How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes

January 16th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina Email this article to a friend

How do you discover your real purpose in life? I’m not talking about your job, your daily responsibilities, or even your long-term goals. I mean the real reason why you’re here at all — the very reason you exist. Perhaps you’re a rather nihilistic person who doesn’t believe you have a purpose and that life has no meaning. Doesn’t matter. Not believing that you have a purpose won’t prevent you from discovering it, just as a lack of belief in gravity won’t prevent you from tripping. All that a lack of belief will do is make it take longer, so if you’re one of those people, just change the number 20 in the title of this blog entry to 40 (or 60 if you’re really stubborn). Most likely though if you don’t believe you have a purpose, then you probably won’t believe what I’m saying anyway, but even so, what’s the risk of investing an hour just in case? Here’s a story about Bruce Lee which sets the stage for this little exercise. A master martial artist asked Bruce to teach him everything Bruce knew about martial arts. Bruce held up two cups, both filled with liquid. “The first cup,” said Bruce, “represents all of your knowledge about martial arts. The second cup represents all of my knowledge about martial arts. If you want to fill your cup with my knowledge, you must first empty your cup of your knowledge.” If you want to discover your true purpose in life, you must first empty your mind of all the false purposes you’ve been taught (including the idea that you may have no purpose at all). So how to discover your purpose in life? While there are many ways to do this, some of them fairly involved, here is one of the simplest that anyone can do. The more open you are to this process, and the more you expect it to work, the faster it will work for you. But not being open to it or having doubts about it or thinking it’s an entirely idiotic and meaningless waste of time won’t prevent it from working as long as you stick with it — again, it will just take longer to converge. Here’s what to do: 1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster). 2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?” 3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine. 4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.

That’s it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a counselor or an engineer or a bodybuilder. To some people this exercise will make perfect sense. To others it will seem utterly stupid. Usually it takes 15-20 minutes to clear your head of all the clutter and the social conditioning about what you think your purpose in life is. The false answers will come from your mind and your memories. But when the true answer finally arrives, it will feel like it’s coming to you from a different source entirely. For those who are very entrenched in low-awareness living, it will take a lot longer to get all the false answers out, possibly more than an hour. But if you persist, after 100 or 200 or maybe even 500 answers, you’ll be struck by the answer that causes you to surge with emotion, the answer that breaks you. If you’ve never done this, it may very well sound silly to you. So let it seem silly, and do it anyway. As you go through this process, some of your answers will be very similar. You may even re-list previous answers. Then you might head off on a new tangent and generate 10-20 more answers along some other theme. And that’s fine. You can list whatever answer pops into your head as long as you just keep writing. At some point during the process (typically after about 50-100 answers), you may want to quit and just can’t see it converging. You may feel the urge to get up and make an excuse to do something else. That’s normal. Push past this resistance, and just keep writing. The feeling of resistance will eventually pass. You may also discover a few answers that seem to give you a mini-surge of emotion, but they don’t quite make you cry — they’re just a bit off. Highlight those answers as you go along, so you can come back to them to generate new permutations. Each reflects a piece of your purpose, but individually they aren’t complete. When you start getting these kinds of answers, it just means you’re getting warm. Keep going. It’s important to do this alone and with no interruptions. If you’re a nihilist, then feel free to start with the answer, “I don’t have a purpose,” or “Life is meaningless,” and take it from there. If you keep at it, you’ll still eventually converge. When I did this exercise, it took me about 25 minutes, and I reached my final answer at step 106. Partial pieces of the answer (mini-surges) appeared at steps 17, 39, and 53, and then the bulk of it fell into place and was refined through steps 100-106. I felt the feeling of resistance (wanting to get up and do something else, expecting the process to fail, feeling very impatient and even irritated) around steps 55-60. At step 80 I took a 2minute break to close my eyes, relax, clear my mind, and to focus on the intention for the answer to come to me — this was helpful as the answers I received after this break began to have greater clarity. Here was my final answer: to live consciously and courageously, to resonate with love and compassion, to awaken the great spirits within others, and to leave this world in peace.

