“What is my life’s purpose?” is one of the most important questions that we can ask ourselves. Whatever our spiritual beliefs may be, most of us believe that we were born for a reason. And having a sense of purpose or meaning in life is important; research shows that people who have a clear sense of purpose live longer, happier lives.
At the same time, this can be a heavy question to try to find the answer to. Especially when we’re young and figuring out what we want to do with our lives, the options can feel overwhelming. It’s easy to start feeling like we’re just wandering around with no real goal or direction, searching for some sort of deeper meaning.
Luckily, there are questions we can ask ourselves to start getting closer to discovering (or creating!) our life’s purpose. At the end of the day, we have the right and capacity to decide for ourselves what our life’s purpose is — and these 5 questions can help us decide what decision to make.
1. What brings me joy, even a tiny amount?
Part of what makes it so difficult to find our purpose is that we make the mistake of looking for the one thing that brings us more joy than any other. In reality, many things can bring us joy, and any one of those things might bring us closer to our life’s purpose.
What brings you joy — even a tiny bit of joy? Remember, this doesn’t have to be the one thing that makes you happier than anything else. If it helps to get your mind moving, make a list. Write down anything - anything at all - that brings you joy. There are no stupid answers.
Maybe there are big things on that list, like spending time with friends and family, helping underprivileged children, or creating art. But maybe there are smaller things on the list, too; things like biting into a juicy apple, watching a hummingbird, or having a morning dance session.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every single joy-filled thing you wrote on your list will be your life’s purpose. But asking yourself this very important question will help you to realize how you truly enjoy spending your time.
2. What could I talk about for hours on end?
We all have a friend who’s really interested in one niche topic. Whether it’s cryptocurrency or vintage railroad trains, they can’t seem to stop talking about it. Even when no one is listening anymore and the people around them are begging them to talk about something else, it’s all they can think about.
Of course, not everyone has just one thing that they can get so interested in. The same principle applies here as in question number 1; you don’t have to choose only one topic. Think about it like this: what are the conversations that make you come alive? What types of documentaries are you most interested in? Whose life stories do you like to hear about? What injustices get you fired up?
Make a list of everything you can think of. These are the things that awaken your passion. And identifying your passion is one of the first steps toward figuring out your life’s purpose.
3. What skill or strength am I the most proud of?
Everyone has innate talents, strengths, and skills that they were either born with or developed with time and practice. What are yours?
If someone asked you to talk about yourself to your future life partner or employer, what would you say? What are the best things about you that you’d want them to know about? What qualities make you glad to be you? What accomplishments are you the most proud of?
Your life’s purpose should be a combination of what you love, what is meaningful for you, and what qualities and talents you have. Use the answer to this question to start figuring out what unique value you offer to the world. The gift you have to offer to those around you might lead you to your life’s purpose.
4. Who do I admire, and why?
Sometimes, it’s helpful to look to those around us for inspiration in finding our life’s purpose. Think back to everyone who’s been a role model to you throughout your life. This can be a family member, a teacher, a celebrity or activist, or even a fictional character. It’s likely that you’ve had more than one role model or inspiration in your life, so make a long list of everyone you can think of.
Now, study the list. What specific qualities do you admire about these people? In what ways would you like to be more like them? What strengths do you share with them? What have they done with their lives that inspires you?
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5. How do I want to remember my life? How do I want to be remembered?
The only certainty in life is that at some point, it’s going to end. When you’re on your deathbed, and you’re looking back on your life, how do you want to remember it? What are the things that you know you’d regret not doing at your life’s end? What are the things that you know you’d be grateful to have done? What do you expect to be the things that most matter to you as you’re taking your last breath?
Not everyone cares about being remembered after death. But if you do, what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? What do you hope will be written in your obituary? What do you want people to say about you when they speak at your funeral? Who do you hope to have made an impact on?
Thinking about death doesn’t need to be morbid. It can be inspiring if we do it to remind ourselves of the temporary nature of life, and our desire to make the best of it while we’re here.
Create Your Purpose
At the end of the day, discovering a sense of purpose in your life is more about creating it than finding it. A life’s purpose isn’t something that’s buried in the sand, waiting for you to stumble across it. We can all take active steps toward figuring out what makes life meaningful for us, and deciding how we want to spend the time we’ve been given.