Why Have a Life Purpose? 5 Reasons You Should Have a Purpose
This is part 2 of a series on how to discover your real purpose in life. If you haven’t done so, read part 1 first: How to Know If You are Living Your Life Purpose NOW
“When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” ~ Seneca
“Having a purpose is the difference between making a living and making a life.” ~ Tom Thiss
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” ~ John F. Kennedy
Have you ever wondered, What is “life purpose”? Is it some woo-woo thing that only people who meditate and chant in a cave “get”? Is it some religious term for holy saints and enlightened? What exactly is it?
Well, there are multiple interpretations of what life purpose is. For the deeply spiritual, they may call it a spiritual calling; for the religious, they may see it as a higher instruction from God.
Beyond religious connotations, a life purpose is simply your life’s message. It is the message you wish to drive in the world during your existence on Earth (and beyond 😉 ). Having a life purpose applies to all of us, whether we are religious, non-religious, or atheistic.
Other terms for life purpose can be “life direction,” “purpose statement,” and “life mission statement,” all of which mean the same thing.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, or older. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you do. As long as you wish to live a more meaningful and conscious life, a life purpose is for you.
Examples of a life purpose are,
“To inspire and unleash creativity in every individual, one person at a time.”
“To help women discover their worth, break their barriers, and realize their hopes and dreams.”
“To educate and enable people to achieve their best health and hence, live a happier and healthier life.”
Why Have a Life Purpose?
Some people may ask, “Why have a life purpose? Why not just live life as we know it and ignore everything else? Why not chill out and relax until we die?”
Well, here are 5 reasons why I feel every person needs a purpose:
1. Life purpose is the starting point of life
Firstly, let’s face it — the reason you’re reading Personal Excellence isn’t because you’re looking for shopping tips or celebrity gossip. Chances are, you’re reading Personal Excellence because you see the importance of personal growth… your growth. Deep inside, you are passionate about being your best self and living your best life, and you feel that the material at PE can help you achieve that.
Well, a life purpose is the first step toward living a truly conscious life of your creation. While you can be busy with a million goals and tasks every day, when you don’t have a clear purpose (one that you believe in with your heart), you may well be barking up the wrong tree. That’s because your goals and tasks may well have nothing to do with your higher purpose in life, which means that you can pursue your current goals and tasks for 10, 20, 30 years, then realize down the road that… hey, this isn’t what I really want after all. As Stephen Covey once said,
Now, when you define your purpose, a purpose that shakes your heart and stirs your soul, that’s when conscious living begin. That’s because you now know what you stand for and your place in this world. While it doesn’t mean that everything suddenly becomes rosy and all your problems disappear (see Myth #1 above), at least you now have a strong clarity of what you want to drive in this world. This subsequently helps you to set long-term goals that move you in the right direction (toward your purpose), in turn rippling out to your short-term goals, then action plans, then daily actions.
Life purpose → Long-term goals → Short-term goals → Action plans → Daily actions
Hazy purpose or no purpose → Hazy, random goals → Hazy, random action plans → Hazy, random daily actions or constantly busy with others’ agendas, or
Clear purpose → Clear long-term goals → Clear short-term goals → Clear action plans → Clear daily actions ✓
The latter scenario is what you want and what will help you live your most meaningful life.
2. Clarity on important vs. unimportant
When you know your purpose, you can instantly differentiate between the important and unimportant. The reality is that most people today are so caught up with a million things that ultimately do not make a difference in their lives. Earn more money! Get a house! Get a second house! Get a car! Get a second car! Get a fleet of cars! With your purpose, you no longer get inundated by these societal goals. You can cut through the BS and get right to the things that truly matter in creating your highest existence.
For example, after I found my purpose, I realized that almost all the goals that I had been working toward, largely due to societal conditioning, were pointless in the grand scheme of things. Rather, what I saw as important was the ability to pursue my purpose: To raise the world’s consciousness and help others to grow. This is what I deem as the most important thing to pursue in the world, even today. (More on my purpose story in part 4.)
The great thing is that frontloading the work and investing a few months of my life to discover my purpose allowed me to get working on it right away. As opposed to wasting some 20, 30 more years of my life pursuing things that I thought I wanted and needed, I could start paving the path toward my highest life — even if I couldn’t do it right away. So after 2.5 years (from the point when I identified my true purpose), Personal Excellence was born. Today, it’s my 7th year running PE, and PE grows bigger than ever. We have half a million visitors and nearly a million pageviews at the blog every month! The great part is, I feel like I’m just getting started, and I can’t wait to see what the next few decades will bring!
I often talk about the 80-20 rule on PE, which is the principle of prioritization where you focus on the 20% big rocks that’ll give you maximum change and fulfillment. However, one can’t know what their 20% big rocks are unless they are clear of what’s truly important to them. This starts from knowing your purpose. When you discover your purpose, you can direct your focus to the real important things. Instead of wasting your time on inconsequential tasks, you can focus on your 20% big rocks. Big rocks that matter not to others, not to the society, not to the world, but… to you.
