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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Write a short description of your perfect life in 5 years, covering everything that is important to you (business, friends, health, etc…)
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- Describe your vision. Just like the last method, start by describing or writing out your 5 year vision.
- 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.
- 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.
Until then, what is your purpose? What motivates you? Share in the comments.