10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose

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Of all the self-help ideas I’ve come across through the years, this one has been the most helpful. For me, it’s been the Rosetta Stone of personal development techniques. After getting a handle on the idea of “purpose”, other areas of my life fell into place more easily.

There are countless ways to realize your life’s purpose. For some people, it takes a tragedy or some kind of major upheaval in their lives before they get around to thinking about purpose. Instead, consider the value of already having a clear picture of your life’s purpose in place whenever life’s trying times occur.

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” – Robert Byrne

Your picture of purpose can act as your anchor, something to hold on to, even when everything else in your life seems topsy turvy. So why not think about it now, deliberately, before you desperately need it. Let these steps guide your thoughts through the process to clarify and focus what you already know deep inside . . .

“More men fail through lack of purpose than lack of talent.” – William Ashley (Billy) Sunday (1862-1935)

1. Understand the value of a clear picture of your life’s purpose. Without it, you are like a pin ball in a pin ball machine, bouncing from place to place, with no clearly defined direction of your own. Instead of setting your own course, the direction of your life is determined by other people, chance and happenstance.

“The first thing to do in life is to do with purpose what one proposes to do.” – Pablo Casals

2. Begin at the end. Imagine what it will be like toward the end of your life after you have chosen your direction deliberately and have been persistent enough to accomplish your goals and reach your dreams. How will that feel? Really immerse yourself in this mental, emotional and spiritual exercise. In your imagination, which of your life’s accomplishments are you proud of? Which one gives you a warm feeling of satisfaction? Which aspect of your life has helped to increase your capacity to love? Which accomplishments make you feel like you have lived the life you were born to live?

“All successful people men and women are big dreamers. They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose.” – Brian Tracy

3. Briefly imagine what it could feel like toward the end of your life if you gave up on your goals and turned your back on your dreams.

What comes to mind first? Important: Write it down now. Notice the feeling of not living up to your life’s potential. The purpose of this step is to help you define and focus the things that are the most important to you. As soon as you recognize what they are, do a 180 degree turn in your imagination. Focus on the satisfaction and joy of living your life in such a way that the DO manifest.

“The purpose of life is the expansion of happiness.” – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

This step should be touched upon lightly and not dwelled upon. The reason NOT to focus on the negative picture is because your clear mental picture plus strong feelings is the recipe for creation. If you really apply yourself to these steps, you will likely dredge up strong feelings. Put them to work for you (instead of against you) by linking these strong feelings to what you want to create, rather than what you want to avoid. (These creation ideas were discussed in an earlier article, “Manifestation Fill-in-the-Blank Formula.”)

4. Review what brings you the most joy. What makes you feel the most alive? What makes you feel proud of yourself? (Not the ugly egotistical kind of pride, but that inner warm glow when you simply know it’s the right thing.) A previous article, “Your Passion as Your Compass” goes into detail on this point.

5. This process of discovering your life’s purpose can only be done one person at a time. This kind of fundamental inner knowingness is not done by committee. It’s not done effectively by a team effort, or even by a partnership. But involving other people in your imagination can help you sort out what you know to be true, coming from deep inside you, and the ideas coming from outside. These can be well-disguised and you may have been calling them your own for many years, even though they came from someone else. This fill-in-the-blank exercise is to help you recognize from where these ideas really originate:

“My spouse’s idea of my life’s purpose is _____.” Write it down.

Take some notes as you stand back and look at these ideas with some objectivity. Here’s another one:

“My parent’s idea of my life’s purpose is _____.” Be as blunt and honest as possible. What comes to mind first may seem like a joke. Write it down anyway — there is likely an important element of truth in it.

“My children’s idea of my life’s purpose is _____.” Choose all the other significant players in the cast of your life, and plug them into this fill-in-the-blank sentence. Make a sentence for each of these people, using their name at the beginning of the sentence. If it grows into two sentences or a paragraph or several pages, let it flow. Make a sentence for your best friends, and your priest or spiritual leader, if you have one. Here are two more sentences to complete:

“My boss’s idea of my life’s purpose is _____.”

“My country’s idea of my life’s purpose is _____.”

After you’ve written it all out so you can see it in front of you, spend some quality time reading it and re-reading it as your thoughts weave around the ideas that evolve. The things that come to mind in this step are important ingredients to defining your life’s purpose. This is definitely part of the purpose gradually coming into focus for you, but it’s important to get the rest of the story. It’s time to go deeper . . .

