Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Live Purposefully to Find your Purpose in Life

Almost every self-help book on leadership emphasizes on the need to finding our purpose in life. There is even an article that promises you to help you discover your purpose in just 20 minutes! It seems such an obvious piece of puzzle – ‘if we are born, there must be some meaning’, you would want to believe.

There definitely is. And there are so many people, who, in search of this meaning, meander through life disenchanted, yet never reaching there. Surely, you were born to live your life in the fullest manner and not waste it in the quest for purpose!

In a recently initiated 'Linkedin' discussion on ‘How and when do we find our purpose’, there were a number of different answers:

“Whatever we do, becomes our purpose”

“There is not one purpose – continue doing what you enjoy and you will begin to see life more as a journey than a purpose”

“It is about following your passions and using them to enrich others’ lives”

“When you are ready, your purpose will find you”.


Great thoughts, but none of them explained the answer completely. The gnawing thought still remained – Is there any way to finding our purpose? What followed were introspection, contemplation, reasoning and analysis, which resulted in a 3 Step approach to living purposefully. The end message was very clear - only if you live purposefully, one day at a time, will you be of any significance ever.

According to me, by living your lives meaningfully, you are constantly stirring purpose in your own lives as well as the lives of those you touch. When the purpose becomes really big, it becomes an achievement. And through a series of achievements, you become an inspiration for many others to ‘achieve their purpose’. For a life’s purpose to be achieved, the following conditions have to be met:
• It has to serve common good.
• It produces some everlasting effect, however big or small.
• It has to be directed outwards.
• It has to flow as a natural outcome of your values, beliefs, and actions.
• The focus must be on actions and not towards the results.

The 3 Step Approach

1. Discover your true self. Though you undergo life’s journey as ordinary mortals, guided by templates, beliefs and opinions, your true self emerges when you use your learning to grow spiritually as well. The secret lies in being aware of your own self, physically, mentally and spiritually. ‘Be with yourself’, and you will feel the three entities resonating with the same vibration. You will then automatically begin to feel your natural compass, i.e., your natural alignment towards certain thoughts and actions that will make your life meaningful. Also see my post on 'Mindfulness and Leadership' for more insight.

2. Be inclusive in your relationships. You must understand that you are in the company (physically, mentally or spiritually) of selected human beings by design, and not be default. The manner in which you acknowledge, communicate, understand and engage with the people around you will create the intended meaning for you to be in their lives and vice versa. This willingness to positively influence these people will also create within you a feeling of fulfillment that will draw you closer to your purpose.

3. Discover your passion and devote yourself to it. The first two steps deal with yourself and the people around you. Surely, there would be something more, that adds extra meaning to your life. Most people go wrong here, and attempt to find the elusive purpose by chasing material needs, higher positions, shifting places etc. What you must seek is the type of activity that you really enjoy doing, and never tires you. Just look back at your pattern of activities since childhood and identify those that completely engrossed you. Undertaking those activities repeatedly, every time with a renewed understanding, will help you discover your passion. Having discovered your passion, you must thereafter focus on the same with single-mindedness and devote yourself to it. Think of any famous person and you will find that he/she did exactly this.

Personal Advice

I would like to add a few words of advice here.
• Do not get so enamored so as to follow Step 3 in isolation, thereby only concentrating on your passion and avoiding yourself or the people around you.
• Only focusing on one step would make you lose your balance at some juncture, as you would not have followed the principle of purposeful living. Finding your purpose would then become a futile exercise.
• The good news is that even after following steps 1 and 2, you will be left with ample opportunity to pursue your passion.

Once you adopt this 3 Step method diligently and mindfully, you will never have to worry about finding your purpose. Every day of your life will be so purposeful, that one day, the ultimate purpose of your life will be fulfilled, with or without your knowledge. Even Thomas Edison, when he invented a bulb, never knew what it would lead to!

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