Imagine this, you’re 15, no clue what you want to do with your life, and probably not even thinking about it, when your best friend blurts out “I want to be a musician.” Just like that, he decided.
At the time when this happened, I didn’t give much thought to it. His parents didn’t seem to mind, they were supportive and seemed to think it would be a passing phase. Slowly though he built his life around music- lessons, small gigs, auditions, more lessons, failed auditions, successful contracts…. building his entire life around this primary focus while most people around him floundered to find direction.
Don’t get me wrong, most people don’t just tap into their life’s work at 15. He was definitely unique.
Most of us have no clue what we want to do in our teens or 20’s and find ourselves trying different things in an effort to figure out what we are good at, enjoy and can succeed at. The funny thing is that most people go after what they think they are good at and not necessarily what they want.
Even after making good money between 18-24, I changed careers and pursued a passion-based career, it wasn’t until I was almost 30 that I clearly defined what I wanted for my life.
Chances are you’re more like I was and have no clue about what you want to do, or you have an idea, but it seems blurry. It’s a struggle that almost every adult goes through. You find yourself asking questions like:
“What am I really good at?”
“What am I passionate about?”
“What could I do to be fulfilled?”
I get emails all the time from men and women who are searching for a deeper sense of purpose and want guidance. One of the biggest challenges facing people is their idea of “life purpose.” Most people define purpose by accomplishments or goals. People think “If I am achieving things, making money and more successful than others then I am accomplishing my purpose,” right? Not exactly.
So many people think that their career IS their purpose and get lost in the fact that their career is simply another accomplishment, title or piece of their identity. Purpose is separate from your career, it is separate from how much money you make, whether you climb Mt Everest or not and separate from how many businesses you own or run.
Other people think “Life Purpose” is some higher calling, some divine purpose which they need to seek and figure out and can only be told to us by some ethereal being, or by holding a crystal while dancing naked in the forest high on D.M.T (although that could be a blast). While our purpose may be a form of higher calling, and I’m not here to discuss religious beliefs, few people today find their life purpose by going on a pilgrimage.
Here is our reality: life is finite, not infinite. We have a certain amount of time here which is completely undetermined to us. No one knows for certain how much time we have or what we are ultimately supposed to do with it. It’s like being given the world’s best and most intricate game without instructions. This does make it challenging to know where to begin, how long you have or who you should invest your limited time and energy with.
When people ask “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life’s purpose?” what they’re actually asking is “What can I do with my life that will be important?… What can I do with my life that will make a difference?”
This is a much better place to start, as it points to a way of being rather than what you are doing. So many people feel like they are not living their lives’ purpose because what they are doing with their life doesn’t match who they want to be as a person.
I’ve worked with men for years now and one of the most common questions I get is “What should I do with my life? How do I leave a legacy? How can I find my life’s purpose?” These are impossible questions for me or anyone else to answer for you, they are questions that you must come to answer, by you, for you.
After working with hundreds of people, doing research and asking people who are living their purpose, I created these 5 questions for you to tap into what you are meant to do. I might not be able to give you the answer, but I can certainly ask the right questions to help you find the answer.
1. What Problem would you give anything to solve?
One of my favourite sayings is “If you want to make a billion dollars, solve a problem for a billion people.” I’m talking about real problems, not the kind that help people be more complacent, like an ingenious way to turn on your tv just by saying “Turn on TV” or a self-cleaning toothbrush. I mean real issues like how to cure a disease, fix modern day education, help inner city kids get a head start in life, how to educate third world children, feed the 7.5 billion people that live on this little blue marble… you know, the easy problems.
2. What is true about you today that would make your ten-year-old self cry?
This may sound like a strange question but as kids we were all dialed into our hearts. We knew what we loved and for the most part, we didn’t care what people thought about it. We would openly express what we wanted to do no matter how absurd or outlandish it may have seemed. This question will point you to passion. It will help remind you of something that you may have forgotten about.
3. What makes you forget to eat, sleep, poop and have sex? (Maybe not the last two)
What drives you? What would you give up your ‘days off’ to do?
We have all had those moments of complete flow where we feel like we could keep doing what we are doing for hours, days, weeks and months. This is essential. If you can’t stand what you are doing, you’re probably not doing the right thing.
4. What is the cost of living this purpose? Are you willing to pay it?
Purpose stopper 101- maybe you have a purpose, a way of being that calls you to play bigger, be better and give more to the people around you, but you’re not willing to pay the toll. For some, who we want to be and what we are willing to do are very different things. Everything has a cost, in this case, there is likely something you will have to give up to gain full access to your purpose.
For example, a high performing CEO whose purpose is to dramatically improve community access to clean water or resources, is likely going to have to give up all the limiting thoughts that may get in the way of his potential rising and purpose activating. He may also have to give up the ways in which he maybe wasted time in the past- trading partying for high quality sleep to be at his best, trading drinking beer and eating crap for early morning workouts and clean foods to keep his mind sharp and body agile.
Most people don’t even think about this, they simply think “Well, when I tap into my purpose then I’ll be able to to do x,y & z AND keep doing the things I’ve always done.” The problem here is that some people have limiting beliefs and behaviours that impact their ability to truly live their life purpose. Letting go of these is the cost one must be willing to pay to level up and live their greatness.
5. You have one year to live from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?
Write. It. Down.
Share it with someone you love and trust.
Imagine that you spent one year being the person you dreamed of, just one year. In the grand scheme of things that’s not very long. What would it take? What values would you want to live? What beliefs would stand in your way? What would you want to do? What would your obituary say? What would people say about you and who you were?
Oh, and if you are writing a bunch of crap that sounds cool just to impress a bunch of people, you’re probably not moving in the right direction. Take two steps back, connect to your ten-year-old self and remember what problem YOU want to solve.
Uncovering one’s purpose in life is so much more than what you will ‘DO’ in this world. It is about who you will be, what you are committed to giving back to, who you will help and who you will be of service to. It is about getting off the couch and making a difference in other people’s lives and being a part of something bigger than yourself.
So be brave. Answer the questions and take some action.