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Identifying ‘purpose’ provides you with a stable foundation and sense of direction, both of which are integral to a positive outlook on life. A solid foundation allows you to be more resilient and bounce back from adversity. A sense of direction allows you to set goals.
For some, purpose is connected to their occupation – meaningful, satisfying work. For others, their purpose is connected to responsibilities to their family or friends. Others seek purpose through spirituality or religious beliefs.
Some people may find their purpose clearly expressed in all these aspects of life. Whatever it is and where you find it, purpose can guide life decisions, influence behaviour, shape goals, offer a sense of direction and create meaning.
Purpose will be unique for everyone
What you identify as your path will be different from other people’s. What’s more, your purpose can actually shift and change throughout life in response to the evolving priorities and fluctuations of your own experiences.
A good starting point for this is the answers to these simple but thought-provoking questions:
- What do you love? The answer to this is your passion.
- What are you good at? The answer to this is your mission.
- What can you be paid for? The answer to this is your profession.
- What does the world need? The answer to this is your talent.
If you can answer those four questions, then you have probably identified your current purpose.
If you are currently struggling to find direction and your purpose in life
Imagine jumping into a time machine and arriving at the year you turn 75. Then, ask yourself these five questions:
- How, and for what, do I want to be remembered?
- By whom do I want to be remembered?
- Which achievements and personal strengths do I want others to talk about?
- When I look back on the life I have lived, am I satisfied with it?
- Am I living the life today that will mean that I achieve this when I am 75?
The answer to these questions should help you identify whether you are living according to your values, whether you are achieving your goals and whether your life is going in the direction you want it to. Importantly, if you answered ‘no’ to questions 4 and 5, then think about the changes you can make to ensure that you are heading in the right direction. This direction will help you achieve your goals so that you can look back on a life well lived when you are 75. Make sure these changes are realistic and within your control.
Now, this is the crucial bit. Write down your answers and look at them in six months or a year to see if you have made progress towards achieving your goals. If you feel you are drifting off track, then remember the 75-year-old version of you and revise your goals as you learn more about yourself and the person you really want to be. All of this will not happen overnight, but it is a gradual realisation that takes place overtime.
Don’t underestimate the power of purpose
Many people find that thinking about their life’s purpose seems too abstract or uncomfortable. If you are not a spiritual person and don’t believe in some higher order of things, thinking about the purpose of your life can seem airy-fairy. For others, it can be very difficult and painful to face the way you have lived your life so far. If you are in either or both of these situations, don’t worry – many other people are in the same boat.
But don’t underestimate the benefit of believing that you are making a difference in some way, and that your life has purpose. This is an important part of thinking positively and it is fundamental to your well-being.
Kari Spence’s story is testament to this because once she found a purpose, her life became enriched and, at the same time, the lives of the children she works with in Rwanda were enriched. For me, Kari’s story also demonstrates the power of positive thinking.
Neil Francis, author of Positive Thinking.
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