How Do You Determine Your Life Purpose (and what to do once you have it)

In this article we will cover:

  • How Do You Know What Your Life Purpose Is?
  • Why is Having a Life Purpose Important?
  • How do I Create a Purpose in Life?
  • Turning the Spark Into a Flame
  • What Are Examples of Purpose in Life?
  • Life Purpose as a Leadership Approach
  • Bringing Your Life Purpose Forward

How Do You Know What Your Life Purpose Is?

Or maybe a better starting point would be… What is a life purpose?

You may have heard the phrase, “purpose driven life”. The idea behind this is that your life purpose helps form the central driver of your decision making, acting as a guidepost to keep you aligned with what fulfills you, and steer you away from what drains you.

Contrast that with the way so many of us let our lives play out – driven by the people and circumstances around us, and inner beliefs that don’t serve us – and it’s no wonder we’re in an epidemic of burnout. Even if the purpose of life is to serve others (which may be true for you and may not – we’ll explore that further along) it has to start within because if you burn out, you can’t serve anyone.

Now, many people think a life purpose is, well, for life! And it can be. But, it can also evolve as you evolve.

Let me tell you a story. Around six years ago, I was doing my coaching certification with the Co-Active Training Institute and came up with my life purpose. I even wrote a blog post about how to determine your purpose and align it with your career.

Now, six years later, I found myself immersed in an exciting leadership program with the same institute (it’s a pretty amazing organization). Once again, I was asked to come up with my life purpose. This time, I was to also determine my “leadership quests” from my purpose.

This assignment felt like the perfect opportunity to share some insight and tools with you, to help you better understand what it means to have a life purpose, how to create one for yourself, and how to use your purpose as a tool to create joy and fulfillment in your day to day life.


Why is Having a Life Purpose Important?

A life purpose is like a guiding star. When you’ve determined yours, you can tune into it every day to establish the energy for how you want to show up everywhere you go, and with everyone you meet. It also determines your quests (your journeys, goals, or discoveries) and helps you ensure the decisions you make are aligned with the direction you want to move towards.

A life purpose works really well alongside your core values and big picture vision. All together, they guide you to continually engage with your higher self and move in the right direction for you.

Your life purpose also serves to keep you grounded and connected to the world around you. Many people will ask, “What is the purpose of life”, and find themselves lost in questions none of us can answer with absolute certainty. If, instead, you ask, “What is my purpose in life”, you set yourself up to succeed, simply by putting one foot in front of the other with genuine purpose.


How do I Create a Purpose in Life?

Creating your purpose is about understanding what fuels you; what gives you a feeling of inner fullness.

Let’s go back to my time with the Co-Active Training Institute. There I was, six years later, realizing that my previous life purpose was no longer serving me.

It served me at the time, but that felt like many moons ago. It wasn’t me anymore and, as I sat in that classroom, I was struggling to determine a purpose that resonated with the current me, and the me I was becoming.

I believe in asking powerful questions to excavate what needs to come up, so I tried asking myself things like, “When do I feel I am at my best? When do I feel I am living life on purpose?”

I was feeling stuck.

That’s when one of my leaders asked me, “What was one of the most painful things to happen to you in your life?”

Wow. I thought hard. I felt strong emotions emerging, which is scary, but also means something important is being excavated.

I realized that a recurring pattern throughout my life has been the feeling that I could never be accepted for being the true me. It stems from the fact that I didn’t get that acceptance, that unconditional love and approval, in childhood, and I have carried that feeling with me. It has always been a source of deep hurt.

However, the difference today is that I have worked hard on my personal growth and am totally okay with people not accepting the true me. I know that the right people do, and that’s all that matters.

I’ve learned that the only way to attract the right people and opportunities to you, is by being the authentic you. This lesson has been so impactful and empowering for me that I wrote my second book, Why Can’t I Just Be Me: Remove the Masks That Hide You From the World and Yourself, entirely around the topic (I’m putting this out there with confidence, joy and a scary – but healthy – dose of vulnerability to attract the right publisher).

