5 Steps to Identifying Your Life’s Purpose

Deep Water

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters. – Proverbs

A clearly defined purpose is integral for launching a life that matters.

It’s a lot easier to live the life you want, when you know what you want, state what you want, then prioritize what you want.

But how do you identify a purpose for your life?

It seems like a daunting task. One that is really important to get right. And while it is a crucial step, it doesn’t have to be fraught with agony.

It’s actually a refreshing process of self-discovery.

My purpose is to help others launch lives that matters. Here’s a simple process that I used to arrive at my purpose:

1. Start with a single deep breath.

Purposes are deep waters. You are not going to connect with a purpose rushing around on the surface of life. You’ll need to wade out into the deep where it’s quiet, calm and still.

Take a deep breath, slow down and disconnect from distractions.

At first, simply cultivate the practice of spending some time in stillness and quiet – maybe just 5 or 10 minutes a couple of days a week.

There is no need to rush to figure out your purpose. It’s already within you, you simply need to give it space to emerge.

2. Listen for guidance.

Both in your times of quiet and as you go about your day, listen for guidance as to what your purpose may be.

Here’s a framework for you to start with:

Your purpose is where your passions meet the world’s needs.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin the process of listening:

  • What do I daydream about?
  • What do others come to me to ask advice for or help with?
  • What contributions have I made that make me feel most alive?

In your times of quiet, meditate on these questions. Don’t force an answer, just sit with them.

After having meditated in quiet, as you go about your day you’ll begin to see your life giving you answers to these questions.

A light bulb will go off when a friend asks you for help. Your heart will warm when you make a contribution that’s meaningful to you. Your energy will seem boundless when you are working on a task that you are passionate about.

3. Write your thoughts down.

By this point, you’ll be getting a sense of what your purpose is – even if it feels vague or cloudy.

Set aside a longer period of time where you can be alone, say 30 to 45 minutes.

After spending a few minutes in silence, get out a sheet of paper and start writing. Just let all of the thoughts you have about your purpose spill on to the page without worrying about putting them in order.

I like to use an unlined blank piece of paper because my thoughts flow more freely when I don’t have to “stay between the lines”.

You’ll begin to see common themes emerge. For me, themes that emerged were:

  • Helping others “get off the ground” personally and professionally
  • Communicating about the deeper issues of life
  • Talking about the heart
  • A holistic approach to life and health
  • Passing on practical skills for personal development
  • Building a legacy by investing in others who will start movements

Once you have sufficiently poured your heart out onto the page, you’ll feel a sense of release. You may not have a clearly articulated statement of purpose, but you’ll have what I call your Purpose Mind Map.

You’ll feel lighter and you’ll be a huge step closer to naming your purpose.

4. Look for an emotional and spiritual connection.

Steve Pavlina has a method for identifying one’s purpose in which he recommends to simply sit down and try writing your purpose statement over and over until you write one that makes you cry.

Though my process has been much more gradual, I like his approach because it emphasizes the importance of having an emotional and even spiritual connection to your purpose.

It’s not enough for your purpose to make sense in your head. It’s got to resonate with your heart as well. It needs to be lodged deep within your spirit if it is going to propel you to live a life that matters.

As you begin to filter through your mind map, it’s important to give priority to the purposes that connect with you on an emotional and spiritual level.

5. Choose a Working Purpose Statement.

To feel that you need to name your life’s purpose once and for all without the ability to adjust or modify it, is absurd.

There’s no need to put that kind of pressure on yourself.

Instead, once you’ve got your Purpose Mind Map, set a second appointment with yourself to write out what I call your Working Purpose Statement.

Boil your mind map down to a sentence or two that defines what you want your life to be about – today.

The great thing about a Working Purpose Statement is that doesn’t have to be your forever purpose. It’s just a starting point. As you live out that purpose and discover more about yourself, you can refine it accordingly.

As well, it is a reminder that living your purpose is not a one-time exercise. It’s a daily adventure.

Now that you have a working purpose statement, the real fun begins. It’s time to start organizing your life accordingly :) .

Question: Do you have a purpose statement? Let us know what you think about the concept by leaving a comment.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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11 thoughts on “5 Steps to Identifying Your Life’s Purpose

  1. Great points in your post Ryan. The art of stillness and connecting within works so well. We often get so distracted by all the noise that we can’t connect to the inner guidance within.

  2. Hey Ryan,

    Great material! I love the recommendation to stop and listen. We live our lives so fast and we are so active that it is hard to hear our hearts or know ourselves. It’s hard to receive wisdom from outside ourselves, too, if we don’t stop to listen for it. Deep wisdom doesn’t come without deep reflection.

    Like your thoughts an like your project! Keep up the good work!
    (I subscribed!)

  3. I don’t have a purpose statement just yet. I’m at a stage in my journey where there are so many possibilities and outcomes that trying to find the common thread that might tie them all together is a daunting task.

    That said, I have found much value in “checking in” with myself when I notice that I’m truly enjoying something or when I find myself working, being or doing with true, effortless grace. I think that learning to listen to myself will make it easier on me when I decide to establish just what I think my life’s purpose might be.

    Great post.

    • Great point about learning to listen to your life and letting that inform your purpose. Also, love the self-awareness as to where you are on your journey. It’s one of the reasons that I like starting with a “working purpose statement” that we know will develop over time. Excited for you!