Finding purpose in life is important to most of us.
It’s something that you can strive towards every day. It’s the reason that gets you out of bed every morning. Many of us even feel like life purpose is what determines our happiness, success, and overall well-being.
But let’s face it, discovering your purpose in life isn’t always clear-cut. In fact, it can feel incredibly elusive.
It takes time and effort to figure out what you want to pursue. Here are 25 tips for how to find your purpose.
1) Uncover your passions
If you want to find your purpose, then a great place to start is to go looking for your passions in life.
Passion is the feeling you get when you do something you enjoy, or maybe even love. The strongest purpose often comes out of passion.
We can get lost when we think “I’m not particularly passionate about anything”. But that’s probably not true.
What’s more likely is that your passions aren’t so obvious, deep down you question whether they are valid, or you worry you can’t monetize them or make a career out of them (and so you dismiss them).
To figure out your genuine passions, it can help to take away the burden and ask yourself:
- If money were not a factor, what would I do with my time?
- When I was a child what did I love doing most?
- If I had only one year to live, what would I want to do? How would I spend my time?
- What do I do now that makes me totally lose track of time?
If the only answers that come up seem more shallow pursuits, then dig deeper behind them.
For example, you may love hanging out with your friends. But is that because you are naturally sociable and a good communicator? Perhaps these are your real passions.
2) Focus on your strengths
What are your talents? What are your skills? What makes you unique? What are you good at?
At the risk of sounding brutally honest, we’ve probably all watched enough X factor auditions to know that being passionate about something alone doesn’t make for a good purpose.
Otherwise, everybody who loved a good sing-song would be at the top of the charts.
Without a healthy dose of practicality, we’re in danger of confusing purpose with pure pleasure.
That’s not to say that living out your purpose shouldn’t be a pleasure, because it should.
But finding purpose is about using our assets, gifts, and abilities and combining them with our passions in order to contribute in some way.
The path to purpose is in part at least about putting yourself to good use and making the most of your strengths.
3) Figure out the challenges you’ve overcome
Whether we like it or not, manure is often the best fertilizer. That’s why sometimes it is our pain that leads to purpose.
When deciding how you would like to contribute in life, it can be useful to ponder the struggles you have faced.
What have you overcome? How has this given you unique insight into common problems others probably also face? What have you learned and grown from that other people may benefit from?
If you can connect your personal experience to a larger issue, it will help you stand out as someone who has something valuable to offer.
That’s one reason why many successful entrepreneurs started their businesses after overcoming adversity. It gave them an edge over competitors who didn’t have such a compelling story to fuel them on.
4) Understand your values
This step requires you to look inwardly.
To create a life of meaning, we need to identify our values, beliefs, and principles. This is where we discover what matters most to us.
Values are the foundations on which we build a purposeful life. They guide our decisions and actions and shape our relationships.
Values also provide direction and focus. Without them, we could easily drift aimlessly through life.
So, if you want to find your purpose, start by identifying your values. Ask yourself questions like:
- What does success mean (and look like) to me?
- What do I value most?
- What am I willing to sacrifice to achieve my goals?
- What kind of person do I want to be?
Once you understand your core values, you’ll be able to align your actions with your priorities.
5) Take messy action
If there’s one thing that keeps you stuck in life, it’s doing nothing.
Often when we feel unsure of what we want, we decide to wait until we take action. We hope the answers will arrive. And until they do we stay exactly where we are.
But action of any kind is powerful. Nobody wants to make the “wrong” choices in life, but the reality is that we learn a lot from discovering what we don’t want.
The best way to get unstuck is to act.
You might not know exactly what you want right now, but you’re bound to figure it out sooner or later. Everything you try along the way will help refine and direct you.
You don’t have to take huge life-changing actions. We’re talking about small steps that give you more clarity.
It might be learning more about a subject that interests you. You could take an online course on a whim because you’re feeling drawn to it. Or maybe move forward with that idea that you’ve had, even though you still feel uncertain about whether it’s what you truly want.
A lot of us wait for certainty before taking a leap and turning thoughts into action. But sometimes you need to just jump in and see what happens.
6) Accept yourself
Wanting more meaning and purpose in life is understandable and valid. But all personal development can come with a darker side. We can inadvertently end up rejecting ourselves.
We all want to be the best version of ourselves. There’s something about finally finding your life purpose that feels like you would finally be stepping into that version.
But as Justin Brown highlights in his free masterclass ‘The Hidden Trap’, sometimes we look towards others hoping they have the answers, when we’re the ones with the answers to our own happiness.
