matter not to others, not to the society, but to you.
3. Live a life of meaning
(Image: Daxiao Productions)
When you pursue your purpose, your life becomes filled with direction and meaning. As opposed to wasting your time in a job you don’t love, now you can work toward a career that better fits your purpose. As opposed to being around toxic people who are incompatible with you, now you can find people who share the same values to build your highest life. As opposed to living a random existence, now you can create your life of the highest meaning. This in itself is magic.
This is what happened to one of my coaching clients, Anna. After she found her life purpose, she began to transit to her ideal life. Even though she started off in an unideal place (she was working in a job she didn't like, IT security), we quickly identified her long-term plan to pursue her purpose. From there, she took a certification course to build the right skills, started her Facebook business page, built her blog, gained traffic, got her first clients, and found her tribe. Just recently, she submitted her resignation to pursue this full time.
In Anna's words, “I feel like I was born a fish and for the first time in my life, I’ve jumped in the ocean to swim with my fish friends. :) ” This is a stark contrast from when I first met her at the beginning of our sessions, where she was very frustrated as she wasn’t doing what she loved.
Like I mentioned above, it doesn't mean that life becomes peachy and filled with roses once you find your purpose. You still need to put in the hard work to make things happen. But now you have the right direction to set you forward. :)
4. Constant drive and passion
When you pursue your purpose, you gain an incredible burst of energy that keeps you going.
The ability to pursue my life purpose fills me up with so much energy and passion that I’m excited every day. :) Every morning, I get out of bed, excited at what I'm going to create. At night, I dread going to sleep because I would much rather be living my purpose than spend 6-8 hours asleep!
On the other hand, when you aren’t living your purpose, days become a drag. Weekdays come and you do what’s needed; weekends approach and you look forward to them. Then the week starts and you wake up to Mondays with resistance, waiting for weekends to come again.
This was what I experienced in my last months at my previous job, prior to pursuing my purpose. While I did everything with perfection, I didn't go to work excited to get to my task list. In fact, my day job became increasingly painful as I didn't feel that it was relevant to my life’s message.
If you look forward to weekends and vacations as opposed to what you do each day, it’s time to think about whether your work is something you really care about, or whether it is simply a means to an end. Pursue something of the highest meaning to you. To do this, you need to first start with, “What is my purpose?” (which we’ll get to later).
5. Achieve success (in your terms)
Many people look for success as an end in itself. However, I want to highlight that success is an effect of doing what you love (and having clear plans, goals, skills) vs. something you aim for as an end in itself.
What do I mean? If you've read my article 10,000 Hours To Develop Talent, you’ll know that “talent” isn't inborn as much as it is something that’s cultivated through time. Whether it takes 10,000 or 20,000 hours of hard work, the point is that everyone starts from somewhere, and it’s through consistent work in honing our craft that we become “talented” in an area.
Now, clocking 10,000 or 20,000 hours in something is no easy feat. If you consider that we are productive for mostly 4-5 hours a day (not including admin work and distractions), that’s about 8.5 years to clock 10,000 hours. 8.5 years! That’s 8.5 years to develop talent, which may help you achieve success in your field. Who would have the energy to turn up for work every day and thrive in a field that he/she doesn’t care about for 8.5 years? Maybe a robot, but even robots need to recharge!
Rather than aim for success as an end in itself, wouldn't it make more sense to first identify what you truly care about, and then direct your energy to make this a reality? This is where your purpose comes in. When you discover your true purpose,
- You will naturally want to devote your life to pursue it, because it gives you the most fulfillment.
- You will naturally want to spend time doing it, because you care.
- You will naturally get better at it, even if you are starting from ground zero, because the time you spend on it will give you the experience and skills to succeed.
Because of that, success is imminent. You will excel in whatever you set out to do.
Now that I have shared the 5 benefits of finding your life purpose, in the next part, I’ll talk about false purposes. It’s crucial to know this as we work on your purpose discovery later in the series. Read Part 3: Why Earning Money Is Not Your Real Purpose (And How to Know What Is)