When you find your own unique answer to the question of why you’re here, you will feel it resonate with you deeply. The words will seem to have a special energy to you, and you will feel that energy whenever you read them. Discovering your purpose is the easy part. The hard part is keeping it with you on a daily basis and working on yourself to the point where you become that purpose. If you’re inclined to ask why this little process works, just put that question aside until after you’ve successfully completed it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll probably have your own answer to why it works. Most likely if you ask 10 different people why this works (people who’ve successfully completed it), you’ll get 10 different answers, all filtered through their individual belief systems, and each will contain its own reflection of truth. Obviously, this process won’t work if you quit before convergence. I’d guesstimate that 80-90% of people should achieve convergence in less than an hour. If you’re really entrenched in your beliefs and resistant to the process, maybe it will take you 5 sessions and 3 hours, but I suspect that such people will simply quit early (like within the first 15 minutes) or won’t even attempt it at all. But if you’re drawn to read this blog (and haven’t been inclined to ban it from your life yet), then it’s doubtful you fall into this group. Give it a shot! At the very least, you’ll learn one of two things: your true purpose in life -or- that you should unsubscribe from this blog. Update 8/8/06: Be sure to read the follow-up to this article, especially if you’re having trouble with this particular approach (there’s an alternative method you can use): The Meaning of Life: Discover Your Purpose. ShareThis Discuss this post in the Steve Pavlina forum. Achieve new breakthroughs in your habits, career, finances, relationships, health, and spiritual development. Register now to attend the transformational 3-day Conscious Growth Workshop in Las Vegas, January 15-17, 2010.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, January 16th, 2005 at 11:02 am and is filed under Motivation, Personal Development, Purpose. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

33 Responses to “How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes”
1. whoisnick.com » Crying with purpose Says:
January 17th, 2005 at 7:58 am

[...] e blogs. Why? Becuase with an easy (and yet not easy at all) technique he helped me find my lifes purpose in about 40 minutes Sure, his title says 20 minutes, but you’ve got to [...] 2. Hans Says:
January 16th, 2005 at 8:21 pm

Interesting approach, Steve. Several years ago I tried to identify my purpose by writing drafts of my epitath – how I would like to be remembered by others. In that exercise I had similar flashes of emotion when I got close to the “right” statement. Regardless of technique, the journey is what matters. 3. Rich Says:
January 16th, 2005 at 8:30 pm

I haven’t read the article yet, but I just have to say that you have a very catchy title there! 4. whoisnick.com Says:
January 16th, 2005 at 11:58 pm

Crying with purpose Steve Pavlina is easily running up the list in my favorite blogs. Why? Becuase with an easy (and yet not easy at all) technique he helped me find my lifes purpose in about 40 minutes Sure, his title says 20 minutes, but you’ve got to have all you… 5. Oleg Says:
January 17th, 2005 at 8:19 am

Hi Steve,

I have read your article and decided to give it a shot. I can remember having similar emotional experiences like you described, but I never did it consciously. After 40th answer I realized that I was going in circles around same idea. The closer I was to it the more emotional I became. Then I suddenly realized something so important that I had to stop and write these comments… What’s the point of this exercise? Is it to realize ones ultimate goal? Or, is it just to find something that makes you cry? I mean, there are numerous things that make us emotional. For example, everyone wants to be remembered after his death. Does anyone want to be forgotten the day after? Everyone, wants to make a significant change in people’s life in one or another way. Who, for example, doesn’t want to be as influential as Bill Gates? (Lets not make comments about him being evil Thus, the ultimate goal can easily become the most useless goal you can ever set. It will make you cry, but will it make you get up and do something towards achieving it? Steve, as you mentioned above: “Discovering your purpose is the easy part. The hard part is keeping it with you on a daily basis and working on yourself to the point where you become that purpose.” That’s true. For example, one realized that he wanted to do something so important that he would be remembered for ages. So what? It is too general. With such weak motivation I bet he will never make even one step. 6. Oleg Says:
January 17th, 2005 at 8:25 am