In the end, what sparked my heart to start creating my life purpose was being asked the right question. Here are 16 questions for you to explore to see if they start to shake anything loose for you:

  • When do I feel I am at my best?
  • When do I feel I am living life on purpose?
  • What was one of the most painful things to happen in my life?
  • When do I most feel at ease with myself?
  • What do I struggle with most?
  • What would I least want someone to find out about me? (what you feel you have to hide can often be your greatest gift – to yourself and the world)
  • What events in my life stand out to me?
  • What might my life experiences have been preparing me for?
  • What did I find joy in as a child or teenager?
  • Which of my strengths or interests inspires me the most?
  • What makes me forget about the world around me? (think about times you were so immersed in something that you forgot to eat or missed an appointment)
  • What world issues resonate with me most?
  • What kind of conversations make me come alive?
  • What part of my life would I miss most if I suddenly lost it?
  • What would I start doing if there were no chance of failure?
  • If I stay on my current path, what would my regrets be?

If none of these work for you, keep exploring. Take a walk around your home or neighborhood. Talk to close friends or family and ask them when they remember you at your happiest. Look through the pictures on your phone, through old photo albums and yearbooks. Meditate. Let yourself freely write about anything that interests you or concerns you. Your life purpose exists somewhere within your core being. Keep shaking!


Turning the Spark Into a Flame

Once the right question sparked that realization in my heart, I started playing with different versions of my life purpose, trying to coax that spark into a full blown flame.

My first draft was, “I am the joyful lightworker who illuminates the leader within you, guiding you to bring it forward, bravely and unapologetically, in your work, home and community.”

My homework was to say it out loud to ten different people and see how it evolved. As I did, I could sense in my body what felt good and what needed tweaking. I heard people’s feedback of what they felt was me and what wasn’t. And it evolved.

It shifted and molded to become, “I am the joyful lightworker who empowers you to bring your true self forward, bravely and unapologetically, no matter where you are or who you are with.”

That was starting to feel a bit more me.

So I shared that statement with Michael Wallace, an amazing coaching colleague. “I believe the statement needs to be short and it needs to punch me in the face, or at least slap me on the ass.” What a guy!

Okay. Ass slapping time.

I evolved my statement further to, “I am the lightworker that empowers you to be you, no apologies.”

I then had to share it with some of my tribe members in the leadership program. Their feedback was that it was good, but they saw me as a very energetic person, and felt the statement was missing a bit of energizing, eccentric, quirky Melissa-ness.

So we played with two more variations:

“I am the burst of light that energizes you to be you, no apologies.”

And…

“I am the quirky surge that energizes you to be you, no apologies.”

For days I was saying them both out loud, seeing what felt better; what resonated most in my body. I kept saying them over and over, playing with different variations. Still, I wasn’t feeling it 100%.

“I am the bright sun that energizes you to be you, no apologies.” Hmmm… not quite a punch in the face.

It still wasn’t perfect. I then started to think about what lit me up at the core. Something I hold dearly in my heart is energy medicine. The basis of it is that everything in the Universe is made of light. We can create conditions for health in our life by working with our luminous energy field. The more luminous we are, the healthier we are and the more we create the script we want to live and not the one others want us to live.

I kept on meditating on my life purpose and then I saw it clearly. I saw a firefly in my meditation.

The symbolic meaning of fireflies to us humans, is that although our physical appearance may seem one way – it is our internal makings – what is inside us (such as our spirit) that makes us shine from the inside out.

That which is within us will always illuminate us and those around us.

With this in mind, I knew, without a doubt, I had it!

And so, drumroll please……

“I am the firefly that illuminates your heart.”

That feels so incredible to write down and even better to say out loud! It’s so totally me!

Once you can say your life purpose out loud and feel it resonate with you as truly part of you, reflective of you, your truth, your most amazing self… then it’s time to start meditating on how you can bring it forward into the world.


What Are Examples of Purpose in Life?

Everyone’s life purpose is unique to them. Some people may share the same wording, but it will have a unique resonance and meaning for each individual. Here are a few examples of life purpose statements to help guide and inspire you. Ultimately, your life purpose statement has to resonate with you and feel like it comes from your heart. If one of these sparks something in you, try it out, share it with people you trust, play with different wordings, and see if your fire ignites!