“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people.” – Albert Einstein (1875-1955)

By now, you know some of your perceived expectations coming from other people. Realize that most of this will not be based on who you really are. Instead, it will be a collection of social hats you are expected to wear. Some of these hats, you don willingly and others are worn by obligation. These hats represent the forces in your life that are steering your life from the outside. The purpose of focusing your attention on them is to help you see the difference in your external and your internal sense of direction.

“To give life a meaning, one must have a purpose larger than one’s self.” – Will Durant

6. Now that you know about the external forces influencing the navigation of your life, it will be easier for you to clarify and recognize your internal guidance system. For this step, go somewhere so that you won’t be interrupted. It may be helpful if you go somewhere you’ve never been.

Personally, I like to go outdoors somewhere — a quiet garden, along a path by a mountain stream, or by a lake. Somewhere quiet is best where you can be alone. Make it a special time — an important date with yourself where you make sure all the preparations are in place so everything has the best opportunity of going well.

What you are looking for on this date with yourself will be coming from deep inside you, and from nowhere else. Listen hard for that still, small voice within. Become at one with the watcher, the quiet place of pure awareness deep inside who sits in the stillness and knows.

Ask, “What do I know about my life’s purpose?” Watch your thoughts as they parade by. When one successfully snags your attention, and you notice you’ve lost yourself in your thoughts, gently return to the vantage point of the watcher. Watch for truth. Watch for clues to your life’s true direction. Continue doing this for as long as it takes. When your attention is once again carried away on a stream of thought, return to the still center and just watch.

Be very interested, very curious, yet detached. Through the first six steps, you have effectively laid the groundwork by defining what’s NOT your true life’s purpose. Now, just be patient and attentive and allow it to come.

7. As you continue this drill of being still and watching the thoughts go by, have a pen and paper handy. When something bubbles up that feels right, jot it down. You might think, “Oh, I’ll remember that.” Write it down anyway. Make a quick note, then go back inside and watch some more.

“Nothing contributes so much to tranquilizing the mind as a steady purpose — a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.” – Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851)

8. Now it’s time to focus the process even more. Fill in the blank:

“My real life’s purpose is _____.” Write it down.

Do it again. Write something else down.

Do it again. Fill in the blank with something different. Let it flow off the top of your head. Keep your hand moving. Continue until you have a page. Two pages. Ten pages. Whatever it takes.

Each new idea you write down could further refine a previous idea, or could take you off in another direction revealing another facet of your life’s purpose. Don’t try to steer it — just go with it. Keep at it until you feel empty. Keep at it until no more ideas come.

You may hit upon a thread that gets more and more refined, more and more focused, each time you write it down. Continue to write down more and more refined drafts until you get the clear feeling that you’ve uncovered the essence of the idea. That may be what you are looking for, but there may be more lurking just below the surface. Your “aha moment” may be only part of the puzzle, so don’t stop too soon.

“Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.” — Washington Irving (1783-1859)

Your goal is to get to the bottom line of the idea. Return to the vantage point of the watcher and once again, repeat to yourself . . .

“My real life’s purpose is _____.” And once again, fill in the blank. Write it down.

During this process, it’s important not to wear your editor’s hat. Don’t judge what’s coming as you write it down, editing your words as you go. Instead, just write it down — all of it. Even if it seems silly, or frivolous or irreverent, write it down anyway. There could be an important seed of truth in it that you will recognize later. Continue until you feel empty.

This process has the potential to put you in close contact with the deeper parts of yourself. The revelations you get could bring tears to your eyes. That’s OK, those tears are a clear message that you are honing in on the truth and recognizing the most important things in your life, perhaps clearly for the first time.

“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” – George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

9. Now it’s time to put it all together. Look over your notes from step 8 and engage your feelings about what you see written there. A few of these will light up for you. Some will be obvious. Focus your attention on the ones that leave no room for doubt.

They may stretch you; they may even terrify you. Some may cause you to wonder, “How could I possibly ever live up to THAT?” It’s OK, you may have never opened the door this wide before. You may have never sincerely asked yourself to reveal your life’s true purpose. It can be exhilarating and scary at the same time.

