What Does it Mean to Have Purpose?

what-does-it-mean-to-have-purpose

Is there purpose guiding your life? I personally admire those people that know their purpose from a young age. Those that live their lives naturally following their purpose without question. They typically make statements like, “I’ve always known this is what I was meant to do.”

Then there is the rest of us. Those of us that find it harder and go through a struggle at one time or another in our lives to understand what our purpose is.

So what does it mean to have purpose? The dictionary tells us purpose is the reason something exists, an intended end; aim; or goal. Purpose creates meaning, offers a sense of direction and helps guide our paths, behavior and our goals when applied to our lives.

Whoah, that’s heavy isn’t it? I thought so too. Which is why discovering and truly understanding my purpose has been such a big focus of my adult life.

While some people are happy living out a predefined existence on auto-pilot; eat, work, sleep, repeat. I want more. I want to wake up every morning, not with a sense of dread or apathy, but with a sense of excitement about what the day holds and what I can contribute.

Are you with me? Well, even if you’re just slightly with me or you’re not completely sure, read on with an open mind to learn more on how knowing your purpose can enrich your life.

Does Everyone Have a Purpose & Why is Finding it so Hard?

Psychologist Douglas Labier would argue that just as all forms of life have purpose, each of us as human beings also feel a drive to define a purpose for our lives.

He uses the analogy that all natural phenomena is moving towards some type of outcome. Whether it’s a plant producing fruit or clouds producing rain, everything is constantly moving and evolving towards an intended fulfillment.

So if we all have an underlying drive to define a purpose, why is it sometimes so difficult? As we grow into adulthood, there are many ways that our unique life purpose can become elusive or dimmed.

Maybe you were told over and over as a child that you must follow a certain path or you were discouraged to follow a path of your choosing. Overtime these messages can grow into self limiting beliefs, or pessimism, which can keep you from choosing your true life path or living according to your purpose.

Another way our purpose can dim, is from being completely wrapped up in the day-to-day activities of living. It is easy to get into patterns where we are comfortable just existing, staying stuck in a rut. We go to school or work, keep our engagements, set expected goals and work to attain them without much thought or awareness of why we are doing the things we do or behaving the way in which we are.

What it Means to Live With Purpose?

Your purpose is unique to you and everyone’s purpose is going to be slightly different.  There are also different interpretations regarding how purpose is defined and how we live our purpose.

However, everyone tends to agree there are three main areas through which we typically connect with and express purpose in our lives:

  • Vocation – through a career or work that is meaningful and aligned with our personal values
  • Social/Familial – aligning relationship to family, friends and our community with our personal values
  • Spirituality – seeking meaning and fulfillment through our religious and/or spiritual beliefs

Some people align with their purpose in just one of these areas while other people strive to align with their purpose in one or more, or all three. There’s no right or wrong way.

What’s more, it is quite common for our purpose to change throughout our lives as our priorities and circumstances shift, and we gain more life experiences.

Knowing Your Purpose

Living with purpose means doing the work to connect with and understand your purpose so you can consciously choose to align one of more areas of your life with your purpose.

Knowing What You Value

Aligning with your purpose also involves being clear on what you value in each area. What do you value when it comes to your work, your family and friends, and your spiritual well being.

Living Intentionally

Lastly, knowing what you value, or your why, is a powerful compass for aligning with your purpose in whatever life area you choose. We align with our purpose when we have a plan for where we are going and we intentionally use our values to guide us as we make choices and set goals for our lives.

Why is Having Purpose Important?

While it’s normal to go through periods when you feel dissatisfied or unfulfilled, that is no way to live your entire life. If you constantly feel like you’ve chosen the wrong job or feel unsatisfied with your work, or a relationship, chances are that job or relationship is out of alignment with your purpose.

It’s pretty common to feel this way as a young adult. As young adults we often just follow our peers. It is more common to be in situations where you just go along with the crowd even though deep inside it may not feel right to you.

However, as we get older and know ourselves better, we begin to learn what we value and what’s important to us in life. It is during this stage that we start aligning our outer life with our inner self.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is much easier for some people than it is for others. Many of us struggle to sync our inner self with our outer life especially when it comes to our work and career.

While it can be a struggle, it is completely possible to uncover your purpose and use it to guide your life.

How to Find Your Life Purpose

Our life purpose is something that resides inside of each of us. It is typically not something we choose, nor can someone else give it to us. It is something we nurture and coax to emerge from deep within ourselves through self exploration and figuring out what we value most.

Finding our purpose is a process and it won’t happen overnight. It is impossible to cover everything in this post – there are entire books and courses devoted to finding your purpose. However, working through the questions below is something that you can do right now to help you start defining and getting a clearer picture of what your purpose is.

I’ve adapted these questions from Adam at IQMatrix. He has identified 6 key areas of questioning he calls pillars for finding your life purpose.

Self-Awareness: understanding yourself
What did I want to do as a child?
What are my talents and abilities?
What are me strengths and my weaknesses?
Which or my traits and attributes stand out the most?
Motivations: understanding what motivates us
What am I passionate about?
If I only had a year to live, what would I focus on?
What activities invigorate me and make me feel alive?
Where and in what do I find inspiration?
What accomplishments am I the most proud of?
Dreams: knowing our aspirations for the future
If I had unlimited potential what would I pursue?
What experiences do I want to have?
What would I like to learn?
If I could do any job in the world what would I choose?
What skills would I like to master?
Lifetime Experience: examining our life for clues
What are the ways I enjoy helping others?
What have my past failures prepared me for?
Of all my past experiences, which have the most meaning?
What unique ability do I have that separates me from others?
Which of my current skills do I value the most?
Creating an Ideal: planning your ideal life
What did I want to do as a child?
What are my talents and abilities?
What are my strengths and my weaknesses?
Which of my traits and attributes stand out the most?
Higher Calling: understanding how you create meaning
What issues do I care about the most?
How have my past difficulties equipped me to serve others?
Where can I provide the most value to others?
What kind of people do I like to help?
What problems would I like to solve?

Conclusion

Whether you view the life purpose concept as “woo woo” or as a valuable tool, I hope you’ve learned something from this post. If you’ve taken the time to answer some of these questions you are well on your way to more self awareness and a step closer to understanding your purpose and what you value.

The next step is taking the time to work through all the questions, giving yourself time between each to truly think about the answer and let it sink in. Once you have the answers to these questions, use what you’ve learned as a guide to start making choices that are based on your values and what you’ve learned. Start to be intentional.

You don’t have to know where you’re going at this moment. Just trust that each step you take, if aligned with your values, is moving you forward.

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Jodie Locklear
Jodie is a former art teacher turned Graphic/UX Designer and QA Manager. She's applied her knowledge of visual design and software testing on many projects over the years, ranging from small businesses to large well known brands and organizations. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, blogging, and travel. View About Page

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