For many of us, the word ‘purpose’ sounds a little intimidating. It’s difficult enough to balance our everyday challenges and responsibilities, let alone discover our ‘life’s purpose’, right? Isn’t ‘finding purpose’ only for people who have the free time and resources? Well – not necessarily
Finding a sense of meaning and purpose in life has occupied humanity for millennia – we’ve been asking ourselves (and each other!) these questions for generations. So, these questions belong to everyone, and they cover some of the most interesting ideas to think about. Exploring your sense of purpose doesn’t have to take up endless time or resources, either. Below, you’ll find three simple questions to start thinking about your purpose, each designed to fit into your life in a way that feels manageable, interesting, and – yes – enjoyable. (You only get one life to design, after all. It’s worth enjoying the journey along the way!)
QUESTION 1: WHAT DO YOU CARE ABOUT?
For many people, a sense of purpose is hidden within this question. What do you care about most in the world? Start by thinking of the big ideas, topics and social concerns that interest you. Politics? Social justice? Community, media, or climate change?
Grab a sheet of paper and a pen, and make a list. Be as broad and as varied as you want, but be honest with yourself. You don’t have to share your list with anyone, but do make sure it’s personal to you.
If you get stuck, you can also look at this question from another perspective. Instead of thinking of what you care about, consider the biggest problems you think need to be fixed. Which parts of the world do you wish worked better? Which aspects of society need to be fairer? Who needs to have equal representation, or a chance to have their voice heard? Add these ideas to your list.
QUESTION 2: WHAT WAS YOUR EARLIEST AMBITION?
Feel free to get creative with this one. When we think about our earliest ambitions – what we wanted to be, or do, when we were younger – we’re not necessarily trying to replicate or recreate it in our adult lives. Instead, we’re looking for inspiration. Has there been a common interest, or set of passions, running throughout our lives? Did we use to love doing something (sports, or music, for example), that might give us an indication of where our interests and ambitions lie now?
As with the first exercise, make a list. But, again, don’t worry too much about getting it perfect (or even getting a clear answer!). These exercises are just designed to collect information – it’s up to you how you choose to use it.
QUESTION 3: HOW WOULD OTHERS DESCRIBE YOU?
For this question, you can even get other people involved (if you want!). Your task is to write down, using your imagination or real answers from friends and family, the ways in which other people would describe you.
Think broad, here, instead of specific – consider general characteristics, personality traits or other personal qualities, rather than specific skills or talents. For example, your friends might describe you as generous, open or honest – or creative, intuitive or passionate. As with the exercises above, there’s no need to use this information to come to any specific conclusions. Your task is simply to collect and note down – see what you can discover, and add it to your growing sense of insight about who you are, and what you want to do in the world.
FROM QUESTIONS TO ANSWERS
Once you’ve had a go at each question, gather your findings in one place. Keeping in mind the idea of purpose, review everything you’ve written. Can you see any themes emerging? Are there ideas that show up for you in each exercise? Maybe you’re seeing that the things you care about the most (let’s say, social justice) match up with your key qualities (let’s say, advocacy or communication), or with your earliest ambitions (for example, arguing for what you think is right).
But if you’re not seeing a clear path, that’s also ok. Ultimately, the idea of ‘finding purpose’ is an individual journey, one that each person takes for an entire lifetime, and there are no quick fixes or overnight solutions. Instead of searching for an answer, try diving into the questions themselves – you might just find that this approach delivers far more insight than you ever thought possible.
Find out more about Eloise here, or about The Purpose Workshop here.