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

Chances are, you will know it’s true because it just feels right. The other accompanying feelings could be simply the fear of the unknown. Or, they could be a knee-jerk reaction from suddenly knowing your true purpose. With this powerful revelation, it’s easy to think, “Oh my god, how can I get from here to there?” Don’t sabotage yourself by over-analyzing it. Yard by yard, life could be hard . . . but inch by inch, it’s a cynch. (See the first article, “The Power of Beginning”).

“I am not celebrating high ideals, lofty aims, fine purposes, grand resolutions. One of the most dangerous things in the world is to accept them and think you believe in them, and then neglect the day-by-day means that lead to them.” – Harry E. Fosdick (1878-1969)

10. Take what you’ve learned and save it in a way that will do you some good. Begin with a blank sheet of paper. The objective is to be able to access what you’ve discovered easily and often. Take the points you released and allowed to bubble to the surface in step 9 and weave them into something coherent. Boil it all down to key points, making it as succinct as possible.

You may end up with one sentence, or several bullet points, or a paragraph. Try to make it as direct, clear and concise as possible without leaving anything out. Write it again in as many drafts as necessary until you are convinced you’ve captured the essence of it.

“Your purpose in life is simply to help on the purpose of the universe.” – George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Once you’ve got it, allow it to be part of your life. You might want to think of it as the “Mission Statement on My Life.” You could print it out and put it by your bed so you can read it before you go to sleep and first thing in the morning. Or, you might like to frame it and put it on your desk, or attach it to your computer monitor, or carry it with you in your wallet or purse. Read it often to help keep you on track.

“To begin to think with purpose, is to enter the ranks of those strong ones who only recognize failure as one of the pathways to attainment.” – James Lane Allen (1849-1923)

About twelve years ago, I went through a similar process to clarify my life’s purpose. The book that inspired me to do it and then walked me through the process is, First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy by Steven Covey. It is very well written and thorough, and I highly recommend it. As I write this article, I don’t have access to the book, so the 10 steps described above are based upon what I remember plus my own personal experience. The details are different but the idea is the same. The bottom-line objective is to help you identify what is truly important in your life and help you crystallize your life’s purpose.

It seems appropriate for me to let you know what I came up with after going through the process myself. After the editing process recommended in step 10, I came up with 5 key points defining my current understanding of my life’s purpose. (I say “current understanding” because an understanding of life’s purpose could be a moving target — it could evolve through the years. Mine still feels right-on, just like it did when I first wrote it out twelve years ago.)

1. To constantly take the next step which allows me to gain ever-increasing spiritual realization through direct personal experience.

2. To leave a legacy, a chronicle of my journey of discovery through songs and other writings which will inspire others toward their own personal evolution.

3. To be a pleasant and inspiring companion to family and friends, continually supporting their aspirations to achieve their fullest potential.

4. To create a life of self-sufficiency and financial independence through richly rewarding interdependent relationships which will inspire others to do the same thing in their own way.

5. To continually “walk my talk” and re-create my life, with gratitude, out of my imagination, and not out of my memory.

Twelve years ago, when I first wrote these five points, I typeset it on my computer and printed it on card stock, the size of a business card. I had it laminated, and I’ve carried it with me in my wallet ever since. Whenever I notice it, I re-read it. It has always been a very effective tool to bring me back to that time when I was very specific, very determined and then very grateful to have touched that still space inside long enough to discover my understanding of my life’s purpose. I sincerely asked the question, “What is my life’s purpose?” And then, I really listened.

This is why I am so excited and passionate about creating this blog website. It offers me a way to put it all together. Songs, music and articles, all in-line with the direction so clearly realized all those years ago. In my case, it took twelve years for me to answer the question, “Oh yeah, how?” Your situation may come together much quicker. When it does, it’s a great feeling — no it’s better than that, it’s one of life’s greatest feelings. I sincerely hope these ideas will be as helpful to you as they have been for me.

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” – The 14th Dalai Lama (b. 1935)

Once again, in your imagination, fast-forward to your last days of this life. In your mind’s eye, see how your life has turned out by paying attention to your understanding of your life’s purpose for so many years. Experience how it feels to know why you were here and to know that you have lived the life you were born to live. Bask in the warm glow of the memory of a life well-lived.