“These self-proclaimed gurus feed your insecurities by showing off how wealthy, successful and happy they are. Then they tell you that they alone have the secret to living a life just like them. You just have to improve yourself based on whatever formula the guru is offering you. How many people have fallen for the trap?”
I know I certainly have. I’ve pursued self-improvement, not realizing I was actually chasing the impossible — perfection.
It’s super easy to fall into the trap of looking for success outside of ourselves. Thinking that someone else can show us the path to our purpose when really it is something that already exists inside you.
His approach is quite frankly refreshing.
He shares some pretty groundbreaking ideas that shake up the conventional tried and tested approaches to life purpose. Including the two powerful questions which made him instantly realize what his purpose has always been.
7) Play more
Curiosity is a remarkable tool that we all have access to.
It has contributed to not only the development of mankind but also its very survival. Research has also shown that being curious leads to us being happier and boosts achievement.
A lot of us stop playing when we become adults. We can lose some of that naive wide-eyed enthusiasm for inquisitiveness.
But playing brings out creativity and imagination. It also takes the pressure off and helps us to explore in a more relaxed way.
Framing your attempts to find more purpose in life as a game can help you take it all less seriously.
What would you try if it didn’t matter quite so much? If life were one big game? If it were less about achievement and more about experimentation?
The great thing about playing is there are no stakes, or failures. It’s all part of exploration.
8) Create a vision board
A vision board is an imageboard where you collect pictures or words that represent who you want to be, and how you want your life to look.
It can sound a bit cheesy but it’s a fun way to gather ideas. When you can’t yet verbalize or perhaps even picture the direction you want your life to go in, a vision board can help.
Without focusing on the finer details (which can feel more elusive) you can gain an overall feel of what you want by collecting together things that catch your eye.
If you are drawn to something, it’s probably because it’s important to you.
You can use these images as inspiration. In the early stages of figuring out your life purpose, it may help you to simply bring together a mood, which you can then develop further.
It lets you step back and look at the bigger picture.
If it all sounds a little wishy-washy, then you may be interested to hear that according to Psychology Today, mental practices like visualization can prepare you for success.
As well as increasing motivation and confidence, studies have even shown it positively impacts many cognitive processes in the brain.
9) Read books
If you’re looking for inspiration, there are plenty of great nonfiction books out there. They can help you learn and grow in some practical ways, and gain some ideas along the way.
Books can open up worlds of possibility. Reading also gives you new perspectives. It helps you expand your mind and think differently.
But reading isn’t just about finding out more information.
Even if you read fiction, it can give you a different perspective on life, and help you equally grow as a person in different ways.
Fiction teaches you lessons about life, love, loss, and many other topics that help you emotionally grow. And, who knows, it might even unlock your purpose in life.
10) Ask others
The feedback from those who know and love us best can be very guiding.
They can tell us what they see in us, and what they would like to see more of. They can offer their opinions on what we should focus on, or what we should avoid.
This is especially true with family members, close friends, and partners.
It’s not that you should follow what other people suggest. Finding your purpose has to be based on your own unique perspective. But they can sometimes point out things we hadn’t considered or seen in ourselves.
They offer a different perspective. They can see your blindspots. They can see your talents that you may be too modest to acknowledge.
11) Stop making it all about you
How do you want to contribute?
One of the defining features of life purpose is that it goes beyond seeking pleasure. It’s about doing something that you feel is worthwhile with your time here on Planet Earth.
It’s about combining:
1) A) What are you passionate about?
2) B) What are you good at?
3) C) How can you serve others with those things?
One of my passions is eating potato chips on the couch whilst binge-watching a series. But I know that’s probably not going to be my greatest contribution to humanity.
Luckily I do have other passions that are at least a tiny bit more useful. Communication is a huge passion of mine.
I love talking to people, exchanging ideas, and communicating those ideas (often by talking far too much).
But I can also use that to try to serve others too. As a writer and journalist, I can try and share my thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the hope of connecting with people.
Service is what actually makes us feel purposeful in life. We get deep satisfaction from helping others. Research has shown that the more altruistic we are, the more meaningful our lives feel.
Flipping things to focus on how you can contribute to those around you, in your community and society, has a wonderful effect.
It actually takes some of the pressure off us. It’s not about finding our life mission anymore, it’s simply about giving back in whatever way we can or choose to.
12) Take it one step at a time
Sometimes people don’t see things through, not because they don’t know what they want, but because they can’t figure out the path to get there.
But that’s because they are trying to figure out every step along the way before they even begin.