3. Live a life of direction and meaning
When you pursue your purpose and work on your high-impact goals, you’ll readily see your life lit with direction and meaning. As opposed to wasting your time in a job you don’t love, now you can work toward a career that better fits your purpose. As opposed to being around people who are not compatible with you / your goals, now you can find like-minded people and hang around them instead. As opposed to living a random existence, now you can create your life of highest meaning. And that, in itself, is magic.
This is what happened to my recent coaching client Anna. After she found her life purpose a few months ago, she began the steady process of transiting to her ideal life. Even though she started off in an unideal place (she was and still is working in a job she doesn’t like, IT security), we quickly worked together to identify her long-term goals and game plan to realize her purpose. From there, she identified a certification course to equip the right skills to pursue her purpose, started her Facebook page for her business, built her blog, gained initial traffic, got her initial clients, and found her tribe. Just recently, she informed her company HR about her plans to depart soon to pursue her purpose.
Now, none of this is some temporary fad — Anna knows this is what she wants to do. She now lives her life more fulfilled than she ever had. In her words, “I feel like I was born a fish and for the first time in my life, I’ve jumped in the ocean to swim with my fish friends. ” This is a stark contrast from when I first met her at the beginning of our coaching, when she was very frustrated and unhappy as she wasn’t doing what she loved. What Anna has experienced is what will happen to you too when you discover your true purpose and pursue it.
4. Constant drive and passion
When you pursue your purpose, you’ll gain this incredible burst of energy that never seems to run out.
The ability to pursue my life purpose fills me up with so much energy, drive, and passion that I’m constantly excited every day. Every morning, I bound out of bed, excited at what I can do and create in this world. At night, I dread going to sleep because I would much rather be living out my purpose than spend 6-8 hours out of commission! It’s as if I have 24/7 access to a well with unlimited energy! This was how I felt when I first pursued my purpose in 2008; believe it or not, 6 years later today, I still feel the exact same way! And I doubt it’s ever going to change.
On the other hand, when you aren’t living true to your purpose, days become a drag. Weekdays come and you do what’s needed; weekends approach and you look forward to them. Then the week starts and you wake up to Mondays with resistance and boredom, waiting for weekends to come again. This was actually I experienced in my last months prior to quitting my job to pursue my purpose. While I did everything in my day job with dedication and perfection because that’s simply who I am, I wouldn’t wake up with excitement to get to my task list. In fact, my day job was increasingly painful and unbearable as weeks passed by, because it had no relevance to my life’s message.
If you find yourself looking forward to weekends and vacations as opposed to what you do each day, it’s time to think about whether your work is something you seriously care about, or whether it is simply a means to an end (for financial stability, to support your livelihood, to have the money to buy things you don’t need). What you want is to pursue something of highest meaning to you, and for this to happen, you’ve to first start with, “What is my purpose?” (Which we’ll get to later.)
5. Achieve success (in your terms!)
Many people clamor for success as an end in itself. However, I want to highlight that success is a natural effect of doing what you love (and having clear goals, plans, and skills), vs. something you aim for as an end in itself.
What do I mean? If you’ve read my article 10,000 Hours To Develop Talent, you’ll know that “talent” isn’t so much something that’s inborn, but something that’s cultivated through time. Whether it takes 10,000 or 20,000 hours of hard work, the point is that everyone starts from somewhere, and it’s through consistent hard work in honing our craft that we then become “talented” in an area.
Now, clocking 10,000 or 20,000 hours of hard work in a domain is no easy feat. If you consider that we’re productive for at most 4-5 hours a day (i.e., not doing admin stuff, not being distracted), that’s about 8.5 years to clock 10,000 hours. 8.5 years! That’s 8.5 years to develop talent, which will subsequently maybe help you to achieve success in your field. Who’d have the energy to turn up for work every day and push through in a field that he/she doesn’t care 100% about for 8.5 years, if not an emotional-less robot? (And robots need to recharge too!)
As opposed to aiming for success as an end for itself, doesn’t it make more sense to first identify what you truly care for, and then to direct your energy to make this a reality? This is where your purpose comes in. When you discover your true purpose, you will naturally want to devote your life to pursuing it, because it’s what gives you the most fulfillment. You will naturally want to spend time doing it even when you don’t have to, because you care. You will naturally get better and better at it, even if you start at 0 skill level, simply because the time you dedicate will give you the experience and necessary skills. Because of that, success becomes imminent. You will excel and soar in whatever you set yourself to do.
Part 3: False vs. Real Purposes
In the next part, I’ll talk about false purposes. It’s crucial to know this as we work on your purpose discovery later in the series.