How To Know If Your Life Purpose is For Life (And Not Short/Medium Term)

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(Image: Ethan Lofton)

“Hi Celes, during my personal journey of discovering my life purpose I detoured through 3 life purposes before realizing my true passion, which is being a motivational speaker and a life coach. I came to this realization because I have a vision which stretches over 30 years (hence it’s a life purpose/passion).

My question to you is how far is your vision for your purpose and what lead you to believe it is a life purpose and not something that is for the short or medium term?” — Gordon

Hey Gordon! Believe it or not, your question actually contains the answer to your own question!

You mentioned you realized your life purpose after realizing a vision that stretches over 30 years – keywords being “over 30 years.” One of the key factors that determine if something is truly a life purpose or a passing fad is the duration in which we see ourselves pursuing it (see #2 in 6 Things To Consider Before Discovering Your Purpose). If we see it as a temporary pursuit or we aren’t sure if it’s something we want to do for life, then it’s unlikely a life purpose (at least, not yet anyway).

On the other hand, if we know deep down in our heart that this message is what we want to do for as long as we live, then it’s probably in line with being a life purpose.

For me, I know my passion to grow and help others live their best lives is my life purpose because it’s the only thing I see myself as doing for the rest of my life, to the day I die. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1 year from now, 5 years from now, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, 50 years, etc. — I know this is what I want to do forever, as long as I live. I wrote about how I discovered my purpose in Two Important Things that Led Me to Discover My Real Purpose.

It may well be possible that our purpose change, and that’s perfectly fine — because we change as humans over time. It’s just like what I wrote in When Goals Stop Working: there are times when goals we are pursuing stop “working” because they “expire” — they no longer resonate with who we are. In which case it’s time to reflect and refresh our goals. Same thing for our purpose.

The key is whether you feel that this is your purpose at this point in time. If you do, that’s all that matters. We can’t predict the future or foresee how we will change, but we can (a) assess the situation as holistically as we can, and (b)  make the best judgment based on all the knowledge we have on hand about ourselves and the world. There’s only so much you can reflect and hypothesize before you have to do something. From there, the only step forward is to take action, then see how things unfold.

In the event where you realize what you’ve been pursuing isn’t your intended life purpose, it’s then about refreshing your purpose statement accordingly, then pursuing that. After all, how were you supposed to know that the original purpose you were pursuing isn’t your real purpose if you don’t pursue it? You have to take action on it in order to know whether it’s really the thing or not.

For what it’s worth, if you’ve dug really, really deep in the purpose exercise to the point of deep emotional resonance, then it’s unlikely that it’ll change too much over your lifetime, to be honest. I discovered my purpose back in 2006, and have since only done minor tweaks in my mission statement. The overall direction of what I’ve set out to pursue remains the same today, and I continue to see my purpose as what I want to pursue for the rest of my life.

It can well change in the future, and if it does then that’s just the way it is. The important thing is not to attach yourself to your purpose (or goals, for that matter). If it’s truly your purpose, it’ll keep coming back to you in various ways even when you let it go. There’s no escaping from it. :)

Besides duration/time, there are other factors which determine whether something is a true life purpose or a passing fad. I’ve identified them in: 6 Things to Consider Before Discovering Your Purpose.

For those who want to read more about purpose, check out my in-depth purpose series: How To Find Your Life Purpose (7-part series).