“We do not ask life what the meaning of life is. Life asks us, what is the meaning of your life. And life demands our answer.” - Viktor E. Frankl
What Is Purpose & Why Is It Important?
Key to exceptional performance, pathway to greater wellbeing. It is the greater WHY behind the things we do, something that keeps us going despite hardship or failure.
As a HR professional, I have asked countless of people on what their purpose is during interviews or during our conversations. Most people explain their “Purpose” with something generic like: “Make the world a better place”, or “Provide for my family” What is that UNIQUE thing that you can do to make the world a better place? WHY is providing for your family important to you?
When you share your purpose statement with others, or recite it to yourself, it should also be something that makes your heart swell with joy, and send a slight shiver down your spine because of how important it is to you. It should stir up emotions in you, a sense of determination that you’re here on this Earth to accomplish this mission. Note that it does not have to be aspirational or cause-based, like “saving the planet” or “helping the marginalised”. It does not have to be what society deem as noble, it only has to resonate deeply with you, in your heart.
When you tap into your Purpose (The Why), manifesting it through your strengths (The How), you become a powerful force of nature. It also helps you to weather storms and adapt to changes a lot better! I like to imagine myself as a captain of a sailboat. With an end destination and a strong reason why I’d like to reach that destination, I am able to set my sights on the shore - little storms at sea won’t faze me. It may cause me to detour, it may even cause my boat to capsize at certain points. But I will always get back on, adjust my tiller, and navigate a better way to reach my end goal. Without this Purpose, the seas will feel a lot rougher, each day will feel like a new battle fighting the wind and waves, daily existence will start to feel like boring familiarity, like the boundless sea that spreads out endlessly ahead of me.
Steps to Discover Your Purpose
How can you discover your purpose? Upon quiet contemplation, you will find that you already know it. Every child is born different, with different things that bring them joy, anger them and make them feel most in their element.
Here are a few questions that I found aided me in my purpose-discovery journey
- What do you see in the world that angers you or is utterly heart-gripping? (be mindful to differentiate between ego-driven anger/annoyance and anger for injustice or a gap between an ideal world vs how things currently are)
Personally, something I feel strongly about is inequality - I believe that everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, should be given the opportunity to succeed in their own way that maximises their potential. In society, there are many factors that can hold individuals back - their current economic background, education level, race/the country they’re born in, disabilities (seen and unseen). Because of that, many feel like they cannot achieve their dreams and they slowly start to settle for a life that makes them less fulfilled. Later in this article, I will share how my “feeling” against inequality translates into my Purpose that I turned into action.
- What did you love doing as a child, before you were told what you were “supposed” or “not supposed” to do?
This question could help you uncover the best way you’d be able to achieve your purpose. For instance, as a child, I loved art - anything that allowed me to tap into my creativity and artistic expression; from pottery, to painting, to storytelling/writing. As an adult, I find myself most in the flow when I am able to express creativity in my work - combined with my desire to improve inequality in the world, I have ideated and started a social enterprise to help job seekers to maximise their career potential. What did you spend the bulk of your childhood on?
- What types of life challenges made a lasting impact on you? What did you learn about yourself from these situations?
Our strongest character is usually borne out of difficulty. It is only when we have struggled in the dark that we understand the values that are truly important to us. It could be an inner strength you realised in yourself, or it could be the gratitude you feel towards someone who has helped you. What helped you get through those times, and what are the lessons you have learnt that can help the world?
- How does it make you FEEL?
Now that you are armed with all your stories, write down the themes that jump out at you - something that has recurred throughout your life, and words that make you feel alive with emotion. For instance, my words would be: equality, underdog, creativity, ideation, hope, bringing joy to others, freedom. Try to write down at least 10 relevant words! In the next part of this series, we will discuss how to form a Purpose Statement and some ideas to manifest the Purpose. Cheerios!
In Part 2 of "How to Discover Your Purpose", I'll share more on how to refine your purpose and how to write your purpose statement. Check out the article here: