Finding your purpose in life

Published on and tagged with life  purpose  self-development

In this article I will describe my journey to find an answer to one of the hardest questions I encountered in my life up to now: “What is my purpose in life?”. I know, this question has a bit of a religious touch, but this article has nothing to do with religion. I hope this article will motivate and help you to discover your purpose in life if you haven’t found it yet.

My journey started with a feeling that something was wrong in my life. The cause for that feeling was that programming applications for someone else was no longer satisfying for me. And it wasn’t just a temporary feeling, it was a deeper feeling. So I had to get to the bottom of the problem. After some thinking and reading, I realized that I didn’t knew what my purpose in life was. And without that, it is rather difficult to define meaningful goals… So I had to find my life purpose.

First I tried the approach described by Steve Pavlina in his article “How to discover your life purpose in about 20 minutes”:

  1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it is faster).
  2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
  3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
  4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.

Well, it didn’t work for me. The result of about 20 minutes was only one, very general, phrase: “to change the world”.

I think the problem was that I expected to have an answer after those 20 minutes. And this expectation blocked in fact my thinking. I thought more about “I have to find the question in 20 minutes” than about the primary question ;-)

So I modified the aforementioned approach to fit my needs. The main difference is that my approach makes use of the subconscious during a sleeping phase. The only thing you need for this approach is paper and a pen. I don’t recommend to use a computer because that may distract you from thinking.

  1. About 1/4 hour before you go to bed, move to a quiet room, and ask yourself “What is my true purpose in life?”.
  2. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
  3. Repeat step 2 until you are too tired and/or you have no more answers.
  4. Sleep.
  5. In the morning write any answer you got while sleeping.
  6. Repeat steps 1 – 5 until you write the answer that causes a special feeling. This is your purpose.

I had to practice this approach about two weeks until I found the answer. Well, that is not quite correct: the answer found me. It popped into my head while preparing breakfast ;-)

The following is a log of my answers I noted during that process. It is thought as a real world example for the aforementioned approaches (I didn’t found any examples on the web).

– to change the world
– to help others becoming better
– to be critical
– to make the world a more beautiful place
– to make the world a better place
– to question existing things
– to motivate people to think
– to realize ideas
– to generate ideas
– to share ideas
– to create new things
– to be independent
– to learn
– to explore
– to connect people
– to experiment
– to leave existing paths
– to improve existing things
– to make things user-friendlier
– to make beautifully designed things
– to be wealthy
– to be courageous
– to think about things
– to discuss ideas
– to inspire people
– to fight for new things
– to be unconventional
– to spread ideas
– to work with open-minded people
– to be wise
– to observe
– to listen
– to evangelize
– to be a geek
– to be an introvert
– to be a mentor
– to engage for the introvert minority
– to build something new
– to motivate people to leave existing paths
– to fight against constraints
– to be curious
– to be a contrarian
– to have time for others
– to democratize companies
– to analyse
– to be a critical thinker
– to be lazy
– to think different
– to live consciously
– to support others
– to ask questions
– to see the world with different eyes
– to swim upstream

And that’s the final answer:

My purpose in life is to question and improve “things”, and to encourage and support people to do the same.

Of course, this is rather vague, but it is a guideline I can use to define the specific goals I want to pursue in the future. And if I look back, I see that I tried to live according to this purpose, even though I was not aware of it…

What does that mean? I think it means that your subconscious already knows your purpose. And with consciously knowing your purpose you can actively support your subconscious, and you probably will make better decisions.

Ok, that’s it for today. If you have already found your life purpose, congratulation! Otherwise, good luck in finding it!

17 comments baked

  • klevo

    When this article popped in my RSS reader I think it was from stevepavlina.com. What a suprise when it took me to cakebaker :)

    Anyway this is a powerful exercise and people who are unsure of their purpose should try this.

  • Felix Geisendörfer

    Hey Daniel, sounds like a good purpose to me, glad that you finally found one ; ). I’m pretty much at the same point where working for other people doesn’t quite appeal to me any longer, but I still got to figure out how the migration to something more fun is going to happen while without killing my cash flow ; ).

  • Boris Barroso

    Great thing you discovered the purpose of your life. I was seeking something similar like a year ago, but finally discovered meditation, that really changed my life. Meditation helps to stop thinking and be clear of mind, that helps you to stop punishing yourself for things you haven’t done or for things you’ve done. You must not seek a meaning to life, just enjoy life!!. So many people have said life has no sense, and that is true, that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy, enjoy life . Why do you suffer this day when tomorrow you could be dying.

