What Is Life Purpose?
Your life purpose consists of the central motivating aims of your life—the reasons you get up in the morning.
Purpose can guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning. For some people, purpose is connected to vocation—meaningful, satisfying work. For others, their purpose lies in their responsibilities to their family or friends. Others seek meaning through spirituality or religious beliefs. Some people may find their purpose clearly expressed in all these aspects of life.
Purpose will be unique for everyone; what you identify as your path may be different from others. What’s more, your purpose can actually shift and change throughout life in response to the evolving priorities and fluctuations of your own experiences.
Questions that may come up when you reflect upon your life purpose are:
- Who am I?
- Where do I belong?
- When do I feel fulfilled?
Your life purpose is your contribution
Some people feel hesitant about pursuing their life purpose because they worry that it sounds like a self-serving or selfish quest. However, true purpose is about recognizing your own gifts and using them to contribute to the world—whether those gifts are playing beautiful music for others to enjoy, helping friends solve problems, or simply bringing more joy into the lives of those around you.
Richard Leider, a nationally-ranked coach and purpose expert, says that “genuine purpose points to the end of a self-absorbed, self-serving relationship to life.” When your authentic purpose becomes clear, you will be able to share it with the whole world.
According to Richard Leider, the equation for purpose is G + P + V = P.
That’s gifts + passions + values = purpose.
How life purpose evolves
Questions about life purpose may arise at any time in life, but you may notice that they are especially prevalent during times of transition or crisis—for example, a career or educational change, personal loss, or long-distance move. (Sharon Daloz Parks calls these events “life’s shipwrecks.”)
Our life can be seen as a nautilus that adds new chambers to its shell as it grows and needs more space. Likewise, as people grow into a different phase of life, their old chambers can feel cramped. They begin to ask what they can do to expand their space.
Moving into new chambers opens up the way for new possibilities to emerge, allowing our life purpose to evolve. But this can also prompt physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual transitions and even sometimes a chaotic period as we begin to ask new questions.
This is the secret to a fully alive life: to reframe our life questions over and over. As we do, at different stages of our lives, we find different questions and different possibilities.