This is part 5 of my 7-part series on how to find your life purpose.
Some self-help authors recommend thinking about your purpose by imagining you are listening to your eulogy at your funeral. What do you want others to say about you when you die? What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
Personally, I do not agree to this method for two reasons:
- Ego-based. By basing yourself on others' perceptions of you, you are tapping into your ego and fear. A purpose is not about leaving a legacy or making others remember you positively. It is about living your life in a way that you will be proud of.
- Short-term. Our existence between now and physical death is merely a small speck in the spectrum of our spiritual existence. By defining our purpose in the context of our current physical life only, we are not living our life in the fullest possible way.
How to Define My Purpose Then?
Your purpose will guide you through every step in your life, so it is crucial to define it properly.
In part 6 of this series, you will be doing an important deep-dive to uncover your life purpose. Before you do so, let's lay down proper guiding principles on how you should approach your purpose, as they will set the stage for everything. Here are my 6 principles to define your purpose.
1. Resonates with who you are
What do you love doing? Your purpose should reflect your passion and values. This requires a certain level of self-awareness, because you can't know what your passion and values are unless you have ventured out before. Ask yourself: "If I have to do something for the rest of my life, without getting paid a single cent, what would I want to do?" This is something true to you — it is your purpose, not other people's purpose.
2. Limitless in entity, time and space
You should anchor your purpose on ageless principles. Do not base your purpose on a particular entity (e.g., your family, partner, job, or country), time (e.g., your physical life span), or space (e.g., a geographical location), as this will make your purpose one dimensional. Meaning,
- Instead of basing your purpose on your family, ladder it to a higher order group, such as all human relationships or relationships with all living beings.
- Instead of basing it on a religion, ladder it up to spirituality.
- Instead of defining it within your life span, look at the entire spectrum of life — human life or life on Earth as we know it.
- Instead of fixing it on a specific location, look at the entire world, universe, or even the galaxy.
Your purpose should span across (a) entity, (b) time, and (c) space. It is a message, not a medium. You can be more specific when you set goals based on your purpose. For starters, recognize that you are living at a point in the 13.7 billion life span of our current universe (which is one of the many universes out there). You are one of the 7.4 billion lives to walk Earth right now. If you can live forever, and you're not bounded by geography, what would you want your purpose to be in the context of the entire universe? What would be the most meaningful thing you could do?
Money and statuses do not withstand this test because they are impermanent things that do not matter in the larger span of human existence. By using this principle, I was able to accelerate the discovery of my life purpose, rather than only waiting 10, 20, 30 years later to realize I was chasing a moot point. This is something I shared in my purpose story.
Think big. Your purpose is your compass to achieve your highest potential and best life beyond your wildest imagination. It should inspire, energize, and stir your soul! Forget the social, physical, and mental constraints in your life currently. What would you do if you would definitely succeed? "To be happy" is a cop-out answer because it hinges on subjective emotional states as the determinant. You can force a smile and make yourself happy now if you choose to, without doing anything. "To enjoy life" is a non-answer because the nature of a life purpose should fulfill you. Your purpose should be something that requires your concrete action to fulfill.
4. Specific (not Vague)
"To live life to the fullest" or Carpe diem is a looping answer. What does it mean to live life to the fullest? It does not say anything — our purpose should be inherently fulfilling! Your purpose should identify the specific thing that will allow you to live life to the fullest. What gives you the greatest gratification and meaning when you do it?
5. Direction (rather than End state)
Avoid defining end states as your purpose. Your goal is your milestone or destination. Your purpose is the direction you want to travel in. Antarctica is a destination while North is a direction. Likewise, becoming a teacher, president, or singer are goals. Educating and helping people is a purpose.
6. Rooted in Love, not Fear
Your purpose should liberate you and be aligned with the highest level emotion, which is love. Purposes like "to become wealthy," "to be successful in endeavors," or "to acquire social status" are fear-based and rooted in externalities, as we have discussed in Part 3: Why Earning Money Is Not Your Real Purpose (And How to Know What Is). Your purpose should emanate from within, from your inner state of being. It should not require affirmation from the outside world, such as physical possessions or statuses. Refer to part 3 for the differences between false and real purposes.
Now that you know the 6 principles to define your purpose, we are now ready to discover your life purpose! :) Read Part 6: How to Discover Your Real Life Purpose in 30 Minutes