Realize that you only really need to know your next step, and that can be a small one.
Resist the urge to get ahead of yourself and decide that every idea you have probably won’t work out from the get-go.
As cliche as it may be, remember the Chinese proverb that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
13) Don’t be afraid to follow your instincts
Trusting your gut, doing what feels right, and avoiding overthinking do have a place in decision making.
Sometimes we don’t have a clue what our purpose is. Other times we do, but we’ve been shouting down the voice inside which is trying to speak to us.
We can end up talking ourselves around in circles. We hear a nagging doubt and we assume it’s logic kicking in, but often it’s fear.
We have this idea that long well-thought-out decisions are always for the best.
But you might be surprised to discover that research shows that intuition can be most effective when contemplating complex decisions. Conscious thought on the other hand makes the most sense for very simple decisions.
It arguably doesn’t get much more complex than contemplating life purpose — so don’t discount your intuitive intelligence.
Far from being fluffy, instincts are supported by a strong mental process, as pointed out by Scientific American:
“Intuitive decisions can be grounded in heuristics: simple rules of thumb. Heuristics screen out large amounts of information, thereby limiting how much needs to be processed. Such rules of thumb may be applied consciously, but in general we simply follow them without being aware that we are doing so.”
14) Take responsibility for everything in life (and I mean everything)
To find your purpose and direction in life you need to remove obstacles that could stand in your way.
And to be able to design your life the way you want it, you have to have self-responsibility in spades.
Excuses are the roadblocks we create for ourselves to justify the situation we are in. Often it’s easier to stay in victimhood and blame circumstances for anything we feel is lacking in life.
That’s not to say that practical obstacles don’t exist. It’s more about recognizing that finding real meaning involves taking ownership of all areas of your life.
Where you are at and where you are going comes down to the choices you make. So if you want to change something in your life, you have to take responsibility for making those changes happen.
15) Ask yourself what boils your blood
The things that create strong emotional reactions are the things we care about. The causes, the injustices in life, the things we want to make better around us, etc.
Sometimes we find out what really matters to us when we consider the things that really gets to us. It doesn’t have to be huge life issues, it can be the small frustrations that get under your skin.
So ask yourself, what gets you hot under the collar?
What riles you enough to make you lose sleep? What brings tears to your eyes? What irritates the heck out of you?
It might be the terrible daycare solutions for single moms in your area, or maybe the stray dogs that run around your neighborhood.
But you may find that some of these emotions lead you towards your purpose.
One of the biggest red herrings when it comes to life purpose is thinking that your purpose:
1) a) Needs to be what you do for work
2) b) Something you make money from
The truth is that a sense of purpose in life isn’t necessarily created by one thing alone. And doing things that matter to you in your free time is just as purposeful as creating a career based on your life purpose.
We can gain such a stronger sense of purpose when we volunteer, give back, or help others.
It’s the selfless giving and sense of connection to others that makes us feel more purposeful. Helping others cultivates your compassion and feels amazing.
17) Change your mindset
The idea of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset is a concept first coined by American psychologist Carol Dweck, who studies human motivation.
People with a growth mindset believe intelligence or personality is something you can develop. In contrast, those with a fixed mindset see them as a pre-existing and deep-seated trait.
Significantly, her research also found that people with a growth mindset have a greater sense of purpose.
When you approach challenges with a growth mindset, you see them as learning experiences. Instead of thinking of mistakes as failures, think of them as stepping stones.
Having a growth mindset helps you learn and grow. It gives you the chance to improve and get better over time.
It also means you are more open to seeing and taking opportunities that come your way. All of which are incredibly useful when discovering your life purpose.
18) Try new things
If you never step outside your comfort zone, you’ll never grow. So try new things. Take risks. Do things that scare you.
Follow your hunches, desires, and sparks of interest to see where they lead.
Take a course, read a book on a subject that interests you, join a club, get a mentor, inquire about an opportunity….in short: Try, learn, grow.
Who knows, your life purpose may be something you’ve yet to try. Or something you’ve been meaning to try but have never gotten around to.
At the very least, trying new things is going to keep you challenged and going to make you feel like you have a fuller life — which in itself will create more meaning.
It gets noisy inside your brain. Meditation offers many benefits and helping to quiet the mind is one of them.
Meditation has been shown to reduce stress levels, increase focus and concentration, and even boost creativity.
Whilst one meditation session probably won’t help you download all the answers to life purpose in a flash, cultivating a practice can help you to gain a new perspective on stressful situations or things you’re stuck on.
