Updated: Jan 18
Purpose can be a difficult concept to grasp. What on earth is it anyway? It’s easy to envy those who have it and you might feel like something is missing if you don’t. Some say we each have one purpose while others say we have many throughout our lives.
I don’t think there’s one failproof formula to identify our own purpose but I’ve noticed it often arises out of personal experience, whether that’s your own or someone else’s that you’ve witnessed. This could be:
A difficult or challenging situation you’ve experienced that you want to help others avoid or overcome. Having experienced it myself, I know what it’s like to have a life that doesn’t fulfil you. That now drives me to help people identify and create a life for themselves that they love and find personally meaningful.
You can find purpose in what people thank you for. Whether intentionally or not, knowing you’ve done something that has positively influenced another person’s life can help provide purpose and the drive to continue helping others.
Sharing your story. Particularly if the experience isn't typically discussed in mainstream media, it can be powerful to share your perspective to raise awareness and address issues others might not be aware of. Helping others experiencing the same thing to feel less alone or make the topic less taboo or stigmatised could also be an important factor.
Cultivating a sense of gratitude. Research has found that those who feel grateful are more likely to try and “contribute to the world beyond themselves”. This is attributed to the fact that if we can recognise how others are making the world a better place, then we’ll be more motivated to give something back too.
Seven Levels Deep
I’ve previously written about the Seven Levels Deep exercise here.
It’s intended to draw out hidden subconscious thoughts, feelings and emotions that will lead a person to find their true ‘why’, their intrinsic motivation for any aspect of life.
You can make it specific to whatever situation is most relevant to you. If you’re not sure where to begin, a good starting point is to ask the question, ‘What do I want to achieve in life?’ At this first stage, you can interpret the question in any way you choose. Once you have your answer, ask yourself why that’s important to you. I’ll share an example below to show how it could work in practice.
It might seem like a simple process but it’s incredibly powerful. There are seven levels for a reason so make sure you go through them all. As you get deeper into the process you’ll start to get out of your head and more into the emotion of what drives you.
I spoke about this idea at a friend’s book club. Here’s the example I shared of what the process could look like.
What do I want to achieve in life? I want to read books every day.
Why is it important for me to read books all day? I love exploring new worlds and getting into the feelings and experiences of the different characters.
Why is it important for me to explore new worlds and characters? It helps me escape from the pressure of my everyday life
Why is it important I escape from my everyday life? Because life can be stressful and reading helps me relax
Why is it important for me to relax? So that I can show up better for my family
Why is it important for me to show up better for my family? I love and appreciate them and I want to show this by looking after them
Why is it important I show my family appreciation?
This is a relatively light hearted example but you can see how the process moves away from being something fairly simple and surface-level towards something more purposeful and meaningful. It’s not just reading, it’s a way to help yourself and show up better for your family. It transforms the activity from being nice-to-have to something that should be prioritised.
When doing this for yourself, don't be put off if the answers don't come immediately. It will take time to work through each stage and get to the root of what is truly important to you. If you're finding the process repetitive or are really getting stuck, try changing the question to, 'What is important about...?' or 'How is it important...?'