  • Felix Geisendörfer

    Boris: Finding a purpose for your life is not seeking the meaning of life itself. That’s wastly different, and as far as that goes, I agree with what you say about enjoying your time. But becoming clear minded about your passion, and defining it as a clear purpose is something that can really elevate your thinking beyond what meditation can do for you and is certainly worth trying ; ).

  • cakebaker

    @all: Thanks for your comments.

    @Felix: Yes, the migration is probably not that easy, and needs time. But I think it is important to reserve some time each day/week for your new goal(s).

  • kelly schauermann

    i think finding a purpose is sort of an ongoing thing. i know that i have many purposes in being on earth, but the key, i’ve found, is that my gifts play into my purpose. a book i read, Chazown by Craig Groeschel, was helpful in figuring some of these things out. it challenged me to use both my past (good and bad) and present to live out my life’s purpose. it was a great book for anyone seeking. good luck to all.

  • cakebaker

    @kelly: Thanks for the book tip.

  • James Reedy

    I have been working/studying with Landmark Education, a corporation committed to transforming the world. We are currently creating our own personal charter. A charter has three parts; our purpose, our values, and what we can be counted on for. This work has helped me understand who I am, and what I am here to accomplish. With this exercise I have created a powerful place to stand from which I am launching into the future I am creating.

    I encourage everyone to do this type of work. It creates peace and passion I have found nowhere else.

  • cakebaker

    @James Reedy: Wow, cool to hear that there are companies out there which take such things seriously. In the companies I worked up to now the focus was more on the weaknesses and on how to reduce them…

  • Jim Muir

    Landmark Education produces the famous Landmark Forum which helps hundreds of thousands of people worldwide transform. It also sponsers seminars and training programs for transformation and self-expression but is far more comprehensive than I describe here. Just do a Google search on Landmark Education and you will see a new world of opportunities for learning how one can create and transform as opposed to “change”. I know James from a Landmark Seminar on ‘Living Passionately’ and what he says is true. It really works for me.

  • bob dylan

    “to engage for the introvert minority”

    What does that means? I’ll assume you’re an introvert, and you strongly identify with that disposition currently.

    Steve Pavlina had another post, “Medium Vs. Message”. He equates message with purpose and asks, what is the message of your life? By medium he meant how you express that message. A useful dichotomy.

    Ex: Message/Purpose = Discover truth and beauty.
    Medium/Career = Scientist, writer, thinker etc.

    He emphasized that you don’t have to choose just one expression of your message.

    He seemed to believe everyone could express themselves through ONE source message/purpose that defined them. Which begs the question, can you have several purposes? Or are you convoluting your answer (confusing medium and message) by not defing one purpose?

  • cakebaker

    @bob dylan: Thanks for your comment.

    > “to engage for the introvert minority”

    &gt What does that means? I’ll assume you’re an introvert, and you > strongly identify with that disposition currently.

    Well, many people don’t understand introverts and think introversion is something bad. And to change that was what I meant. And yes, I am myself an introvert.

    I agree with you (and Steve Pavlina) about the concept of Message and Medium. I think everyone has only one message but multiple mediums to express it.

    If you look at the article, you will see that I end up with one purpose for me: “to question and improve things, and to encourage and support others to do the same”.

  • cakebaker » When programming becomes stale…

    […] Over the last few weeks I noticed a growing feeling that programming becomes stale for me. And as a consequence, the motivation to program dropped more and more. Programming just doesn’t feel right anymore. I don’t know exactly why that happened. But I think it has to do with my ignorance of my purpose in life. […]

  • GreatScot

    That special feeling could be the Holy Spirit witnessing that you have discovered a truth. I have learned that following those feelings leads to good things.

  • cakebaker

    @GreatScot: Even though I can’t do anything with religious “concepts” like the Holy Spirit I think it is a good thing to follow the inner voice.

  • Anonymous

    I like the comment you make about us subconsciously knowing our purpose in life. I totally agree and this is one of the reasons that I do not think it needs to be so hard to find our purpose in life.

    I just think for the most part, people do not actually stop and think about it.

    Personally I think that purpose in life is all about making yourself happy and making those around you happy and if everything you do and every decision you make is based around that, then I think you will live your purpose.

    Great article. i liked it.

  • cakebaker

    @Anonymous: Thanks for your comment!

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