Me again… Steve, your articles are very motivational they make me think. Thank you. However, I believe there is one issue I just realized – the articles make me think, but they don’t make me get up and act. Here is my idea on how you can fill this empty spot at least for me: As far as I understand you spent last 10 years writing games. Does word “Evercrack” mean anything to you? Gaming addiction? Despite it is all wrong and weird, it seems people addicted to MMORPG don’t have any problems with motivation at all. They don’t need anyone to “babysit” them, to write motivational articles on how it is great to play. At the same time they are people with weak motivation, unfulfilling jobs and evil bosses. They are people you are trying to wake up. An average gamer spends 20 hours a week. I think actual numbers are much higher. Some servers have more than 200,000 people online at the same time. It is enourmous amount of energy and time people spend on something so pointelss. Take a minute to read this article http://wow.warcraftstrategy.com/printer_friendly_version.php?article=16 I personally worked with people who lost their jobs, friends, and one even lost his

family. I worked in the same office with people who spent real money on virtual clothes and food. I can tell you that they were not stupid kids without parental control. They all were very intelegent and goal-oriented individuals in their late 20s. They realized that what they did was totally pointless and had to be stopped. There are numerous support groups like Everquest Widows. That’s all sad, but I don’t want you to focus on that. I want you to think about all this time and energy that people invest without any motivation at all. Just think about such enormous level of addiction generated without any effort. Do you know why is that? What if you, me, someone else could figure out what makes us so addicted to those virtual lives and then use it to develop strategy that will make us addicted to achieving our true goals in the real world? Will it be your next article? 7. snfg Says:
January 17th, 2005 at 9:28 am

I think these instructions are flawed. Not because of the motivation issue that’s been raised already, but because I, personally, don’t want to spend my life working towards something that merely meets the criteria of “makes me cry”. I’m reminded of a quote… Nothing is true unless it makes you laugh, but you don’t really understand it until it makes you cry. — _Illuminatus_, Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea 8. Steve Pavlina Says:
January 17th, 2005 at 9:55 am

If you go in circles around the same idea but haven’t yet pinpointed it, then you didn’t finish. You can always take a break and come back to it fresh. Am I correct in assuming that the last couple posters didn’t actually finish? The exercise is fairly pointless if you don’t take it to completion. You can debate the possible merits of it until you’re blue in the face, but you can’t really gauge what the water is like until you’ve gone for a swim. The point of the exercise is simply to awaken yourself to a purpose that is possibly much greater than what you’ve been living. What you do with that knowledge is up to you. Most people shrink from it; some grow into it. You don’t get addicted to your purpose because you live it consciously. Addiction is unconscious. Living on purpose is a daily choice, not a habitual addiction. The goal isn’t to substitute one unconscious habit for another. It’s to become more fully conscious (which is basically the method through which people are able to break addictions, as opposed to merely redirecting them). Your purpose isn’t going to drive you to action. That’s a reactive attitude. It may call you to it, but you have to consciously answer that call — proactively, not reactively. Goals and purposes don’t motivate you, but they can call upon you to motivate yourself. Expecting something outside you to motivate you makes you

powerless to act. That “motivational something” has to come from inside you — you’re the motivator, not me, not a book, not an article. If you catch a glimpse of a great purpose within you and make excuses to do nothing with it (such as, “it’s too general”), then you’ll be the one burdened with the results of that choice. I realize that may sound a bit harsh, but it’s true. As long as you believe something outside you must be the source of your motivation, then nothing you do for yourself can motivate you. You’ll be perpetually waiting for the stove to give you heat before you’ll give it wood. The responsibility for taking action, for motivating yourself, for finding your purpose or living without one … all lies with you alone. “There is no philosophy by which I can do a thing if I think I cannot.” — Dr. James W. Parker (founder of Parker College) 9. X-Master Says:
January 17th, 2005 at 11:39 am

Steve, can you please write some articles on motivation? In spite of some important accomplishments (I’m a successful entrepreneur and was an excellent developer before that), I have struggled hard with motivation and with getting myself to do something all my life. Thank you! 10. Oleg Says:
January 17th, 2005 at 11:40 am

