3 Simple Methods for Discovering Your Purpose

Finding your purpose Being an entrepreneur is in a lot of ways similar to being an explorer. We set out on a long journey, regularly pushing our minds and bodies, and often have little or no idea of where the road will eventually lead us.

As an entrepreneur, though, it’s important—critical, even—to at least know the next few steps of your journey. You might have no idea where you’ll be in 5 years, but you’d better have a good idea of what you’re doing in the next few months — if you don’t your productivity and motivation are almost guaranteed to plummet.

In fact, the stronger your sense of purpose, the more you believe in yourself and what you’re doing right now, the more motivated and hard-working you’ll be. Think about your own experiences — when have you worked the hardest: when you were apathetic and not sure of direction, or when you were certain that your current project would make a big difference?

It’s that sense of purpose that is the primary driving force behind freelancers, entrepreneurs, business people, athletes, and many others — and in this article, I’m going to outline 5 simple methods that you can use to help refine and strengthen your purpose, passion, and direction.

What Is Purpose?

Before we get into some methods for finding your purpose, let’s talk about the definition of purpose. According to Merriam-Webster, purpose is:

Purpose, -n: 1. something set up as an object or end to be attained, 2. the reason for which something exists or is done.

Basically, your purpose is the end goal that drives your current actions. It’s the reason that you work on the things you do, the outcome you wish to achieve by your efforts. With that in mind, let’s look at a few ways to clarify and strengthen your purpose.

Note: I’m going to stick with ‘short-term’ goals and purpose in this article, so the next 5 years or less. Finding your life-long purpose is something very personal, and different for everyone, so I think it’s a bit much for one article.

Method #1 — Creating a Vision


It’s helpful to start your quest for purpose by thinking about what you want your life to be like in the far future. If you can figure out what you want to have in the future, finding your immediate purpose is then only a matter of breaking it down into steps. Most people find that their most passionate purpose is to transform their current life into their ideal one, which can usually be done very logically.

Of course, deciding what you want in your ideal life and business is often the hardest part — so that’s where we’re going to start. Here are a few steps that will help you discover your most basic goals, and formulate them into a solid vision:

  1. Cut out the noise. To create an effective vision you need to learn to cut out the noise and influence of other people. Everyone wants to tell you what to do, but for now just try to ignore them. Cut yourself off from family and societal pressures, learn to ignore the noise.
  2. Spy on yourself. Once you’ve silenced the outside world, you can start spying on your own inner desires. What makes you happy? What do you enjoy? What do you really want to do with your life? Pay very close attention to these things.
  3. Pretend You’re Super-Human. When you’ve begun to listen closely to your inner thoughts, it’s time to start forgetting about the word feasibility. You’ll no doubt have lots of voices pop up in your head about what you can and can’t do — ignore them, and start pretending you’re a superhero that can do anything.
  4. Let Your Mind Wander. It can take some time to get into the proper state of mind, where you’re ignoring the outside world, ignoring reason, and listening to your thoughts — but once you do, you need to stay there and let yourself wander for a while. Picture your dream life, listen to your random ideas, think about things as they cross your mind and just chew on them for a while. When you start getting really excited about the future, it’s time to move to the next step.
  5. Write. Once your brainstorming and visions start kicking into high-gear, it’s time to record your results. When you’re really getting excited about your dreams and ideas, start writing them down on paper. Just write down everything, even if a lot of it doesn’t seem very realistic. You can look at this later and combine it into a more realistic vision.

Method #2 — Five-Year Projection & Retrace


This is one of the most common and most effective, methods for finding your purpose and goals in the immediate future. I use this on a regular basis with very good results, and I would definitely recommend trying it at least once.

Start by getting into the same frame of mind as you would for creating your long-term vision (if you’re skimming, it’s the previous tip). Think about your ideal life, ignore any feelings of “that’s not realistic” and then start with the following process:

  1. Write a short description of your perfect life in 5 years, covering everything that is important to you (business, friends, health, etc…)
  2. Trace your vision back a few years. For your 5 year vision to become true, what would your life need to look like in 3 years?
  3. Continue tracing your vision backwards, connecting the dots as you go. What would you need to do in 1 year to make your 5 year vision come true? How about 6 months, 3 months, next week?
  4. At the end of this process, write down a list of actions that have to happen over the next weeks, months, and years to make your 5-year projections come true. These should be your immediate goals, and should provide some near-term purpose.

Method #3 — Subtraction


This is probably my favorite method for finding immediate goals and purpose, and also for keeping them in the forefront of my life. Like the previous method, it starts by first finding and knowing your 5 year vision or ideal life — so if you skipped that section at least make sure you have a good idea of what you want in the future.

