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How to find your purpose — 7 tips

July 6, 2022 - 12 min read

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Why do I need a sense of purpose?

Why is it difficult to find purpose in life?

What are the benefits of knowing my purpose?

What are the main questions I should ask myself to find my purpose?

How can I find my purpose?

Moving forward — with purpose

The moment had come. It was finally your turn to walk across the stage. You swelled with pride as you shook hands and accepted that certificate. 

You did it. 

But as you celebrate with friends or family, you get that gnawing feeling. What now? Maybe someone asked that dreaded question: “What do you want to do with your life?” Maybe you’ve been so focused on this immediate goal that you haven’t thought about “why.”

Whether we’re graduating from school, training, or switching careers, knowing what kind of life we want to lead is hard to determine. Many of us are unsure of what to do. It can feel easier to fill our time with tasks and business. 

But the questions linger: “What am I going to do? Why am I doing what I’m doing?”

Trying to find your purpose in life is a neverending journey. You aren’t alone. And no matter how confused or lost you may feel, know this: it’s never too late and the journey is part of it.

Why do I need a sense of purpose?

The definition of purpose is why something exists. Something’s purpose is what it was intended or created for. 

No matter how old we get, we all may wonder what our purpose is. A lot of people will likely never find their true purpose. 

When we have a sense of purpose, we experience a sense of validation. We feel like we’re a part of something greater, which in turn, makes us happier and more confident. We work harder and more efficiently. 

The Journal of Applied Psychology revealed that individuals with a sense of purpose feel more in control of their lives and live longer. The results were the same when income, education, gender, and race were controlled. 

Another study published in The Lancet Journal found that a sense of purpose is directly linked to our mental and physical wellness. Individuals with a sense of purpose are at a lower risk for stroke, heart attacks, and dementia, and sleep better at night

A sense of fulfillment causes us to take more pride in our work. Failure isn’t a huge obstacle if we know that we’re on the right track.

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Why is it difficult to find purpose in life?

Finding your guiding star is tricky. 

Understanding your purpose in life is a process of self-discovery and self-reflection. You need to be self-aware and know your strengths and weaknesses and what motivates or disinterests you. 

Many people brush off finding their purpose because it sounds silly or they're unsure how to look for it. We’re constantly growing and changing our minds. Looking inside ourselves, we might not always like what we see. We need to be patient, vulnerable, and forgiving, and that’s the hardest thing of all. 

At BetterUp, we recognize that everyone has unique capabilities and aspirations. We’re all strong and weak in our own ways. Uncovering your purpose and chasing your goals takes courage and determination. It’s easier to keep going, adapt, and persevere when you have people in your life who want to help you get there. 

The effort is yours alone. But our coaches provide the perspective and accountability you need to find your purpose and unlock your full potential.

What are the benefits of knowing my purpose?

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The purpose seems like a fairly straightforward thing on the surface, but it’s more than doing what makes us happy. Researchers from Florida State and Stanford University found that happiness is more closely related to taking than giving. But those who were the “giver” formed more meaningful connections and developed a lasting sense of purpose. 

We’re continually growing and learning to take strides toward our purpose when we know our purpose. When we focus on our goals, we don’t have time to question ourselves or be jealous of others. 

Although it’s not a fundamental need like food, water, and shelter, leading a meaningful life is vital for fulfillment. Our overall well-being benefits from our purpose; we feel more grateful, accomplished, and open to new ideas.

What are the main questions I should ask myself to find my purpose?

With so many avenues to explore, how can we possibly know where to start looking for our purpose? You aren’t trying to narrow down the possibilities to one single thing so much as trying to understand the patterns of what moves and inspires you. You are trying to understand also what feels meaningful — that usually means tapping into your talents, strengths, and perspective.

Below are some great questions to ask yourself and reflect on: 

1. What makes you feel happy?

2. What gets you fired up and energized?

3. What’s in your comfort zone?

4. What do you bring to projects, gatherings, or activities that are uniquely you?

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5. What can you do with your time that feels important or worthwhile?

6. Are you willing to make sacrifices?

7. What makes you lose track of time?

8. When was the last time you felt excited? Proud?

9. When was the last time you felt part of something bigger than yourself?

10. What’s holding you back from finding your purpose? 

11. What would you do in life if you weren’t limited by money, time, geography, experience, fear, or expectations?

How can I find my purpose?

There’s no correct way to find your purpose, so there’s no formula to learn what you should do. Here are some strategies for you to figure out what kind of life is for you:

1. Turn your search inward.

To be truly satisfied, you need to turn out all the voices seeking to bring you down and practice self-care by listening to yourself. You know yourself better than anyone. Try making a vision board or journaling to gain a sense of direction and find trends in what makes you happy. Ask yourself, What is life for me?

2. Put purpose before goals.

Create short-term goals. Finding your purpose is a lifelong journey, and all of your dreams will likely align with your greater purpose. If you haven’t found your purpose yet, don’t make a life plan that you might need to scrap in a few weeks. Be patient.

3. Be thankful for what you have.

We often obsess over what we don’t have, but focusing on this limits our gratitude. Instead, cultivate an abundance mindset: there are enough resources and opportunities out there for everyone. It’s not a competition; the only person you should focus on being better than is who you were yesterday.

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4. Listen to feedback.

It’s hard to analyze ourselves objectively, so why not ask a family member or coworker? They’ll have insight into our habits and interests that we may have missed.

5. Surround yourself with good people.

You want to be sure that the feedback you’re receiving is constructive and healthy instead of negative. Surround yourself with people who want to see you lead a fulfilling life. 

Supportive people come in all forms — teachers, siblings, friends, coworkers, mentors, and coaches. 

Discovering what life is all about is turbulent, and BetterUp coaches are here to walk with you every step of the way. Through AI technology, world-class coaching, and behavioral science experts, we'll help you cultivate and balance your go-getter attitude with smart moves to grow. 

6. Embrace acceptance.

Accept your limitations. No one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something.

7. Be flexible.

Sometimes, we can’t find a sense of meaning because we’re holding on to old ideas or paths, even if they haven’t worked out. We’re afraid to let go, but uncertainty is just another stepping stone.

Moving forward — with purpose

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“The two most important days in life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.” - Mark Twain.

Purpose is a heavy thing, but it’s also our guiding compass. It lends meaning and direction to our daily lives. And, as we’ve learned from over 1 million coaching sessions with BetterUp Members, that meaning and purpose improve our satisfaction with life, amp up our motivation, increase our well-being and resilience, and have a positive impact on the people around us. Now that is a compelling “why.” 

Embrace the discomfort and start discovering your purpose today. It’s never too late to start living your life with greater clarity, purpose, and passion. 

Let BetterUp be your guide and join our community on this journey.

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Published July 6, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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