Ways to uncover your purpose in life

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Many people want to figure out what their purpose in life is. I get why. If anyone has ever shared their purpose with you, you’ll remember. Listening to it, you probably thought: This feels right. I think it’s the authenticity and meaning in it that tend to send goosebumps all over our bodies.

Purpose resonates with people, it explains

why you do something or why something exists.

I’ve heard people state that they aren’t looking for further meaning in their career or life. That it wouldn’t matter. Those people usually say things like “I just want to make money” or “I just want to build a career”.

At first, it may seem like there isn’t more to it, but I guarantee you, there is.

First off, making money or building a career is a goal, not a purpose. If you invest the time and effort to reflect on why you find certain goals worthy of your time, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and other people. It’s a great way to build empathy. And it might also be the first step in better understanding your purpose in life. So next time a goal appeals to you ask yourself why.

The wish to pursue a certain goal comes from a higher motive. That’s the way we humans work.

To uncover our layers of motivation behind goals, we’ll borrow a method called the “Five Whys”, originally invented by Sakichi Toyoda. It’s simple, we’ll ask ourselves five times why. The harder part might be to find the truthful answers. Here’s an example how this might look:

The goal: I want to make money.

  • Why do you want to make money? Because money is great.
  • Why is it great? Because I can buy whatever I want with it.
  • Why do you want to buy whatever you want? Because I want to be in charge of my life and be able to provide.
  • Why do you want to be in charge and be able to provide? Because then I’d feel free and independent.
  • Why do you want to feel free and independent? Because that’s how I want to live my life.

And suddenly the seemingly uninspired and pragmatic goal of wanting to make money is filled with personal meaning. It is — and always was — about more than what it seemed. It’s a way to create the independence and freedom the person wishes for in their life. Uncovering this, the person now can intentionally find other ways to create independence and freedom in their life. Isn’t that genius?

Answering the question why five times allows you to go from doing something to doing the right things for the right reasons. You gain the power to shape your life in the way you want. It’s as simple as that.

The exercise of the Five Whys got you hooked and now you want to uncover your purpose even more?

I’ve been there! Because whether we call it purpose, our personal why (Simon Sinek) or look to identify our hedgehog (Jim Collins), it’s all about the same:

Figuring out what to do in life that fills us with meaning.

This is how I went about it:

👀🧠Exposure: I listened and learned from other people who seem to have figured it out. Read interesting, fun articles, listen to podcasts or check for fitting hashtags on social media. It gives you a broader perspective and helps build your vocabulary to think and talk about purpose. Start by checking out the names and concepts I mentioned above.

🎬Action: Do something! Listening and reading isn’t enough. At some point, you need to get active. Start by jotting down notes or try the “Five Whys” method for yourself.
I started by asking friends and family in which moments they perceive me most passionate. What topics do I talk about most excitedly? Then I went on and took a class (as I don’t want to advertise for it, I’m not posting the link here, but I’ll gladly share it with interested people).
Experiment, try things out, do something fun or even something you’d rather avoid — but try it anyway, because acting delivers results.

💡Think again: Reflection is what connects the dots between knowledge and experience. You won’t be surprised that I like to reflect while scribbling into a notebook, but there are many ways to do it. Intentionally take time to think about what you learned and did, what struck your inner cord and just feels right for you.

And then start again!
It’s the combination and repetition of learning, taking action and reflection that brings us more clarity about our purpose.

Looking for your pupose once or twice isn’t enough. Consider it a possibility to constantly learn about yourself. The more often you check, the deeper you can dive into it.

Is it worth the trouble? Think about how much power you gain. Having a clear purpose is like disvovering a compass for your life. It tells you where to go next.

“The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

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