I have to clarify that I have been going in circles around the idea I _already_knew_. I don’t know whether I have finished this particular exercise or not. What are the criteria of success? Tears coming from the eyes? Yes, it was emotional. I didn’t cry though. It’s just my individual reaction. You are not expecting everyone to actually cry, right? Steve: “What you do with that knowledge is up to you. Most people shrink from it; some grow into it… Goals and purposes don’t motivate you, but they can call upon you to motivate yourself. Expecting something outside you to motivate you makes you powerless to act” I have to disagree. Goals and purposes do motivate, but only when they are realistic and precise. If your goals don’t motivate you then those are not your goals or they are just too blurry so you can’t figure out how the hell you are going to achieve them. Personally, I am not waiting for something external to motivate me. That would be just stupid. I am trying to find motivation inside myself and like many others looking for the books, articles that have answer or advice. I have not found

anything on that yet. Most speak about purpose of life, goals, values, and feelings… While most of the people are concerned about only one aspect – “OK, I realized my purpose, my ultimate goal, whatever. Now what? How do I energize myself to actually achieve what I want?” Steve, we are not what we think, we are what we do. It is all about ACTION. You could be right saying that I like many others just making excuses to myself. I may even accept it. But, why would I make such excuses? This is my ultimate goal, that’s what I really want, right? Steve: “The goal isn’t to substitute one unconscious habit for another.” Addiction is unconscious. Well… I tend to agree. However, why would it be so bad if you unconsciously wanted to achieve your goals? We tend to do a lot of things unconsciously, brush our teeth, drive our cars, and… achieve our goals 11. X-Master Says:
January 17th, 2005 at 11:44 am

Oleg, Steve has not written games such as Evercrack. He has written puzzle games, etc – which are good and help kinds and people who want to get their mind in motion. I play chess on my PDA. The game was programmed and distributed by a guy like Steve. I have periods in which I play 2-3 games per day, and periods in which I play 2-3 games per week. Playing chess helps me feel relaxed and exercise my mind. Chess doesn’t take over my life. VERY FEW GAMES ARE HARMFUL TO PEOPLE. 12. Steve Pavlina Says:
January 17th, 2005 at 12:06 pm

If you do the exercise to completion, then yes… actually cry. Tears running down your face and all that. Like Robert De Niro in the movie Analyze This. A smaller swelling of emotion is what I called a mini-surge in the blog entry. That isn’t enough and won’t do anything for you if you stop there. If you follow the pingback link from comment #4 above, you can see an account of someone who completed it. If you don’t expect to cry or define yourself as a person who doesn’t, that will only make the exercise take longer, but it will still eventually converge. If you “already knew” the answer you think you know and seem to be going around it in circles without quite hitting the center, that’s what the Bruce Lee story in the original post was about. You need to let go of your attachment to what you expect to find in that circle. The true answer lies elsewhere; you’re only circling a false pre-conditioned answer, which is why you can’t get it to converge inside that circle. Just loosen up a bit on your expectations, relax your mind, head

off in a new direction, and keep typing answers, one after another. You have to empty your cup first before you can fill it. The true answer always seems to come just a bit past the point where you’re ready to give up. I know this process may sound silly, goofy, ooky-spooky, or whatever — don’t let that stop you though. 13. Oleg Says:
January 17th, 2005 at 12:41 pm

X-Master, You’ve got me wrong I am not trying to accuse Steve in writing harmful and addictive games. Neither I tried to prove that _all_ games are addictive and harmful. You missed whole point of what I wrote about MMORPGs. Please read my post again. 14. Rod Says:
January 18th, 2005 at 1:39 am