Meditation can also:
- Increase self-awareness
- Help you to focus on the present
- Reduce negative emotions
- Increase patience and tolerance
That’s why meditating can help to bring more happiness and purpose to your life.
20) Let go of perfection
If you want to achieve anything worthwhile, you need to let go of perfectionism. And this includes letting go of unfair expectations for yourself.
Perfectionism is a mental trap. We all know that there’s no such thing as perfect, but we still go looking for it.
There is no ideal life waiting for you if you could only find your purpose.
You don’t need to be perfect to live a fulfilling life. To give up on perfectionism, start by asking yourself:
What would happen if I didn’t hold myself to impossible standards?
You might discover that there are certain things you’d be more willing to try. Being less focused on the outcome might encourage you to pursue certain avenues you’ve mentally closed off.
21) Say yes
This year I made a promise to myself, and it’s to say yes more often.
That certainly doesn’t mean saying yes to everything. Neither is it about doing things I really don’t want to just for the sake of it.
But saying yes opens doors for opportunities that may not have been available otherwise. It means going for the things that frighten you without automatically closing the idea down.
Say yes to learning new skills. Saying yes to joining clubs and groups. Saying yes to meeting people who may share similar passions and goals. Saying yes to starting things and seeing what happens.
If nothing else, say yes to experiences that challenge and stretch you. The things that push you outside your comfort zone.
Saying yes to new ideas and saying yes to taking risks will help us all embrace more of what life has to offer.
22) Stop trying so desperately to find your life purpose
Why is it so hard to find your purpose in life? I think one of the reasons is the pressure we put on ourselves. Which only then serves to cut you further off from knowing.
Questions about life purpose are wonderful. But the problem is that this question can also quickly lead to overwhelm, which is the absolute opposite of what you are looking for.
Rather than thinking of your life purpose as one answer you need to seek, I think it can help to think of life purpose a bit like a jigsaw puzzle.
Firstly, stop thinking of this as an answer that you need full access to right now. Think of it more as an unfolding path that will be revealed to you the further you walk along it.
Life purpose for most of us is not presented as a conveniently packaged complete answer, it is a puzzle. And you need to start putting the pieces together before you get a picture of the finished image.
Imagine each piece of the puzzle is one small action. As you experiment with these actions you are simply seeing how they fit into the bigger puzzle.
Instead of trying to work out what the complete image is when you only have jumbled pieces in front of you, just start putting them together, one by one. Carefully focus only on each individual piece.
These pieces that you are putting together are your desires, your interests, your talents, and gifts.
Little by little, the picture is revealed.
23) Surround yourself with people who support you
As much as you can, be with people who inspire you.
When we’re around negative people and naysayers it sucks our motivation and brings us down.
Surrounding yourself with people who you admire, respect, and feel connected to is a huge part of creating a purposeful life.
Community is really important in giving us a sense of belonging and helping us to grow.
24) Be grateful
Gratitude is another humble yet powerful tool that has been scientifically proven to enhance our sense of purpose.
If you want to live a happy, healthy, and meaningful life then you must learn to appreciate all that you already have.
Being grateful helps us to see the positive aspects of life and to recognize the good things that happen every day.
Studies have shown that people who practiced gratitude felt better physically and emotionally.
Its benefits include:
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
25) Remember it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it that brings purpose to life
I can’t help but think that we get it the wrong way round.
We think having a fulfilled and purposeful life comes from changing external circumstances. But in reality it’s an inside-out process.
Finding contentment in your internal world is then reflected in your external circumstances.
It can also be very easy to get swept away with wanting your life purpose to be something grand. Of course, there is clear merit in wanting to cure cancer or end world hunger. But there is nothing wrong with finding a more humble purpose.
There is just as much merit and meaning in wanting to raise a family, grow your own vegetables and help with the homeless problem in your neighborhood.
Maybe you can even find purpose in every single thing you do if you give it your full attention. I heard a spiritual teacher say the key to happiness was actually doing just that.
When you are brushing your teeth, your purpose for those 2 minutes is to brush your teeth. When you are listening to your child read, your purpose for those ten minutes is to listen with your fullest attention. When you are doing the dishes, for those few minutes that is your sole purpose.
Every action we do can be purposeful if we do it with purpose.
I realize this is perhaps not the sort of purpose we are talking about within this article. I’m just trying to remind you (and myself) that life is made up of countless individual moments.
A purposeful life is not created from single-mindedly pursuing one thing alone that will bring meaning to our entire life.
It is created from honoring each of those moments as they come and go with as much purpose as possible.