How to Find Your Life Purpose

by Francisco Saez

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Pursuit of Mastery.

January 7, 2013

“I want to make my mark, he says. But what target, I wonder, are you going to hit.”

—Cecil Castellucci, writer and rocker

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January 7, 2013

“I want to make my mark, he says. But what target, I wonder, are you going to hit.”

—Cecil Castellucci, writer and rocker

Productivity is not about doing things for the sake of it. There are people that have a special interest in being more productive because of different reasons that are often linked to an internal, deeper commitment: being a better professional, having more time to enjoy with their family, living a less stressful life, etc.

Many times we falter and temporarily abandon our productive habits because we enter a phase in which the level of activity and demand surpasses us and makes us lose control. We all do it from time to time, but those who have a clear idea about what that deeper thing is that directs their lives, are able to regain control quickly and easily. Others blame the methodology or tool they are using, console themselves with a “this is not for me” attitude, or simply throw in the towel.

Surely, the most important exercise you can do to give direction and meaning to your life is to find your purpose. Knowing what your purpose is allows you to be the director of your own life, give real priorities to the actions you are doing, and say no to things that take you away from your goals. It also allows you to focus on what is important and regain control after a crisis. It is, therefore, the statement that supports your productivity.

No wonder, then, that David Allen encourages the users of his GTD methodology to establish different “levels of perspective,” at different heights, starting with their life’s purpose. Constantly performing actions that are not aligned with our purpose produces an unpleasant feeling of emptiness.

But how can you find your life purpose? It is not simple; it requires deep thinking and raising the right questions. My friend and advisor José Miguel Bolivar tells me that the coaching sessions in which he tries to help his clients define their life’s purpose usually takes one to two hours, but the end result is always incredibly motivating for them. According to him, the purpose of life is a continuum, it does not begin and it will not ever be completed, and it has to do with what you do and what you feel. When working to identify your life purpose, work to write it out in a sentence or statement that responds to the questions: What? How? and For What or For Whom?

I am not an expert on the subject, but here are some more questions to help you identify your life purpose:

  • What things cause me great satisfaction and joy?
  • What do I love to do?
  • What makes me lose track of time?
  • How do I spend my spare time?
  • What makes me feel good about myself?
  • What are my talents?
  • How can I use my skills to help others?
  • What would I be doing if I had just six months to live?
  • What would I be doing if I had all the time and money in the world?
  • What are the values I most deeply defend?
  • What do I believe in?

Other authors simply recommend you to take a blank sheet and write the first thing that comes to your mind. A little sentence. You read it again, add something you miss, remove something that does not fully fit. Repeat the process until you feel fully identified with that sentence. Do not worry if you do not get the desired result after even 50 attempts. Be persistent and keep at it.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should ask yourself these questions without thinking about what others want or expect of you. It is about living your life, not what others want you to live.

Once you are clear about your life purpose, it is much easier to fulfill it and live a more meaningful life. Move down to the more detailed “levels of perspective.” Use your life purpose as the guiding force in defining your vision, goals, and areas of responsibility so that your projects and daily actions remain consistently focused on what’s most important to you.

And do not forget to review your life purpose periodically. Nothing is permanent, everything changes.

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