9 Strategies to Find Your Life Purpose

life purpose
Purpose = Become the Buddha? Or just pose with the Buddha?

“All men (and women) should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” James Thurber

There was a time when I was doing work that was out of line with my purpose. It wasn’t all that long ago when I was practicing law as a trial lawyer helping those charged with crimes.

It was exciting, challenging and required using a lot of my speaking, writing and persuasive skills. (A lot of my persuasion skills 🙂 )

My days were filled with preparing cases for trial and then presenting the evidence to a jury of 12 who were to make decisions on my clients’ lives.

Shortly after this work, I became actively engrossed in the world of politics. I worked with and helped elect some of the leading politicians in the cities I lived in. Again, exciting and challenging work that really made me feel like I was making a difference in the world.

Once again, I withdrew from doing this work.

Each time I left these careers, I felt a little bit of sadness.

At the same time, I knew I was transitioning from work which didn’t suit my soul completely towards my calling or life purpose.

I didn’t quite know what it would take, but I did know the immediate consequences of my journey included sacrificing promotions, pay and stimulating work.

Despite these personal setbacks, I chose to live more of my life’s purpose so I could be true to myself.

Here are 9 strategies you can use to find your life purpose today.

1) Find a way to serve. If you have no idea what your life purpose is, find a way to serve someone.

Serve at home, work, or a volunteer clinic. Help a friend, a neighbor, your former professor, your mentors, your clients, your cat, your obnoxious boss or even your lovely mother-in-law.

Find ways to give back to people: a way to make their lives easier. If they need help with babysitting, cooking, dog-walking, or dog-searching, lend a helping hand.

If you have skills or qualifications that you can use to benefit others, help them.

In giving, you’ll discover what brings you joy.

2) Find your joy. A decadent chocolate souffle or a hearty steak dinner might make you joyful, but it might also give you heart-burn and cause you to gain a few extra pounds.

Not temporary moments of bliss but what brings you lasting happiness and joy?

Out of all the jobs you’ve had, which brought you the most joy? Write those down. If you hated all your jobs, which skills at those various jobs brought you the most happiness? Note those on a piece of paper as well.

When work stops feeling like work, you’ve found your joy. When you’ve found your joy or satisfied your soul’s yearning in life, you’re most likely living your purpose.

You may like writing, teaching, preaching, singing or running long distances. If each of these bring you joy, see how these activities can contribute to your purpose. What lessons can they teach you about your purpose?

Write down the things that bring you joy, so you can see what common qualities exist between those activities.

Also, try to determine WHY each activity brings you joy. For example, let’s say you enjoy working with people, you most likely enjoy human contact and connections.

If you enjoy making complex subjects easier for others to understand, you most likely enjoy helping others learn and grow.

3) Find your strength. What are you good at? What makes you stand out like a Hollywood star?

If you answer, ‘nothing’, then your strength might be humility because, of course, you’re good at something.

You’re good at something, as much as you hate to admit it to yourself.

When your professor told you that you’re the best researcher he had in college, you ignored him.

When your students told you that you helped them take their practice even deeper in yoga class, you thought it was out of obligation.

When your in-laws praised you for the zea-licious chicken curry you whipped up, you thought it was expected of you.

Often, you don’t acknowledge or admit what you’re good at because all too often you discount your strengths or ignore them altogether.

If you’re painting Mona Lisa-like paintings but not showing them to anyone, you’re depriving the world of your art and depriving yourself of your purpose.

Your personality type can offer clues to your strengths in life. Find your personality type and Penelope Trunk says you’ll find fulfillment and even passion in doing that work.

4) Find yourself. You might want to spend some time getting to know yourself in your quest to find your life’s calling.

A discussion with a trusted pal for self-reflection or other opportunities to take a step back and analyze your life, are good ways to discover yourself first.

Once you unmask all the superficial characteristics and qualities in your life, you will be better suited to find your purpose.

You’ve been conditioned by your family and your community to do certain jobs, have certain beliefs and pursue certain career paths.

Most of these beliefs imposed on you are fear-based and might make you feel like you’re drowning.

A mindfulness practice, continuously listening to your inner-self and reflections on your intuition are needed to bust through all the layers of family, community and society.

Living your purpose unfolds miraculously in front of your eyes when you figure out who you are, what you stand for and what you value.

5) Find your clues. In many instances, you already know your life purpose is, but are in denial about it. Fear-based or scarcity-based thinking deprives you from fulfilling your purpose.