While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.
Listen FREE to the songs below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.

Listen FREE to the songs below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.

Related Songs
A Heartbeat in Eternity’s Highway
In the grand scheme of things, what’s the difference between a single moment and all of eternity? What’s the point of reference?

You Gotta Have Fun
Our moments are fleeting . . . and finite. Too few to squander on "bad news". We must steer our attention deliberately in order to attract the kind of life we were born to live.

Way of the World
Life is so huge . . . so diverse . . . the possibilities are literally infinite. What’s the best way to sort it all out and carve out a little niche of our own?

Love is Who You Are
"What is love, anyway?" Is it something you give or get, have or make? Or could it be, down deep, simply who we are?

Songs by Tupelo

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How Do You Feel About Inner Guidance?
Is it a hunch? Is it a voice in your head? Is it something you feel? Don’t confuse what you feel with who you are. Once you are able to access this awareness of pure being and identify yourself with it, you won’t get carried away by whatever emotional cloud happens to be passing by. Celebrate life through one of the more subtle forms of communication available to us – inner guidance.

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This is the end of the article entitled 10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose published by Tupelo Kenyon on February 5, 2007 at 8:00 am | In Awareness, Inner Guidance, Productivity, Purpose - Copyright 2007 - All rights reserved worldwide.

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  1. [...] a previous article entitled, “10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose,” I mentioned that, for me, “purpose” is the Rosetta Stone of all personal [...]

    Pingback by TupeloKenyon.com » The Law of Attraction — March 17, 2007 #

  2. TupeloKenyon.com » 10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose

    Of all the self-help ideas I’ve come across through the years, this one has been the most helpful. For me, it’s been the Rosetta Stone of personal development techniques. After getting a handle on the idea of “purpose”, other areas of my life f…

    Trackback by highvibeit.com — July 18, 2007 #

  3. [...] always love reading the submissions I receive from Tupelo Kenyon. 10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose posted at Tupelo Kenyon was no exception. In this article, Tupelo describes how he has finally, [...]

    Pingback by Personal Stories of Change Blog Carnival: Edition 7 » I will change your life . com — September 22, 2007 #

  4. [...] only show up if you are receptive and deliberately looking for them. (See previous article, “10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose.”) “And no one but you can find the answer to your quest, Your answer’s for you [...]

    Pingback by TupeloKenyon.com » Persistence and Perseverance for Winners – Losers Just Quit — November 2, 2007 #

  5. [...] 10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose Of all the self-help ideas I’ve come across through the years, this one has been the most helpful. For me, it’s been the Rosetta Stone of personal development techniques. After getting a handle on the idea of “purpose”, other areas of my life fell into place more easily. [...]

    Pingback by TupeloKenyon.com » Six Killers of Individuality and Personal Independence — February 1, 2008 #

  6. [...] 10 Steps To Discover Your Life’s Purpose, by Tupelo at TupeloKenyon. Com . . . an understanding of life’s purpose could be a moving target [...]

    Pingback by 12 Great Articles On Life Purpose | Yes to Me — April 10, 2008 #

  7. [...] From the depth of stillness will come the impulse for the appropriate course of action now. This new urge for a specific action takes into consideration the most recent outer changes and your commitment to the deepest nudges from your inner reality. These nudges, rooted in true passions, represent your north star . . . you can trust them, and you can steer your life by them. (To help clearly define exactly what your passions are, see previous articles, “Your Passion as Your Compass” and “10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose.”) [...]

    Pingback by TupeloKenyon.com » Refocus on Your True Passions — July 7, 2008 #

  8. [...] articles, “Inspire Yourself on Purpose – Inspiration from Inside Out” and “10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose.”) “This is the true joy in life: The being, used for a purpose recognized by yourself, [...]

    Pingback by TupeloKenyon.com » Enhance Your Self-Image on Purpose — July 7, 2008 #

  9. [...] The same principle can be applied to personal development. Typically, one-fifth of your activities are supporting your dreams and the direction you have deliberately chosen. Four-fifths of your activities are getting in the way of that. (If you haven’t yet chosen your life’s direction deliberately, this might be a good time to review a previous article entitled, “10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose.”) [...]

    Pingback by TupeloKenyon.com » Choose Excellence and Lose Mediocrity — July 7, 2008 #

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