There’s a lot of buzz about purpose lately, and rightfully so. People with a greater sense of purpose actually live longer, healthier, and happier lives than their counterparts.
A series of studies led by research fellow, Erik S. Kim at the Harvard School of Public Health found that people with a sense of purpose experienced 58% better sleep, 71% reduced risk of stroke, and 32% fewer doctor visits. These studies are focused on the health benefits of purpose, but it has also been linked to countless other advantages like improved memory and executive functioning, a stronger image of self, and better relationships with loved ones.
While we can all agree on the POWER of purpose, however, there’s very little consensus when it comes to charting a PATH to purpose. There are countless books, courses, and conferences dedicated to the topic, with solutions ranging from the spiritual (i.e. prayer and meditation), to the mystical (i.e. psychedelics), and even the more practical (i.e. aptitude tests). But with so much information out there, often recommending different things, it’s hard to know where to start…
Our Find Your Purpose course is an excellent option. But if you’re looking for a SparkNotes version, here are the four most important truths we’ve uncovered about purpose:
1. Your purpose will continue to evolve.
In other words, finding your purpose is a lifelong pursuit. This may sound intimidating, but it’s actually the beauty of it: you always have a reason to keep seeking out new experiences, learn new things about yourself, and discover new activities you’re passionate about. If this were a one-and-done thing, we’d have nothing more to look forward to. So for once, try and embrace the fact that there’s no destination.
2. Purpose is not WHAT you do, it’s WHY you do it.
There’s a misconception that your purpose may equate to a specific occupation or job. Ignore this. We believe that your purpose is not a single activity. Rather, it’s the fire in your belly that drives you to do the activity in the first place: your intention. Here’s a quick exercise to instantly determine how intentional you’re being at any given time: ask yourself WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. Now ask yourself WHY again, and again, and again. That’s at least four why’s. It sounds simple, but it’s a surprisingly effective way to determine whether you’re doing something for the right reason.
3. Purpose requires contribution.
We believe your purpose can be found at the intersection of your strengths, your passions, and your potential to contribute. The first two are self-explanatory and often easy for people to grasp. It’s the third part – “your potential to contribute” – that’s often overlooked. But this is precisely the difference between a “why” and a PURPOSE. A worthy purpose is one that makes you feel fulfilled, and one of the most basic ways for people to find fulfillment is to feel useful. The key is applying your “why” – the activities, feelings, environments, and people that fuel your internal fire – in such a way that it allows you to make a meaningful impact on someone or something.
4. No person’s purpose is more or less worthy than someone else’s.
This final truth is what trips a lot of us up. In the absence of a single definition of purpose, it is often referred to as a “higher calling.” As a result, it may feel like only saints, social workers, missionaries, and doctors should have one, while the rest of us might as well give up before we get even get started. False. Finding your purpose is a judgment-free zone. Howard Thurman said it best: “Do not ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”