Finding your purpose is a giant leap toward fulfillment.
Purpose is the fuel of life. It’s the reason anyone does anything, and everything has at least one purpose. For example, sleep has a purpose: to recover the body. Studying has a purpose: to learn information. Traveling has a purpose: to get to another place. Exercise has a purpose: to strengthen the body. Sometimes the only purpose is enjoyment (watching cartoons, for example). Even procrastination has a purpose! Accordingly, if there were no purpose, no reason, and no benefit for something, it would never be done. Therefore, purpose is indeed the driving force (or fuel) of life.
I believe life has a purpose as well. After all, how can it be that everything comprising life has a purpose but not life itself? And if purpose is the fuel of life, a life without purpose would be empty and dormant. Certainly that could be a scary thing. But how do we find our purpose? How do we find out what we are called to do? How can we avoid drifting through life with no clear destination in mind? Is there a phone number we can dial? Unfortunately, I don’t think so, but there are ways to find these elusive answers.
Before we find our purpose, however, let’s define it. A purpose is “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.” Your purpose in life is your mission statement. It’s the reason why you are here. It’s also important to note that you have passions as well, which are slightly different. Passions, which make your heart beat faster and bring your spirit to life, are complements to your purpose. Not all passions will contribute to your purpose, but at least one will. For example, I’m passionate about football, but my purpose isn’t to play in the NFL. I’m passionate about reading, but my purpose isn’t to read entire libraries. Luckily, I’m also passionate about helping people and teaching, and I believe my purpose is to help others through teaching. This leads to my formula for purpose:
Purpose is when passion, skill, and benefit to others come together. In others words (and if you like math):
Purpose = passion + skill + benefit to others
Therefore, if you want to find your purpose, you must clarify what you’re passionate about, what skills you have (or can acquire), and how they can benefit others. Here are some tips (you will need paper and a writing utensil!) to find your purpose using this criteria.
1) Passion: Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Passion provides enthusiasm and that is why it is necessary. Your purpose in life is great; you need be enthusiastic to create it. On a piece of paper, write down everything you are passionate about. Even if it sounds silly or irrelevant, write it down! Better to have too many options than too few. Plus, all ideas carry with them the power to spark new ideas. These questions might help as well: What do you love to do? What is fun for you? What would you do if you could do anything? What would you do if you knew you could not fail? What do you catch yourself thinking about when your mind wanders? When are you happiest? What does your perfect day look like? Elaborate on these answers and organize your responses as needed.
2) Skill: Undoubtedly, skill is required for a passion to become a purpose. If you’re passionate about brain surgery, great! If you’re terrible at it, your purpose awaits you elsewhere (unless you want to acquire that skill or find a related endeavor). As I said, your life purpose is great. Once we have the enthusiasm (passion) now we need to channel it efficiently (skill). “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” ~John Ruskin. Now, think about (and write down) everything you are good at. What are you great at? Can you draw, build, juggle, teach, or sing? Can you lead others, make people laugh, think critically, or adapt to situations? Keep in mind that all of these can lead to many different pursuits. Also, look back up at your passions and think about any skills you could add to your list. What could help you develop your passions? For example, I mentioned before that I am passionate about football. I’m nowhere near skilled enough to play in the NFL, but maybe through hard work (and divine intervention!) I could acquire that skill. If not, could I develop the skills to be an NFL doctor? You bet! How about an NFL coach? Yep! If I made enough money, could I be an NFL team owner? Yep! See, I could live out my passion for football in many ways if I really wanted to. This applies to you, too, and almost any passion you can think of. If you really want to do it, you can find a way to make it work, but you may have to acquire some new skills.
3) Benefit to others: You don’t have to change the world or re-write history with your purpose. All you have to do is make a positive difference in the lives of others. We are not islands, 99.9999999% (at least) of the things we use are somebody else’s contribution to us. Unless we built the car we drive, produced the medicine we take, stitched the shoes we wear, designed our house, or paved the sidewalks we walk on, we owe a lot to others. So why not give back? Mohammed Ali sums this up nicely, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” It takes more than just passion and skill to fulfill a purpose. For example, if you’re passionate about killing people, and are really good at it, it’s still not your purpose. That has no benefit to others. On the bright side, there are millions, probably billions, of ways to benefit others. Here are a few examples: A cook benefits others by providing quality food. A babysitter benefits parents who could use a hand. Teachers benefits students by giving them ideas and instruction. Artists benefit others by arousing emotions and generating thought. You could make a case for almost anything. The important thing is that a purpose must give back in some way. Not just by monetary donations, either. Sometimes, giving money can be an insincere way of showing gratitude. Instead, we should let the contributions we make while living out our purpose be the way we say “thank you” to the world. So how would you like to help others? What change could you make or work toward? What service could you offer? How could you benefit others? In your eyes, who needs help the most? Who would you be willing to help? Jot down some of these answers and then move on.
Now comes the (most) fun part! Look at all the things you’ve written down as your passions, your skills, and the ways you can benefit others. What common themes exist? What possible combinations can be made? Remember the NFL example I gave before; there are plenty of ways to merge passion and skill. Be creative as you look for these combinations, always keeping in mind the potential benefits to others. When you are done, pick the combination that excites you the most, fits you the best, and gives you goosebumps on the back of your neck! It should read like a sentence. Here is just one of many possible variations: My life purpose is to use my passion for _________ and my ability to ____________ to ________________. Keep in mind that over time and as you grow this could certainly change and adapt to new skills and interests.
Lastly, if you don’t feel like you have found your purpose yet, don’t worry! If you’ve exhausted your brain and feel hopeless, have no fear! All that means is you have to experience more of life before you’re ready. Volunteer, show up places, join clubs, experiment, and branch out! Try new things! The more things you try, the more chances you have to find the best thing for you. Think about it, your favorite food is only your favorite food in comparison to what you’ve eaten. Your favorite movie is only your favorite movie in comparison to what you’ve seen. Same with your favorite song, book, car, hobby, etc. Therefore, if you aren’t passionate about many things, or don’t seem to have a lot of skills, expand your horizons! There are literally millions of things to do out there, just keep searching with an open mind. Before you know it, persistence will pay off, and you’ll be living a life of purpose, meaning, and ultimately, fulfillment.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” ~Patanjali
Photo by smith