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Action 22

Find your true purpose

For many of us there is a gap between the life we are leading and the people that we feel we really are. Too many of us spend large portions of our lives doing jobs or activities that we may not necessarily believe in or feel truly motivated by. This is a big missed opportunity and a major source of stress.

Why do it?

If we can find and pursue our true purpose, it can fundamentally change our lives for the better and also help us make a more positive contribution to the world around us.

People who have a clear purpose or calling experience work as a source of personal and social meaning. They see their work as enjoyable for its own sake and feel that it makes a valuable contribution to society. They feel drawn to pursue their purpose and it is a core part of who they are. But how on earth can we 'find our purpose'? Surely it's not that straightforward?

Where to start

Finding a clear purpose for your life is no small task and there is no single answer or approach which will work for everyone. However, we know that we're at our best when we use our strengths and focus on topics and issues that really motivate and energise us. So a great starting point is to find a way to use our strengths in pursuing an area that we're really passionate about.

Below is a very simple yet affective approach to articulating your life purpose developed by the coach, consultant and author Neil Crofts.

Step 1: What are your talents?

We all have strengths and talents, but we don't often recognise them and use them actively in our daily lives. Write down a list of 5 to 8 things that you're really good at. Things that just come naturally to you. Don't be modest, be honest. If you're struggling then you might want to take the VIA Survey of Strengths.

Step 2: What are you passionate about?

We all have things that we're passionate about and love to do, but very often we think of these things as hobbies rather than involving them at the heart of our life and work. Write down a list of 5 to 8 things that you're passionate about. Things you love to experience, talk about, think about and do.

Step 3: What would you like to change in the world?

Our purpose is most meaningful if it contributes to some wider social benefit or greater good - for example by helping to overcome a pressing societal issue (e.g. sustainability, fairness, alleviation of suffering, equality). Write down a list of 5 to 8 things that anger you about how society operates at the moment. Be specific. What are the things that make you really mad?

Step 4: Combine your answers to articulate your positive purpose

Now see if you can find a way to combine your talents, passion and anger in a positive and coherent way. If you can this could be the foundation for your life's purpose. This might take the form of: "My life's purpose is to use my (talents) and (passion) to (suitable verb) (anger)". Here are a couple of examples;

  • "My life's purpose is to use my talent for engineering and my passion for alternative energy to help develop solutions to the climate crisis"
  • "My life's purpose is to use my talent for teaching and my passion for children's well-being to help reduce the number of kids suffering with anxiety and depression".

Step 5: Think and talk about your purpose

Having made a first attempt to articulate your life's purpose spend some time thinking about it and discussing it with trusted friends and family members. Is it really you? Does it reflect how you're living your life at the moment, or does it suggest that you need to make some changes in order to follow your purpose?

Finding your purpose or calling is not easy and pursuing it may not be practical immediately. But if you can then it leave you with a significantly greater sense of well-being and fulfilment - as well as potentially contributing to the wider social good.

"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." Buddha

References

[1] Stegar, M.F. (2009). Meaning in Life. In S.J. Lopez & C.R. Snyder (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology. NY: Oxford University Press.

[2] Wrzesniewski, A. & Tosti, J. (2005). Career as a calling. In J. H. Greenhaus & G. A. Callanan (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Career Development. CA: Sage Publications.

Note: this task builds on research relating to strengths and meaning. However, although it is anecdotally reported to be effective it has not been clinically validated.

Resources

Man's search for meaning

"We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: by creating a work or doing a deed; by experiencing something or encountering someone; and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering"

"Everything can be taken from a man but the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way"

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl
Author of "Man's Search for Meaning" about his experience in a concentration camp.

 

POSTER #10: MEANING

Be part of something bigger

Meaning 200

POSTER #6 DIRECTION

Have goals to look forward to

Direction 200