Agh! You got me. I spent about 45 minutes doing the exercise last night, although I was a little put off when my wife burst into the room about 25 minutes into it. I got a few things that resonated, but nothing made me cry, so I was left wondering if I had been doing it right. This morning I realised that even if I hadn’t found my life purpose, I was still feeling good because I’d managed to dump a whole load of baggage. Then, I was sitting at my desk at work and my mind went back to last night. I looked out of the window, saw that it was a beautiful sunny day, then … kablam! I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from embarrassing myself in front of my colleagues, because it hit me. My true purpose in life is to enjoy the journey. 15. Nick Says:
January 18th, 2005 at 10:12 am

Sorry, Steve. 40 minutes, 136 answers and nothing. No mini-surges, no crying, no nothing. I tried. I really did. But I honestly believe that this life we are living has no meaning or purpose. None. We are random bits of consciousness and nothing we do matters. I know the things I like: sex, love, sports, reading, programming, good food, travels. But that doesn’t make a purpose. They are just my motivators. For them (or through them) I worked hard and I was able to accomplish quite a bit. But I know it is all empty in the end. It only serves my pleasure. It has no greater meaning or purpose.

And I am not complaining, actually. I kinda’ like what I do and how I do it. I am good at it and it is fun. But I know its only purpose is to self-serve me. To make me feel good. Incidentally it helps others around me (the objects of my affection, the people that use my creations or my employees and the people making money for me) but that is NOT my purpose in life. Of course, I act as if it is. I have assigned it to be and it brings me where I want to go. But I know that is I whom I decided it. Because there is no such thing as a “true” purpose. Oh, and all these ideas are after-fact explanations. I do not think I had them in mind when I completed the exercise. I wrote all the possible purposes I could think off, both small and great, both easy and impossible. I stopped when I had nothing else to write. I can’t think of any more purposes that are not simple variations or combinations of those 136. But I won’t unsubscribe to your blog. I like your writing. Its fun, intelligent, and well meaning. Of course, it is naive and too new-age / nlp and conscience bull, but it’s well intentioned. You’re just spending too much damn time thinking about just living. Screw “live consciously” and just LIVE. Run, ski, dive, write code, have sex, enjoy yourself. Your way is just too much damn work: find purpose, find values, establish goals… Nick 16. Kent Says:
January 18th, 2005 at 7:40 pm

I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything you’ve written up to this point. I especially enjoyed the “Quantum Leap” article when you said in order for a rocket launched from earth to reach outer space, the rocket must exert a sufficient amount of sustained force to overcome the earth’s gravity. Then you analogized that to our situation in trying to produce change. I have an area of my life in which I need to “exert a sufficient amount of sustained force” to bring about a change, and I have found your analogy to be a powerful motivating force. However, this current article seems out of character for you, and, I must say, inflexible. Everyone is going to cry? Come on! You may need to rethink this one. It’s too formulaic and inflexible. Different people react different ways. And for many people a crying experience never occurs, nor does an ‘aha’ experience. They simply slowly come to realize what is right for them over time. 17. JD Says:
January 19th, 2005 at 1:14 am

I would go to the next step and say that once you have discovered your true purpose (and I completely understand what Steve’s saying, but I got there by a different route) and start to work towards it, then things start to flow. I worked for

many years in a profession I was good at, and which made money, but I hated. I was constantly having to overcome obstacles to keep moving forward. However, once I realised what my purpose is, it was as if I had tapped into a pipeline and the people and resources for me to move forward flowed without much effort on my part. In fact, some of the synchronistic events have been downright spooky! So, I would strongly urge anyone to complete Steve’s exercise and then, when you have found the very thing that taps through to your core, then work towards it and see how much easier it all becomes. (With one caveat: you have to trust it … at times, you will be faced with apparent obstacles which you are strongly attached to and reluctant to abandon, even annoyed when they are not going your way. Let them go. Trust that the ‘right’ thing will come and, if you stay aware, you will notice that what takes its place is *so* much better than your own puny plan!) 18. Steve Pavlina Says:
January 19th, 2005 at 8:39 am

