How to Refine Your Purpose?
So, you have a couple of words you know define what means the most to you (if you wish to do this exercise, read Part 1 here). Now what?
Now that you have done a personal reflection and discovered the general meaningful themes in your life, find a buddy to share your stories with. Let them know that you're doing a Purpose exercise, and ask them if they can give you a listening ear and ask clarifying questions to help you deepen or find themes that could have been hidden in your stories, waiting to be uncovered.
Ask your buddy to share their stories as well, you'd be surprised how both of you can find some insights in each other’s sharing and potentially spin off some cool ideas together! As a personal example, when I shared about my passion to support the lower-income elderly in Singapore in their living expenses and provide companionship, my friend squealed in surprise and told me that it had always been her dream to start an initiative in this space - we made a pact to run a charity in our 30s.
How to Write Your Purpose Statement?
Now it's time to put your seemingly separate themes into a coherent Purpose statement. There is no right or wrong answer to this, it only has to make sense and be meaningful to you. Purpose statements are not tied to any job or task, it can be broad to cover a few areas but should not be too general such that it loses personal meaning to you.
For example, the Purpose Statement that makes sense to me in my drive to support the less-privileged or to help people maximise their potential is: “To fight for the underdogs and give them hope.” At first glance, most people will not understand the depth of what your sentence means - e.g. what “underdog” or “hope” constitutes fully, but as long as you are clear about it to yourself, it is sufficient. Again, as stated in Part 1, your Purpose Statement should not be something too generic like “help the world”. It should be something unique to you, the spark that you contribute to the world - something that will be missed most if you were gone.
Must there only be one purpose throughout life?
Absolutely not! Your purpose statement may be reinforced, or it may crumble entirely as your worldview shifts, when you get more mature with the years. A new purpose may be born after a significant life event (e.g. a woman who recently gave birth to a differently-abled child and discovered a calling to be an advocate for the rights of these children).
Sometimes our Purpose statements were born from childhood traumas, but we may not know it yet, at our current level of awareness. But after we resolve it, perhaps our drive to make a difference in that area may fade. It takes self-awareness and an entire lifetime of reflection, trial and error to act on what you want to contribute to life. However, one cannot confirm their purpose until one acts upon it - it doesn’t do to merely dwell on it and overthink.
Bottom-line: Just try
While trying to figure out your path, the best and only thing to do is to try it out! Think that your path is advocating for sustainability? Try it out for some time. Find some like-minded friends to embark on this journey with you. When you hit roadblocks, ask yourself - what sacrifices will you make to overcome them? Many a time, people say that they’re unsure what the right path is for them, but ironically, sometimes conviction does not precede having the courage to start, in fact, your conviction grows when you first start and work ceaselessly on something. The meaning expands with the work you put in.
Caution! Are you ready to embark on your journey?
Unpopular Fact: A Purposeful journey does not necessarily make you “happy”. They are not synonymous. In fact, when you first begin your journey, you might ask yourself if this is really your path. When your path is unorthodox and no one has walked before you, in your lostness you may feel fear. While you’re stumbling and failing, you may ask yourself, is it all worth it? Simply because it means so much to you, it takes even more courage to put your work out there, knowing fully well that people may criticise your actions or disagree with you. If it doesn’t yield the results you want, you may get disheartened or question your abilities.
But the funny thing is, even though sometimes you’d be heartbroken, de-motivated, the flame of purpose may grow small but never extinguish. Keep the flame alive - start small, but never not start at all. Do not postpone to tomorrow. Tomorrows quickly become months, stretch out to years and then decades. Don’t leave this world with music in you, still unplayed.
I’d like to share one of my favourite quotes with you as a closing statement:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena
Just try. Try and fail, try and succeed, try and fail and then succeed, doesn’t matter which. Just try. It is the first step.