You might already know what you excel at and what your strengths are. You know what people repeatedly compliment you about and what you do well. But you may not be acknowledging the clues which will lead you to your purpose.

Your purpose may have been scattered in various experiences through different educational experiences, life experiences and jobs. It may not even be career-related.

It may have been when you pursued a hobby or tinkered around with some gadgets at home as a kid.

It may have been revealed in a soul-touching incident which brought you wander, awe or desire to re-experience the incident.

It could be something you’re already doing each week or during a part of your day. You just have to grab that captivating experience and pursue it more intensely.

6) Find your motivation. Sure, you have to feed the kids’ dog because you have to. Ok, fine, you want to, as well, to keep the local animal protection agency from coming after you.

You do have to cook for the kids, or child protective services and/or prison time might be involved.

Reports to your boss might be required in exchange for a pay-check.

But what do you do without being coaxed?

What part of your life at home or day at work do you start without feeling like it’s an obligation?

What are you naturally motivated to do? Your purpose isn’t very far from that activity.

7) Find your small and big breaks.

And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

When you’re doing your purpose, the most interesting manifestations occur. You begin seeing favor in your life supporting the work you’re doing. It’s yet another clue that what you’re doing is in line with your purpose.

Let’s say you’re trying to practice your public speaking skills at the local Toastmaster club and get an overwhelming positive response by all club members. Small break.

Or you started a small personal development and spirituality blog called Vishnu’ Virtues and snagged a guest post on your favorite space in the blog-o-sphere, The Tiny Buddha community. Small break.

Or you’re trying to make it as a professional life sage and guru and you’re suddenly spotted by Deepak Chopra. Big break.

Positive reflection from others or the universe, honors and accolades from others, opportunities to partner, grow and nurture your talents should be seen as indications that you’re on the right path.

8) Find what isn’t your purpose. As my friend Razwana would say, you can’t just sit back downing a glass of wine to discover what your purpose might be.

She’d say you have to get out there and try new things. If you believe something is your purpose, do it. Get your hands dirty, invest in the tools you need, provide that service for a friend or gift that product you made to a potential customer.

Purpose isn’t found in theories and daydreams. Purpose is found in taking action to match life’s work with your being.

Want to be a chef? Take a class? Start a food movement? Start a blog?

Want to direct a movie? Volunteer your directing abilities to local actors at the community college making independent movies.

Believe your purpose is creating a multi-million dollar business empire? Find a product to sell. Provide a service. Freelance. Unleash your creative works.

And the caveat is that you may not find your purpose once you do some of this but you will know if it makes you happy and brings you joy. You’ll know if it’s something you want to do the rest of your life.

If it isn’t, eliminate it and keep moving forward.

Test what you believe is your purpose. Continue to do what resonates with you and give up what doesn’t.

9) Find God. “Trusting God completely means having faith that he knows what is best for your life.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life.

If you’re of the religious sort, please read this point. If you’re not, don’t call the authorities or throw your computer out the window. Remain calm and skip #9.

In Rick Warren’s book, the Purpose Driven Life, Warren talks not so much about following YOUR purpose but more of following God’s purpose. If you buy this premise, you must be ready for surrender and submit to God’s will.

“You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Warren suggests trusting and being guided by the divine.

The Purpose Driven Life takes a different twist on the purpose question and asks you, not what is your purpose, but instead, what is God’s purpose for you?

As you get to know the all powerful more and have a divine presence in your life, your purpose will become more clear.

With that kind of commitment to a sacred power, be prepared for many divine gifts, including your divine purpose, to unfold in your life.

Have you found your life purpose? How did you find it?

To pick up my book, One Way Ticket: 11 Ways to Discover Your Highest Purpose and Transition Out of Your Profession, click here.

37 Comments

  1. I don’t know if I have found a specific “life’s purpose” yet. I am continually searching, comparing, testing, experiencing growth. But in doing so, I feel like I am leading my ideal life. I wake up every morning happy to meet the day. I am filled with joy and peace that I get another shot at life, and have a wonderful partner to share it with. Although I loved my previous career as a journalist, I always felt a vague, deep sense of unease, even on my days off. I felt like I never really “left” work; I was always thinking and worrying about it.

    I don’t know what specific job I should be doing yet, but I firmly believe that a life of service to God and others is the life best-lived. I have never felt as calm, joyful or fulfilled as I do now, on this year-long trip to do service projects.

    On second thought, maybe I do have my life’s purpose. I may not have reached my specific “there” yet, but I am well on my way, and the scenery is fantastic! 🙂

    1. You know, Jammie, I didn’t put the most important line in the post! Your journey is your purpose. I need to write another post which basically reminds people of that:) YOu are living your purpose when searching for your purpose – as you indicate, you’re living your ideal life.

      If you thought you took your work home with you as a journalist, you can’t imagine how it would be like as an attorney!

      I agree – you do know where you’re headed. The GPS seems to be working. Can’t wait to see where the path ends. Or begins – you know what I mean. lol

  2. That is quite some list of things to do to find purpose, Vishnu. I won’t add a quote about the journey vs. the destination. What I WILL add is that a ‘purpose’ in life changes over time. I can see for myself that this has changed over the years – perhaps it has refined somewhat?

    Gosh, that Razwana is a wise owl, isn’t she? 😉 Thank you for the mention here, V!

    And finally, all that mention of chocolate souffles, steak dinners and wine is making me hungry …..

    1. You should have added the journey/destination quote! 🙂 Yes, it has refined, changed but all of that is part of what we eventually become. What we eventually do. What our purpose is. Yeah, you are pretty wise – that’s why I quote you often.

  3. Hey Vishnu,

    A weighty list indeed 🙂

    Trusting and believing in our strengths is a big one that definitely links to the fear element. It is easier to deny our strengths because then we are excused from even trying, “oh, there isn’t really anything I am good at or I am passionate about”. And yes, action is definitely the key. If we never try anything we will never know. I know from personal experience that this was one of mine. Not anymore though 🙂

    Love the section on big and small breaks. We forget to acknowledge the small breaks sometimes. Again, it is like we are looking for ways to bail-out. If the big break doesn’t happen quickly we can write it off saying we tried but it didn’t work. Therefore a bit of persistence is key.

    I believe I have found mine now and I am working on taking small steps each day. I see it as a journey, so I for the first time in my life I am having patience with it. I think that is how I know I have found it. There is no rush to fill a void. No looking for immediate and transformational change. It is just knowing I am on the right path and that I can stop searching. I “am” on the path and that IS the change. Yes there are days where doubts arise. There are tough times. There are things I need to do that I still procrastinate on, but there is a knowing deep inside. An acceptance and trust.

    How did I find it? I just woke one day and realized I didn’t want to accept life as it was anymore. The thought of looking back at the end and regretting it was a bigger fear than any other fear. And what I wanted to do just became clear. I have lots to do, lots to learn, unknown territory to traverse and it could fail. But not following it would be the biggest failure of all. It is terrifying and exciting. But there is no other option.

    1. Thank you for this comment Keith and wonderful to hear about your journey. How exciting is this? Waking up one day and not wanting to accept the life you were living but wanted to make a drastic change is sufficient motivation to fulfilling your purpose. Yes, small steps is the way to it and I think your realization that there’s no rush, will help you get to the destination. In fact, you seem to be enjoying the process – how much better does it get!

      When you do know your purpose, acceptance and trust is key to keep going.

  4. Vishnu, the nine strategies you’ve listed are the absolute truth. I went through most of those stages myself. There was a little pain while transitioning, sometimes by choice, sometimes because I had to go by my priorities, but overall, I was always glad for moving on. The job shift from a corporate highflyer to a work-from-home struggler hit me the most. But only until I allowed it. When i started looking at it from a different perspective, everything was just fine.

    I love your first point about finding someone we can serve. It speaks directly to my heart. There’s no pleasure greater than doing something for others and the peace it brings within us.

    Thank you for such a great read. I loved the post.

    1. Thanks Vidya – glad the strategies resonated and that you’ve implemented all at some point in your life. Changing perspective can change everything, right! And really enjoying your writings and blog which is a divine service to all of your readers:) Thanks again for your kind words.

  5. Hi Vishnu,

    This is such a thorough and insightful post about finding your life’s purpose. I love the idea of starting out with volunteer work. Giving back and gratitude so often opens the door to discovering your calling in life.

    I went through a number of transitions in my efforts to find my life’s work. I had a number of jobs to basically pay the bills before I became a teacher. Now as a blogger, I feel that I am exactly where I am meant to be. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I will pass this on!

    1. Cathy, it’s interesting that each thing we do before builds on the previous experience. I’m sure you saw that in each transition. And you’re probably using your teaching skills in a new and more dynamic way now as a blogger. Having a teaching background gives you a way of thinking and presenting information to others.

      Our past experiences help contribute to our ultimate purpose. Thanks for your comment and sharing.