Nick, Surely you can generate more than 136 answers. Given your initial belief that life has no purpose, I would have pegged you as one of those 3-hour 5-session guys. But it’s not a lack of time or the ability to generate answers that’s stopping you, is it? Given your beliefs it doesn’t surprise me that you would stop yourself short of finishing. Keep in mind that this exercise is more of a process of shedding and letting go vs. a hunting/finding process. The main purpose of populating the list is to clear all the false answers out of your mind, so you open yourself to the purposeful answer coming through. So in your case, you may not need to shed the idea of a false purpose but rather the idea of no purpose. I might suggest then that instead of asking the question, “What is my true purpose in life?” you try starting with a different question like, “Why do I believe my life has no purpose?” And see where that takes you. Again, the goal is to empty your mind to achieve the state of a “mind like water” where the answer that is true for you can come through clearly. Purpose also involves choice. You don’t have to choose to live a purposeful life. You can freely choose not to. For several years (when I was an atheist), I also believed that life had no purpose or meaning. Consequently, I’ve developed a good understanding of what it’s like to live on both sides of the fence. If I merely looked at both possibilities from a standpoint of logic, based on the results I got, purpose wins hands down.

19. Richard Says:
January 19th, 2005 at 2:06 pm

Steve, While I did not do this exercise yet I did come up with a life purpose several months ago. I came up with: “Live an extraordinary life” My problem is that I don’t know how to do that. I have a lot of problems dealing with work. I don’t know if it is that I am unhappy with what I do or just working in a big corporate environment. I find the corporate world too limiting on what an individual can accomplish. I have considered moving into sales, construction and/or owning my own business as a possible alternative. I don’t know why but these seem like options to give a person the environment to ‘live’. Do you or anyone else have any resources on how to find good jobs and careers that enable you to live an extraordinary life? 20. Steve Pavlina Says:
January 19th, 2005 at 3:05 pm

Richard, Your question is a common one, but it’s sort of backwards, which is why I don’t think you’ll be able to find a satisfactory answer. Your question contains the hidden assumption that jobs or careers are the enablers of an extraordinary life. I think that’s a false assumption. For me it’s more of the opposite. If I wanted to live an extraordinary life, I’d forget about career or jobs for a minute. I’d just take a moment to define to myself what it means for me to do that. What is extraordinary? What does that word entail? For example, if I were to define this for myself, an extraordinary life would mean a life of extraordinary service. So then I’d look at my talents and skills and desires and ask myself where I could best achieve that. Out of that line of questioning would pop out the job/career that’s right for me. 21. Crimson Says:
January 19th, 2005 at 4:45 pm

I’ve become convinced than many people’s lack of satisfaction with life comes with a fundamental inability to deal with tediousness. No matter what you do and no matter how much you love it, there will always be moments where you have to deal with tedium.

As a programmer for example, I’m sure you’re familiar with it. While making games is fun, sitting down and figuring how to design an file access module that is cros-splatform is NOT fun (for most people). Not saying this applies to you per se, but it’s an example of something people in one career may reasonably be expected to encounter which is extremely boring, regardless of whether they like their career as a whole. But I think a moment of transformation comes for those who get through this. All pre med majors know of the guys who couldn’t get through Biology or Organic chemistry and so had to drop. All compsci people know of guys who couldn’t handle the Math or C++ course and so had to drop. Rarely I think this is because these people aren’t smart enough to figure it out, but more often it’s because they aren’t willing to do what it takes to take their learning up a steep plateau to the next level. Now the learning and tedium thing aren’t exactly aligned, but they are close. When learning a big new subject area, there’s often a tediousness that’s involved before you reach the point where you’re effective. Some people know how to handle this and others don’t. I think know how to maintain the drive to keep at it is also important (something I believe Steve discusses in one of his dexterity.com articles) 22. Steve Pavlina Says:
January 19th, 2005 at 5:33 pm

