Defining Your Purpose

”Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” – Shannon Alder

I learned from the hundreds of conversations I’ve had that not many people ever think of their purpose. As a result we struggle to define one. Many cannot articulate what their life purpose is and this is because we are not deliberately thinking about it.

Discovering your purpose is important for living a fulfilling and happy life. Knowing your life purpose makes you motivated to get out of bed each day and deal with challenges with ease. With a life purpose, your day is filled with activities that bring you closer to what you’re meant for. It’s also a compass that guides your decisions in life.

So what is a life purpose, exactly? It is your contribution to the world that goes beyond your own interests by tapping into your unique talents. Your purpose is already present in your life; you just need to call it out. Below is a formula that will make the process of uncovering one much easier.

My life purpose is to [your contribution to the world/your impact] to [your target audience] by using my gifts of [your unique gifts]. Achieving this, I will help make the world [results].

My own life purpose, is to up-level young people’s lives by using my talents in writing, storytelling, and motivational speaking. By doing so, I help make happier individuals and a more fulfilled world. Below are the ways I believe will help you know your purpose.

1) Define your contribution to the world.

Often, this comes from your intense life experiences or key challenges. For others, being deeply touched by the pain of the people close to them or feeling restless about a problem in the world could be the source of inspiration.

A great example is from Ariana Huffington’s mission statement for Thrive Global: “After my collapse from sleep deprivation and exhaustion in 2007, I became more and more passionate about the connection between well-being and performance.” That’s why, as the site specifies, she and her company set out to “help individuals, companies and communities improve their well-being and performance and unlock their greatest potential.”

In the absence of such a clear calling, you can list the impact you made in all of your jobs and life experiences to identify a common theme. For example, for someone who used to be a teacher and is now a nurse at a children’s hospital, your contribution would be to nurture the future generation.

2) Call out who you want to help.

Your target audience is closely tied to your cause. They are those you always find yourself naturally turning to through your work or the cause you serve. They could range from a specific group of people, like children on the autism spectrum, to the biggest scope of humanity. In order to really call them out, you can try reflecting on who has come to you so far and thanked you for the impact you brought to their lives.

For me, I experienced firsthand with much empathy how a lot of young African people gave up their talents and lived a hard life due to social and political conditioning. I truly wish they could have had access to professional help and support during this time so they could utilise their gifts, live their purpose every day, and lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Therefore, I became determined to start #teamknowyourpose. This was to help anyone in the world needing help to define their purpose. Seeing the transformation in people’s lives further firms up my commitment to my audience.

3) Name your unique talents.

If you have been working for a while, chances are you can list your natural talents and strengths easily by studying performance reviews and peer feedback. Other free and easy channels to obtain more data points are asking your colleagues, family, and friends, and reflecting on what others often come to you for.

In addition, taking a few well-established tests – such as Gallup’s StrengthsFinder and the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator – is always helpful.

In my case, many of my ex-colleagues told me that I have a natural keen interest in connecting with people, hearing their stories, and inspiring them to be their best. Some others told me I should be a mentor or a pastor. A number of my friends urged me to be a writer, something I dreamed of when I was young as well.

Indeed, whenever I do these activities, I find myself in a state of flow. Taking the Strengths Finder test yielded similar results. And I am happy that I am able to utilise my gifts to pursue my cause.

4) Connect with a higher purpose.

The second part of the formula is to heighten your purpose. We were all born to make our world a better place in different ways. For example, the purpose of a software trainer in charge of a hospital account is to empower doctors and nurses with technology through their gifts of simplifying complexity and infusing knowledge and skills. Achieving this, they actually also contribute to improving people’s health and saving more lives.

Once you have been able to formulate your statement with key elements, you can always paraphrase it in a way that you feel most comfortable. If you feel your purpose is still vague, that’s normal. As long as you get started, the job is registered in your brain.

When you keep being passionate, curious, and open, your brain will continue to work on uncovering your purpose for you.

Give yourself time, reflect on your mission, and everything will fall into places sooner than you think.

As you gain more exposure and acquire more skills in life, your purpose will also evolve. So enjoy fine-tuning it on your journey to serve the world, as well.

Your purpose should eventually outlast you. Use your gifts to create a better place for generations after you.

If you are a musician, sing to inspire the people after you. If you are an artist, paint a picture that will be admired years after you are gone. To the entrepreneur, leave behind a legacy that speaks more than the money you had or the square footage of your property.