“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
What am I supposed to do with my life?
As soon as I turned 18, everyone asked me what career I wanted to pursue.
I didn’t have a clue. It’s not that I didn’t have any interests. I just wasn’t interested in any one thing enough to decide there and then to dedicate my whole life to it. What if I made the wrong choice?
I decided to take a year off to figure it out. Ten years and several career changes later, I was as confused as ever.
I did jobs I loved. I took jobs that sucked the soul out of me to pay the bills. I experimented with side hustles and started businesses to gain financial freedom.
But nothing felt… fulfilling.
I knew I was meant for more. Why else would I be given the gift of writing, a strong passion for teaching?
I don’t believe in many things, but I believe in this: we’re all here for a reason and that each one of us is given gifts and strengths to fulfil her life purpose.
The tricky part is to find it, to connect the dots and see where they lead you.
If you’re still struggling, here are 5 weird questions that will help you find your life purpose:
1. What’s Your Favourite Flavour Of Shit Sandwich?
Mark Manson was the first to ask this question. As he points out, “Everything sucks, some of the time.”
When I embarked on my freelance writing career, I naively thought I’d spend most of my days writing articles that would inspire and change the world.
Instead, I found myself spending half my time looking for new clients, chasing late invoices, dealing with bookkeeping and a dozen other things that had nothing to do with writing whatsoever.
That was my shit sandwich. The things I had to put up with to be a full-time writer.
If you want to be a doctor, you must accept the gruelling 80+ workweeks and intense study courses for years.
If you want to be a rock star, you have to be willing to tour extensively and spend months on the road every year, even if it means you don’t get to see your family often.
If you want to be a big corporate executive, you have to put up with office politics and the toxic environment they can create.
Can you do it? Are you so passionate about what you’re doing, you’re willing to put up with the most unpleasant, boring, gruelling parts of the job?
If you can’t, I’ve got bad news for you. You’re not living your purpose.
2. What Did You Love Doing As A Child?
Purpose leaves clues. Your job is to find them.
Think back of what you enjoyed doing as a child, before school, family and peer pressure told you to stop “wasting time” on things that didn’t bring you any material rewards, like a big paycheck or a shiny gold medal.
For me, it was writing. If I wasn’t writing short stories about what my toys got up to when I wasn’t around or Cinderella’s life after marrying her prince, I’d jot down my thoughts in a diary or pen articles for a magazine I’d later distribute to my family.
I don’t remember why I stopped. Probably something to do with growing up and the idea that adults must leave their childhood dreams behind and get a real job to put food on the table and pay the bills.
It was only in my mid-20s that I rediscovered my passion for writing. It’s something that I can’t not do. All those years when I didn’t even touch my pen were some of the darkest of my life.
I just didn’t know how connected it was to my purpose until I realised the impact my writing could make on others. That’s the next piece of the purpose puzzle.
3. What’s The Most Rewarding Thing You’ve Done For Someone Else?
It’s easy to confuse your purpose for your passion.
Your passion is what you love to do. Your purpose is your mission in life.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should not be passionate about your purpose. You need to be passionate about it if you’re gonna dedicate your life (or at least the next few years – hey, your purpose can change overtime) to it.
But passion alone isn’t enough. You can be passionate about many things and still feel like your life has no purpose.
It’s what you do for other people, the way your passion impacts on their lives, that gives your own life meaning.
If you’re struggling to find your purpose, start by asking yourself, “What’s the most rewarding thing I do for someone else?”
Maybe you enjoy cooking healthy meal for your friends and show them you don’t have to compromise on taste to nourish your body.
Maybe you love helping elderly people do their grocery shopping, mow their lawn or doing repairs around their house.
Maybe you feel good when you can lend a friend a shoulder to cry on, listen to their problems and offer them good advice.
Maybe you feel fulfilled when writing articles that inspire people to change whatever is not working in their lives (yep, that’s me).
The place where passion meets impact – that’s where your purpose hides.
4. What Moments In Your Life Have Been The Hardest And Why?
Everything happens for a reason.
I know, that’s hardly any consolation when you’re going through a tough time. But didn’t those bad experiences make you stronger, kinder and more compassionate?
If you’ve been bullied as a child, you’re more accepting of people and won’t dismiss and ridicule anyone who doesn’t conform to society standards.
If you’ve suffered with depression, you’re more likely to help others seek the medical help they need instead of accusing them of being lazy buggers.
If a close friend had problems with alcohols or drugs, you’re more willing to volunteer for organizations that help addicts recover and rebuild their lives.
You know how much it hurts – and you don’t want anyone else to experience that pain ever again. The painful experiences you went through become the causes you champion.
Just don’t stop there. Ask yourself, “why did it hurt?”
After I graduated from high school, I gradually fell into a deep depression that robbed me of my job, my friends, my hobbies. It took everything.
I knew something was wrong with me but I didn’t have the will to ask for help or make a change. I didn’t see the point.
If I couldn’t write, if I was doomed to a mediocre job that paid the bills while crushing my soul, why make the effort to get better? It’d only be a matter of time before I had a relapse.
The hardest thing back then for me was not having anyone who believed in me. I didn’t know anyone who made a living writing and that could show me the way.
Heck, I didn’t even know a single woman who had refused to go down the traditional path – you know finding a job, getting married, having children, quitting the job to care for their family…
The message was loud and clear. If you’re a woman, your dreams don’t matter. Sure, you can have a job… if it doesn’t interfere with taking care of your children…
I don’t want any woman to ever feel like that. Your dreams matter. You have what it takes to make it happen. And if you choose to have a family, you don’t have to compromise.
When I became clear on why depression hit me so hard and the lesson it was trying to teach me, I was able to zero in on my purpose and figure out how to use my experience to help others in a more meaningful way.
5. If You Were Going To Die Today, How Would You Want To Be Remembered?
I don’t want to be a downer here, but there’s nothing like death to bring home what’s really important to you.
In her book, “The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying,” nurse Bronnie Ware shares that when people are approaching the end of their lives, they regret working too much, not spending enough time with their loved ones and not having the courage to live their life true to themselves instead than the life that was expected of them.
Death reminded them of what was really important in life – and it had nothing to do with money, status symbols or being a goody two shoes who conforms to other people’s expectations.
What if you didn’t have to wait till death is near to realise what’s important to you, to discover what you were put on this planet to do?
Imagine today is the day you’re going to die. What would you like people to say about you?
Would you like to be remembered as the pretty girl who always did what she was told and never rocked the boat?
Or would you like to be remembered as the girl who took a chance on her dream, always had a kind word for everyone or stayed up late to wrap presents for sick and orphaned children?
After I’m gone, I want people to say, “Giorgia inspired me to use my gifts to make a difference in my community. She believed in me when no one else would.”
Once you’re clear on what you want your legacy to be, you can spend the rest of your life building it.
Don’t have the time to answer these questions now? Click on the button below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive the Purpose Finder Worksheet.
Over to you, now. Which of these questions helped you the most in finding your purpose? Share your insights in the comments below.