7 questions to ask yourself to find your purpose in life

What is the purpose of your life?

For most people, this is not an easy question to answer.

You probably know many people who had a goal in life right from the start, who always knew they wanted become a doctor and duly did.

But what about the rest of us? The rest of us who have no clue what we want to do with our lives.

Actually, that last sentence puts the problem in better perspective. You see, what we are actually asking is what we should be doing with our time while we’re alive.

There are scores of people well beyond their 40s and 50s who still have no idea what they’re supposed to do with their lives.

Truth of the matter is, we have a limited time on earth. We fill our time with some things that are meaningful and some that are not. The meaningful things give our lives purpose and the rest is just a way to kill time. Sad but true.

The question we should ask is not what is the purpose of my life, but how should I spend my time in a way that’s meaningful.

This is a much easier question to answer.

Actually, asking yourself all sorts of questions, might in fact lead you to a more purposeful life. Let’s look at a few of them.

1) What are your values?

It’s pointless trying to figure out what the purpose of your life is, if you don’t know what’s important to you. That’s the first question to answer.

If you feel lost and that you have no purpose in life, it’s because you don’t know what’s really important to you. You haven’t figured out what it is that you value in life.

Initially we take on the values that we learn from our parents, our teachers, our peers and other important people in our lives. We may end up feeling lost because we have taken on their ideas  without ever taking the time to evaluate them for ourselves.

What are your values? What ideas will you defend at all cost? What ideas do you want to live by? Figure that out, and you’ll be closer to the purpose of your life.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi:

Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.

2) If you are told that you have one year to leave a legacy and if you don’t do something meaningful with that time, you’ll die a terrible death, what would you do?

Contemplating these all-or-nothing questions tend to focus our attention, like a gun to the head would.

It really gives you pause to re-evaluate how you spend your time, or rather how much time you waste.

If you believed that your life depended on doing something meaningful, surely you’ll come up with something. Take some time now, and consider the question seriously. It might just give you a hint at what you could be doing with your life.

3) What is your obituary going to say?

Think about it: every day you are busy writing your own obituary.

Are you proud of it? Okay with it? Disappointed? Ashamed?

Do the facts of your life so far add up to something you want to be remembered for?

If not, it’s time to work on adding more to the story of your life. Figure out what you want to be remembered for and start working towards that.

If you want to be remembered as the best friend ever, then be the best friend; if you want to be remembered as a saviour of neglected animals, then go out and save some of the poor creatures.

4) If you didn’t have to work, what would you do with your time?

If you didn’t have to work and you weren’t allowed to stay at home, how would you choose to spend that time?

To be clear, you can’t choose to sit in a coffee shop or the movie house all day. Let’s pretend that you are forced at gunpoint and you have no computer or smartphone to distract you and you don’t have much money either to distract you. You can only go home to sleep.

How would you choose to occupy yourself? Would you spend it in a nursery, maybe helping to tend plants, go to the local S.P.C.A. and spend time with the animals there, go to a hospital to visit the ill, stand on the street corner and tell the world your story?

Think about it now. What would you do?

5) How did you spend your time as a child?

When we are children we do what comes naturally. What did you do and where did you do it? Did you play outside or inside? Did you use tools to make things or did you mostly run around?

I remember making books. I used to tear up my old school books to make tiny pages for little story books that had cartoons and speech bubbles. Kept me busy for hours.

I have been doing writing in some form or other ever since.

What kept you happily occupied for hours as a child?

6) What makes you forget about the world around you?

Pity you can’t make money out of building jigsaw puzzles, because that really makes me forget the world around me.

But what is it about completing a difficult puzzle that it so satisfying? If you think about it, it’s the challenge of finding the correct pieces and completing an image, it’s not just hours of wasted time. There’s a competition with yourself involved in completing a puzzle.

You might consider not just the activity that makes you lose touch with the world around you, but also the rewards behind the activity. What is it about the activity that so satisfies you?

7) What hardship are you willing to endure to reach your goal?

Whatever you decide to choose to do with your life, something about that decision will eventually suck. And that doesn’t mean you were wrong about your purpose in life; it just means you have to stick around a bit longer.

There is no such thing as the right career with an understanding boss, a great salary, wonderful co-workers and inspiring projects that make your unique talent shine. At any rate, if you ever should hit that heady perch, it certainly won’t last.

Everything loses its pretty shine eventually and if you find that you are prepared to stick around and endure some discomfort, you’ve probably found your niche.

You may envy doctors their high income and fancy cars but that comes at a price: years of study; long working hours and a heavy burden of responsibility. You may dream of becoming a world-renowned chef, but are you prepared to slog ungodly hours in a hot kitchen, constantly worrying about the next food critic that can destroy your career with a single review?

How much are you prepared to suffer for the dream that you think you have now?

Coert Engels

I'm a South African based writer and am passionate about exploring the latest ideas in artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology. I also focus on the human condition, with a particular interest human intuition and creativity. To share some feedback about my articles, email me at coert@ideapod.com.

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