Here are some examples of a life purpose statement:

  • I am the leader that looks out for those around me.
  • I am the courageous sentry that stands up for what I believe in.
  • I am the fearless lion that lives my truth freely and respects the truth in others.
  • I am the bottomless well of compassion that inspires others to lead themselves with kindness and understanding.
  • I am the creative wellspring that creates joy for myself and the world.
  • I am the magical light that radiates positivity.
  • I am the light bringer that loves myself unconditionally, empowering me to be strong for the people I love.

A life purpose does not have to be selfless. In fact, A purpose that serves you first is what will make you stronger for the people around you.


Life Purpose as a Leadership Approach

For leaders, a life purpose statement can also be a leadership purpose statement, meaning it embodies how you want to approach leadership, as well as life.

How does this improve leadership? A life purpose (one that truly resonates with you and aligns with your core values) builds your confidence and resilience, and empowers better long and short term decision making. When you have a clear purpose and have made a habit of consciously aligning with it, you are more likely to be persistent and focused in moving towards big picture objectives, and are more likely to make decisions that serve the long view for yourself and the organization.

On the other hand, without a leadership purpose, you’re more likely to make decisions that address short term circumstances at the expense of the long term, and are more vulnerable to being pulled off track by the multitude of day-to-day distractions and urgencies.

In adopting a leadership purpose statement, first remember that it starts with you, not the organization. Yes, it needs to support corporate objectives, and it will do that more effectively if it starts with your values, objectives and what matters most to you. Then, ask yourself, “How do I want to show up for the people around me? What impact do I want to have?” Imagine yourself saying your life purpose statement before going into a meeting or having a difficult conversation. What do you think would be different?

Having a life purpose statement that is also your leadership purpose statement helps you show up much more consciously, and helps you to better connect with the people you lead in ways that benefit you, your team and the organization overall.


Bringing Your Life Purpose Forward

Determining your life purpose is a journey. And what a journey I had. One that reminded me of what truly matters to me, and brought me to a greater acceptance, understanding and joy in myself and what I want to move towards.

But, it’s also only part of a journey. The next step is… what to do with it!

Once you have it, you need to bring it forward into the world. A life purpose is more than a statement. It’s a personal call to action. Time to act!

Ask yourself, “What is a quest I could take on, personally or professionally, where I can bring my life purpose forward?”

Often, we do this on a personal level and love it so much that we eventually turn it into something we get paid for. But for now, focus on what is possible from where you are, right now.


Here are some of the quests that grew out of my life purpose, and that I am committing to:

  1. Publish my book, Why Can’t I Just Be Me, and create keynotes and workshops worldwide, guiding people on how to bring their true selves forward, no matter where they are, who they are with, or what they do.
  2. Work on that balance of having a heart of peace, setting healthy boundaries, and cutting out toxic people. I will evolve this balance on a personal level, and guide others on how to find and evolve their own balance. I will also incorporate these learnings into the keynotes and workshops in quest #1.
  3. Share coaching tools in schools so that children can learn empowering coaching techniques at an early age and use them to strengthen their sense of self, understand and practice self love, and even use these techniques to grow their decision making skills so that they are better equipped to succeed in their later life, education and career.

Before determining my new life purpose – one that reflects who I am today and who I am becoming – I would sometimes find myself struggling with my direction and what I wanted to work towards. As my career and personal life evolve, so many opportunities, ideas and possibilities arise. This newly refined focus is empowering me to prioritize and make decisions in a way that feels truly right to me.

And I want to share that with you. So I ask you, to ask yourself, “When do I feel I am at my best? When do I feel I am living life on purpose? What was one of the most painful things to happen to me in my life? Who, in my life, can I share this with to help me uncover and refine my purpose?”

Be open to what starts to emerge. Yes, it can be scary. But it can also be oh so joyful.

If you would like guidance and support in determining your life purpose and discovering your quests, please connect with me. Let’s make this happen!