  1. Describe your vision. Just like the last method, start by describing or writing out your 5 year vision.
  2. Describe your current situation. Now, write out a short description of your current situation. Make sure to cover the same areas you covered in your ideal vision.
  3. Compare and subtract. Take a look at your long-term vision, and then compare that to your current situation — what’s missing? What things does your ideal life have that you are currently lacking? What things do you have now that you don’t want in your ideal vision? The answers to this equation should give you some concrete purpose in your life.

Bonus Method #4 — Value Extrapolation


The bonus method is the way that many productivity and lifestyle gurus recommend finding your ultimate purpose, and it’s a bit different from the methods above.

Start by listing or thinking about your basic personality. What do you care about the most in life? What do you love to do? What makes you feel good? What are your essential values?

Then, using your essential values, work upward towards creating a life that allows you to live them to the fullest. The closer you live to your values, the happier you will be — your ultimate purpose is to find and fulfill what matters most to you. If it makes you feel good to help other people, your primary goal should be to create a life that allows you to do that.

The Next Step…

After finding your purpose, the next step is to find the straightest path towards your ultimate goals and motivate yourself until your are passionate about completing them. Having purpose, direction, and passion is the key to being productive and happy over a long period of time.

I’ll write more about how to create intense passion and motivation in my next article. Make sure you subscribe to FreelanceFolder or follow me on twitter so you don’t miss it :-)

Until then, what is your purpose? What motivates you? Share in the comments.

Comments

  1. says

    That is a great post. I love how you elaborate on this concept. That ought to be pretty interesting to look back on what I have done in 5 years. It’s almost worth getting that far just for that.

  2. says

    Hey Chris,

    Glad you like it! I definitely agree, looking back at your results after even a few months (especially 5 years) is really fascinating.

    Plus, looking back regularly can help to make more accurate goals in the future.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. says

    Igor, great comment and yes, from what I can find, it was Brian Tracy. By looking back you are able to understand what you did right (and wrong!) which will ultimately help you push forward and become better and better in the future. By learning from your mistakes you can truly unlock your true potential.

  4. Ahmed says

    Nice article..very organized

    I will be looking forward to read your next articles about passion and motivation but most importantly about how to devise a strategy for your goals.

    Thank you

  5. Howie Daniels says

    That article was brilliant! I think you found your purpose. :) . I don’ t know how long I’ve been at this now and seldom come across such a powerful and moving blog. I have a site I found to be very helpful that I’d like to recommend for you and anyone else looking to become an entrepreneur. The site is http://www.yourworkfromhomeplace.com. I bought the book they have available and let me tell you, it virtually changed my way of thinking from then on. I hope it will help you and anyone else looking for a great place to use as a stepping stone towards success.

    Sincerely, Howie Daniels

  6. says

    I’m so glad that I read this tweet by someone in my tweeter post. It is what I am facing these days. Thanks alot!

    Besides, I would like to ask for your advice on – how should I be cleared when doing something? as in when making decision on working matters. Above are more alike our dreams and goals that we want to achieve. On top of that, I do know what I want to be as a designer in my future – a fusionate of graphic and fashion. I’m passionate about it though. It got my vision even better when I read a few methods that you just gave.

    Now, talking about the working problem that I’m dealing with is that I always have a lot of thoughts in my mind when I’m doing my work. In the end, it’s just a confusion. It’s like I have too many ideas at one time until I am doubted of myself in deciding. For e.g, my friend asked me to design a name card. I have a brilliant idea for him at 1st. After that, more and more ideas just Pops out my head and I keep telling him hey, I have this, i have that idea…so and so.. He’s like confused. So, I find myself always unsure of what I want to do at times. It always happened when I do my work. Lots and lots of idea just comes and popping around my head. In the end, Im stucked. hahaha!!

    Urgh!!! I’m really tired of this same long time mistakes that I’ve been making. I always like to go to the library as there are so many interesting books and magazine I’d love to look into. I grabbed them all and put on my table. I just flipped them through, looking into interesting pictures of awesome designs and NEVER a time tries to READ. Also, as I was too greedy grabbing so many of the books, I ended up didn’t finish them all. Sigh~~~

    I hoped you really can help me with this, Mason. I can’t let this happened to me anymore. It’s very stress and struggling.

  7. Jennifer says

    Ruby, I have the same problem as you – with my ideas, it’s “Feast or famine” – I either have a million ideas popping and percolating around my head – and this results in confusion followed by numbness. I get overwhelmed! Or I’m trying and trying to think of an idea – and my mental “well runs dry”.

    Mr. Hipp – Excellent and inspiring article! I’m going to print it out and answer the questions in my journal.

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