“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” writer Robert Byrne has summed up such a complex subject in one line.
Ever since humans invented languages and started expressing their thoughts in words they have been asking questions such as – who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Is there any higher purpose I need to fulfill?
Earning a living and raising children can’t be the purpose of life of human life. It could be the purpose of animals’ life. Humans are designed with much more intelligence, much more empathy, much more love, and care. We ought to serve a higher purpose in the universe. That much is clear. What is not clear is what is that purpose.
Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning:
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
In other words, each human being has to find meaning in his own life. No one is going to give it to them, not even the almighty god (although some religious being might beg to differ here, that is fine, they can believe in god’s calling, they still have something to contribute towards it as you will find out later in the article).
What is the difference between the meaning of life and the purpose of life? I am glad you asked because Pablo Picasso answered it about seven decades ago:
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. – Pablo Picasso
If you want to live a happy, fulfilling and worthy life you need to find the purpose of your life. Without it, your life will be rudderless and incomplete. If you buy that you have some work to do.
The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
But if you don’t, no need to despair. A vast majority of people don’t indulge in philosophy and are perfectly happy chasing the pleasure and satisfaction from their daily activities – however mundane or heroic they may be. You can stop reading right now.
For those of you who believe that self-actualization is an attainable aim and that there is a higher purpose for their existence, you are at the right place. Continue reading. I have good news for you.
Your purpose is not something you don’t need to make up. It’s already there. You only have to uncover it. You can do that by first finding our what are you passionate about. Take out a pen and some paper and start answering some questions.
What do you love to do?
What comes easily to you?
Once you have figured it out you will have an idea what your passion is. Not the purpose yet, just the passion.
Because even when you find out what you love to do and what comes easily to you, it will still take work to develop talent. Most gifted musicians still have to practice. I love to write. It comes easily to me but I have been practicing for years and will continue to do so to get better. If it didn’t come easily to me, if I was suffering in order to do it, it was not my passion.
Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction – John F Kennedy
Staying on the topic of passion, ask yourself:
What two qualities you most enjoy expressing in the world? Mine is ‘love of learning’ and ‘can do’ attitude.
What are the two ways you most enjoy expressing these qualities? Mine is by inspiring and empowering people.
Write down the answers.
If the answers these questions don’t come easily, you can take The Passion Test. Developed by Chris and Janet Attwood, it is a simple, yet an elegant process.
Another technique you can use to help you identify your passion is to conduct a joy review. Simply set aside about 30 minutes and make a list of all the times you’ve felt the greatest joy in your life.
Once you have done these exercises you will have enough material to work with. Now the fun part starts.
To find the purpose of your life, let me introduce you to a new technique I learned not so long ago. It is not something new, hot out of the oven and hence untested. Instead, it is an old Japanese technique called which had been used for ages in Japan. It is called Ikigai.
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. The word translated to English roughly means “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.
To learn more, and before preceding to work on your life’s purpose, I suggest you watch the following 13 minutes Ted Talk by Tim Tamashiro.
How did you like it? Did Tim make it clearer?
Now you get to use it to discover your own purpose with the use of the Ikigai model. Use the answers to the exercises above to fill in the circles.
The sweet spot in the middle is the purpose of your life.
My ikigai, the purpose of my life is ‘to inspire with my writings.’ That is why I get out of bed each morning. That is why I spend seven hours a day to write a post. That is why I am awake way past midnight getting better at the craft of writing. And I don’t mind any of it. Rather each moment I spend reading, writing, learning, and sharing makes me immensely happy.
Once you know what your life purpose is, organize all of your activities around it. Everything you do should be an expression of your purpose.
I would love to hear how you went? Please write to me and share your experience with the tools.