  6. In finding our purpose, I believe #9 must come first. (I’m sure you knew I’d say that!) He has a plan. We must surrender to His will for our lives. He WILL be faithful to reveal it – I am living proof of that with my writing, my passion.
    Wonderful inspiration as always, Vishnu!

    1. Hi Martha, In the course of my life and especially the last few years, #9 has slowly moved up to #1 🙂 I know you’re living proof of this and you’re definitely an inspiration for me:)

  7. Hi Vishnu,

    This is probably the best post on finding your purpose that I’ve ever read. Thanks so much for writing it.

    I think what helped me find my purpose was a personality test I did some years ago. After I completed the questionnaire, the results showed that my personality fitted that of a coach. It was quite interesting because I grew up with a lot of confidence and self-esteem issues and it only made sense that I would help others deal with similar problems. Even now, when I work like a client, there is no other feeling like the one I get when the client ends a session feeling like a new person.

    Thank you.

    1. Hiten, what a nice thing to say. I really appreciate it your words. And thanks for sharing your story to your purpose. You know when you’ve found your purpose when you’ve found your joy and when work stops feeling like work.

      Taking that personality test probably confirmed for you the strengths you had in helping and serving people. Glad you acted on it and continue to fulfill your purpose daily:)

  8. very relevant for me right now!! i have definitely closed a lot of opportunities and doors and feel sad for doing so.. but i too feel like i’m transitioning into my calling. i feel like now my REAL WORK begins!! your post is a sign that i’m on the right track 🙂

    1. You’ve been on the journey and if the real work begins now, the world better watch out. I pretty much can see where you’re headed and can’t wait til you get there J! It will be super exciting especially that you’ve taken all of us on this journey with you.

  9. Awesome post! I think my calling is posing next to statues of the Buddha:).

    On a more serious note, I’ve noticed that I sweep some of the clues that I receive under the rug because I subconsciously think that what I am good at comes natural to everyone. Sometimes it is not until someone has an intervention-style conversation with me or, even worse, I start to lose these talents, that I realize their value. This post was a great brick in the face reminding me to be more self-aware. (How’s THAT for a post endorsement:))

    Also cool to guess at who you’ve been reading lately.. I’m guessing our reading lists have some overlap:)

    1. Bjorn – haha. I will tell you of good Buddha statutes where you can pose at too.

      Realizing your strengths, which you have alot of, is key to the purpose process. Some people visit coaches to help them see this but I think friends, family, a perceptive life partner can all help us come to this realization.

      Yup, I’ll take your quote as an endorsement and testimonial. lol And we do need to exchange reading lists!

  10. Wow Vishnu what a great and thought provoking post this is. You’ve moved the goalposts on this one my friend. I think we can all relate to some, if not all of your strategies and I too think the one on finding ways to serve others fits perfectly for us all.

    Each fresh day is a new opportunity to create the life we want to live and as you point out so well, that might mean being willing to leave the old life behind.

    Being willing is a powerful tool for any change we decide to make.

    Thanks for this Vishnu…I’m going to read it a few more times!

    1. Thanks for your comment Elle! Every day is a fresh opportunity to create the life we want and making that choice or being willing is a powerful tool to make that change. If more people realized this, we would have more people living an authentic and purpose-filled life.

  11. Thank you for providing food for thought. Your “9 Strategies to Find Your Life Purpose” led me to your “fulfillment and passion” link that led me to the Myers Briggs test that led me to a suggestion that I pursue teaching natural sciences. When I think back to how I enjoyed the natural sciences in high school, and how I lost that enjoyment, perhaps studying those subjects again may rejuvenate my enjoyment.

    1. HI Rick, the test does help and as Penelope Trunk advises, do what suits your personality. I wouldn’t allow any test to dictate a particular career path but of course, it’s another factor you should take into account. The fact that you enjoy the subject and teaching is a plus point! Thanks for your comment.

  12. Glad I came to this site. Nope, haven’t found my life’s purpose as yet but yes have got my hands deep down dirty. I have been asking what motivates me: writing does, speaking also does, so does community organizing and activism and development work. Received several small breaks. But still unable to either create a balance with all or stick to any fully. I seem to switch from this to that and it sucks.

    1. Hey Bhavana – I think you’re on the right path and the path is a journey. You’re determining what works and what doesn’t. Often, the journey is the purpose:)

      I’ve heard the term multi-potentialite used by Emilie Wapnick where she says you don’t have to be one thing or serve one purpose, you can do many!

      This article is pretty good: http://puttylike.com/true-calling/

  13. Vishnu, this post has arrived at one of the most important points in my life. The simplicity with which you have outlined the points of finding life purpose is highly motivating. Perhaps some of these will seethe back in my own life.

