It’s so easy to get caught up in our cell phones, emails, and deadlines that we often forget to step back and look at the big picture. So, as you read this, pause and ask yourself these questions:
• Why am I here?
• What do I really want to be in the world?
• How am I doing on that?
Just as an organization needs to have a clear purpose and sense of what business it’s in, so do individuals. Yet few people have a clear sense of their life’s purpose. How can you make good decisions about how you should use your time if you don’t know what you want to do with your life?
Here’s a simple, four-step process to help you create a good working draft of your life purpose.
Step 1: Describe Who You Are. Think of two or three nouns or phrases that describe your unique skills or characteristics. For example, my nouns are “teacher” and “example.” You might choose different characteristics, such as artist, scientist, humorist, mechanic, writer, etc.
Step 2: Describe How You Influence Others. Think of two or three verbs that describe how you influence the world around you. For example, my verbs are “help” and “motivate.” You might choose influence verbs such as encourage, plan, inspire, educate, etc.
Step 3: Describe Your Ideal World. Create a picture of your ideal world. For example, in my perfect world everyone is aware of the presence of God in their lives. You might have a perfect world where people are successful in achieving their goals, or children are well cared for, or the environment is healthy.
Step 4: Put It All Together. Now, create a purpose statement by combining two of your nouns, two of your verbs, and your ideal world, and you’ll have a good start on a statement of your life’s purpose. For example, my life purpose is:
“To be a loving teacher and example of simple truths who helps and motivates myself and others to awaken to the presence of God in our lives, so we realize we are here to serve rather than to be served.”
Someone else might have a purpose that reads:
“To be a scientist and writer who encourages and inspires people to care for the natural world and preserve a healthy environment for future generations.”
Another person might have a purpose that reads:
“To be an artist and visionary who reveals a new way of seeing and awakens people to the beauty in the world around them.”
Feel free to dream big during this process. Don’t worry about not living up to the life purpose you envision—we all fall short of our ideal. Put your fears and insecurities aside as you write. As Nelson Mandela said:
“There is no passion to be found in playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
Determining your life purpose is the first step in a three-part process to creating a compelling personal vision. In future blogs, I’ll talk about steps two and three—creating your legacy and determining your values. Stay tuned!