Finding Your Purpose in Life

There’s a lot of talk these days about finding your purpose in life. From millennials to housewives to IIT-educated engineers looking to switch careers, everyone is searching for their purpose in life. Finding one’s purpose has become so popular that there’s a million-dollar industry spawned by the universal desire of an individual to find what he or she was born to do.

Adam Leipzig, an American film and theatre producer, film executive and author, in his TEDx talk recommends that an individual can find his/her purpose by answering the following five questions:

1) Who are you?

2) What do you do?

3) Who do you do it for?

4) What do those people who you do it for want or need?

5) What did those people get out of it/How did they change as a result?

He further explains that out of the five questions, only two of them are about the self and three are about other people. He clarifies that outward-facing, people-oriented people are more likely to find their purpose and that the most successful people are those who focus on what other people want and how to serve other people better.

This is quite consistent with what experts say. As a society, we are conditioned to think that finding a purpose must take a lot of introspection. We believe that we must spend time by ourselves to learn about ourselves, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. A person who engages in multiple activities and tries to learn multiple skills while interacting with different kinds of people is in a much better position to find his passion than someone who is just obsessing about finding their passion.

Try new things, don’t just think about them.

They say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and this is the absolute truth. It takes a lot of activity and action to find your passion. You cannot think your way into finding your purpose. Engaging in different activities and interacting with a wide variety of people gives one a practical idea about what different jobs entail. This is also the reason why schools cram so many activities during the course of a student’s day. It’s not just to tire out the hyperactive kids! Schools do this to give children a taste for different activities so that they can find what they are good at and, in the process, learn to perform tasks that they dislike too. As we get older, we lose the ability to try new things in our highly specialized lives. So if you’ve forgotten or haven’t learnt this important skill in childhood, it’s time to do it now.

Get rid of what you don’t want.

A lot of people complain that they just don’t have the time to try out something new and they are right. We are given just 24 hours in a day and it’s impossible to cram 30 hours of work into a 24-hour day. It makes no sense to tell someone to ‘make time’ without explaining what ‘making time’ is exactly.

Making time refers to deleting all those activities in your day that give you no joy or doesn’t add value to your life in any way like watching television or surfing the net. Maybe you really do love watching television but you hate to cook. Well then, it’s time to outsource the cooking and do what you really enjoy.  This could even apply to a highly-paid job. There are many people who have given up lucrative, corporate jobs to pursue their hobbies in writing, teaching, or whatever it is that gives them bliss.

A note of caution though. As mentioned above, do experiment with and pursue the activity for a while to gain clarity before giving up a well-paid job. If you haven’t actually gone out and got your hands dirty with new experiences, you will never gain the confidence to decide what activities in your life you wish to pursue further and which you wish to let go of. Which brings us to my next point…

Give up the idea that you can have just one passion in life.

You’re purpose in life is not a spouse! You’re allowed to have more than one interest in life. It won’t be considered cheating! We are so hung up with the idea that there is this one big purpose in life that will give us fame and appreciation, make us glow with inner satisfaction and fill up our bank accounts. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many people who manage to pursue their hobbies along with holding a diametrically different career. Maybe one gives them financial security and the other a sense of spiritual fulfillment. There’s no one right way. Let your enjoyment of life be your compass.

At the end of the day, what we really want and need as human beings is to live passionate, fulfilling lives that include diverse activities at different moments. The real purpose of life is to be present in each moment and embrace it completely.


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