Figuring out your purpose might be one of life’s most important endeavors. But that doesn’t mean it needs to take a lifetime to figure it out. Even though the question of purpose is one that you should continually engage with and revisit over your lifespan, it’s never too early to identify and articulate your purpose.
Here are five deep questions you can start with right now. So if you’ve been feeling lost and confused about your purpose, this is a great place to start. Or, if you already have a pretty good sense of your purpose, this is a great way to reaffirm and clarify your big “why”.
- If you lived in a world where everyone made the exact same amount of money as everyone else, and no matter what you chose to do for a living, you would be loved, adored, and valued by everyone, what would you spend your days doing in order to feel fulfilled?
This question is important because it removes some of the cultural pressures that often get in the way of true authenticity. There is So. Much. Pressure. to fit in and also stand out, all at the same time. We are supposed to be original, while at the same time conforming to society’s standards for success, achievement, and personal value. By removing money and acceptance from the equation, you can get a clearer idea of who you truly want to be and what you truly want to spend your time doing.
- Ask yourself who and how you want to BE, not what you want to DO.
Too many people focus on the question “what do I want to do?” But, in reality, what we do is not nearly as important as how we do it. For example you may have two school teachers who are technically doing the same job. But one of them is deeply passionate about teaching kids the value of curiosity, self-respect, and creative self-expression. The other teacher has an authoritarian view of teaching and doesn’t think children should question or doubt what they are being taught. These two teachers are both doing the same work (teaching), but HOW they are doing it and WHO they are being while doing it are entirely different and will have entirely different impacts on the world. So focus less on the doing in more on the being.
- When you’re on your deathbed and looking back on your life, what are the things that you KNOW you’ll have wanted to have done or accomplished in your life? As you approach death, what will the measures of “a life well lived” be for you? If you continue living your life as you are today, will you have regrets and what will they be? If you had the chance to reverse those things you regret, how would you do it?
The whole deathbed thing may seem like a trite question, but there are few things that make us take stock of our lives more powerfully than the threat of no longer having a life. Really sit and think about what you are going to feel like on your deathbed as you look back on your life. Will you feel proud of your life? If so, why? What are the moments and memories that will mean the most you? What do you want others to remember you for?
- What is your superpower?
Don’t freak out here. EVERYONE has a superpower. Your superpower is the thing that you do that is completely easy and natural for you. Don’t think in terms of conventional superpowers, because your superpower can literally be anything? It is the thing you do that others often marvel at, but it seems so easy to you that it doesn’t even come close to seeming like a super power to you. Are you a whiz at turning any room into a beautiful setting? Do you make the best hot chocolate in town? Are you an amazing listener who always knows how to cheer people up? Do you always know the exact right Netflix series to suggest to your friends? Don’t judge your super power, simply identify it (or them if you are fortunate enough to have more than one). Think about why others valuethat in you, and how it makes you feel to do that thing you do so well.
- Think back on your life so far and write down at least five times when you felt a feeling of complete joy, bliss, connection, or clarity. Think of times when you remember feeling completely okay in your skin—when there were no feelings of internal conflict or self-judgement.
The times in our life when we felt completely in “flow” or when we felt the most comfortable in our skin, are often the times when were living from our highest self. Look for memories when you felt completely right with the world, or the activities you regularly do that make you feel happy and connected. These can be big moments or seemingly simple activities. It might be the quiet calm that comes over you when you take a walk. Or the sense of connection you feel when doing yoga. Or the complete “rightness” of holding your baby in your arms. Find the moments and activities that were, or currently are, a resounding YES in your heart, body, and mind.
If you take a look at the memories you you can start to identify common themes. Take a look at these times and see what they have in common. For example, if you feel blissful and happy when you are camping, what is it about that experience that makes you feel that way?
Now that you’ve completed the 5 questions, start looking for the connections between all of your answers to find common themes. Contemplate how things make you feel and why you get satisfaction or happiness from each one. For example, if being in nature, is a common theme in your answers, ask yourself what it is about that experience that feels so good to you. Is it slowing down your mind and connecting with yourself, or the quality time you have with family/friends, or is it the satisfaction you get from relying on yourself for survival in nature? Keep drilling down to get at the core satisfaction or feeling in each of your answers and find the connections between them all.
Your answers to these questions cut straight to the core of your purpose for living. Don’t complicate things more than you need to. Sometimes a life purpose can be summed up in a single word, like love, connection, authenticity, justice, or freedom. Trust yourself and trust what flows from within you. Because maybe that’s the whole purpose of life to begin with.
Need more help discovering your purpose? Check out ways you can work with me individually at www.cardinalpsychotherapy.com.