    Thanks a lot for sharing these thoughts for all of us to read and act on 🙂

    1. Thanks Richa – just some strategies I’ve used and hopefully others will benefit from as well. I have a good feeling you’re well on your way to your purpose:)

      Glad you found it helpful.

  14. Vishnu,

    This post was so very helpful! I have found that whenever I am feeling down I always turn to #1 to lift me up. How can I serve? When I feel lost if I find ways to serve it always lifts my spirits. Thank you very much for a very inspiring post!

    1. You got it, Wendy! I know that you are filled with service in your writing and blog, and I’m certain in your offline world as well:)

  15. I love, love, LOVE your quote – if you read it a few times, it really sums up our journey to know ourselves and our unconscious motivations: “All men (and women) should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” Thanks for adding “and women” btw;)

    I think about #5 a lot lately…some of The Unlost’s posts have hit this point home for me as well….I think a lot of times other people can see it easier (or more quickly) what we are meant to be doing, ya know?

    In our everyday lives, we come across people who are brilliant at what they do. Last week I stopped to imagine that my physical therapist had decided to go into some other field, and wasn’t doing what he’s doing. What a tremendous loss that would be for all the people who are stuck with mediocre care!

    1. Glad you like the quote DL. I clearly see some of your skills and ability, and I’m sure you do too:) Your ability to express yourself and communicate ideas is a true skill and talent. You’re a brilliant writer and I always look forward to reading everything you write. The world needs you to keep writing:) not because it will be mediocre without you but because it will be so much richer with your voice.

  16. A long list indeed! But worthy of its premise.

    This post opens up a lot of life’s realities. And I would agree that human as we are, we either ashamed to admit that we are good at something thus we are not able to develop it or ashamed to admit to ourselves that we are not good at something and scared to develop it. Either way hinders us to see our ‘purpose’. I like how you incorporate everything on the list with #9, having FAITH. And I think no one reaches his purpose without even having a FAITH, it may not be the same Faith as I have but a Faith one can call his own.

    Thanks for sharing this post. 🙂

    1. hi Chai – thanks for your visit and comment. Glad you enjoyed this exhaustive list:)

      Admitting our strength or our weakness (really, being honest with ourselves) does hinder our search for our purpose. #9 is important to me and you’re right, doesn’t just have to be in the divine sense or faith in God. Following your own faith or guiding beliefs will also help you realize your purpose. Welcome and thanks again for your comment.

  17. Hi Vishnu 🙂 Yey, I had more time to absorb your 9 strategies. My friends would often tell me I’m good at sticking at one thing and right now, I guess it’s more of the ‘relationship’ with my colleagues than the ‘work’ itself that defines me.

    Of course, number 9 is number one for me 🙂 Finding myself is next then joy and service comes after. You’re right. Maybe we’re trying too hard to find our life purpose ~ maybe it’s time to offer all that we have to Him. We are rich (in talents, gifts and everything) and it’s time to share them 🙂

    Lots of love and prayers ~ may you find your life purpose in God’s time.

    1. Hi Melissa, yes, #9 resonates with me moreso now a days than before. We may not ultimately have to seek or try to find our purpose. It could be just there in front of and a divine presence or sign can help us pursue it further.

      Relationships are sometimes more important than the work we do. Work can be mundane but relationships can teach us lessons of a lifetime. I am glad you are enjoying your colleagues and your relationship with them. I’m sure you’re their favorite colleague:)

  18. Hello Vishnu! It’s great to stumble upon a fellow Malaysian, or former malaysian perhaps? 😉 Great-looking blog and great post.

    One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt about life’s purpose, is simply in doing what brings you most joy.

    The challenge in this is that we are so often told (especially as children growing up) that we need to be x, y and z (doctor, professional etc) in order to be happy. We learn to put aside our own innate knowledge of what is good and right and best of us and we start second guessing our own intentions.

    If we can stop the chatter around us (or ignore it), and dig deep and listen hard to what that voice inside says – our life’s purpose often reveals itself.

    The next step is to trust and believe that that little voice is right and just go ahead and follow it.

    Blessings to you and your readers.

    1. Wise words – you must be Malaysian:) Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I couldn’t agree more. Stop listening to the chatter around us and listen to the very strong voice from within and do that! It takes a lot of courage and trusting to follow our purpose. Sometimes we only start on that process when everything else in our life falls apart – then we really start tunin in to that inner voice.

      Thanks for you comment and visit Li-ling. TIme to visit your blog!

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