I have a slight variation in my take on the tedium concept. While I’d agree that no line of work (even a purposeful one) is totally free of tedious activity, I think it’s not the tedium itself that stops people. I’d say it’s the question of “why should I put up with this” that causes people to stop themselves. For example, I once tried to learn to play the piano. I found it really tedious and boring — and especially awkward as a left-hander. So I gave up within a matter of weeks. But there are those like my wife who learned to play beautifully. For me there wasn’t a strong enough “why” to learn to play music, but many others who do learn to play have a stronger reason to push through the tedium. If you’re living on purpose, your capacity for putting up with failure, rejection, tedium, etc. will increase dramatically because you’ll have a very strong and compelling reason for pushing through. But without a compelling purpose, it will take a lot less of these obstacles to stop you in your tracks. 23. Crimson Says:
January 19th, 2005 at 9:09 pm

Agreed, the “why” is important. But sometimes I question the purpose of a life where the why is defined by someone else. I know of many succesful students/professionals who were successful because they were pushed by their

parents, afraid of looking dumb in front of their peers, or are afraid of losing a lifestyle, NOT because they had a strong internal drive to succeed. They go on to live outwardly successful lives, living in nice houses, driving nice cars, having the typical family, etc., but not because that’s what they chose to do, but because that’s what they were told to do. I think your excercise can be a good way to find that internal compass. For me personally, a “successful” life that was basically molded completely by the hands of others seems kind of empty. When you tell people like this that you’re just gonna leave your job, or up and move somewhere else, they always seem flabbergasted because you’re going off the well-worn trails of what you’re supposed to do. To me these are people who’s whole life is one based on reaction and fear, not concious choice, even though they’re materially successful. Also, I think some people, myself included would be perfectly happy doing nothing. Well, not really “nothing”, but not doing any one thing and pursuing whatever interests you have at the time (traveling, cooking, studying, etc.). When I imagine a life of no work, I don’t see one of laying in front of the TV 24 hours per day, but one where I’m free to do whatever I please, whenever I please. Unfortunately, I’ve got to work hard to get to that point where I can be lazy. Fortunately, I can use a skill that I love to use to try to get there and if I’m lucky, find some free time to pursue my other interests. That’s about as good of a medium I can find. 24. Crying dude Says:
January 20th, 2005 at 4:45 pm

Hi Steve, I tried this exercise for 5 times. I guess I am the one of those who is really stubborn. I did cry, but it was not the answer that made my cry. During this exercise I was listening to online radio. There was one particular melody that touched me so deeply. Just to be sure I tried this exercise one more time without any music. Nothing… Then I tried to listen to the same melody again and think about my true purpose… This time it was even more powerful. It made me cry again. Is this the answer? How to interpret it? 25. Steve Pavlina Says:
January 20th, 2005 at 7:24 pm

When you open yourself to finding your purpose, it isn’t uncommon to find quirky little things happening whereby it seems like the universe is trying to help you find the answer. Some people take a fairly atypical route through this process. My interpretation of the music is that it’s not the final answer but rather a clue. How did the music make you feel? The feelings you name can help point you in the right direction… towards a new line of possible answers.

For example, I’m often inspired by music, and what’s most inspiring is that which evokes the feelings in me that reasonate with my purpose: being courageous, being awake and alive, being at peace, etc. Just relax and focus on the intention to allow the answer to come to you. Again, this is a process of emptying yourself more than of trying to find the right answer. 26. Jethro Says:
January 25th, 2005 at 2:44 pm

Steve, Can your purpose change from time to time, or is it supposed to be constant throughout your whole life? I used to have a deep burning desire for doing meaningful work at a meaningful employer, but that aspect in my life just doesn’t matter that much anymore. I’m in my mid-20’s and right now the only thing that really gets me excited and ready to jump out of bed every morning is passionate romantic love, or the anticipation/challenge of trying to find it. And I should also mention that this purpose doesn’t even involve one particular woman, but it’s more like this ideal I have about sewing my wild oats. So I’m not sure if having this as my purpose is just doing what you said not to do – letting my motivation exist outside of me and not within me. However, personally, I don’t think this is being outer-motivateed or attached to one particular event in space/time. But instead I am internally motivated by just the idea of romantic love. Just as a person who has a purpose involving “service” isn’t attached to particular outcomes or results of one instance he helps another, but is internally motivated by the whole idea of serving others. I don’t know. I came up with some more general purposes and some others that probably sound more noble than just romance and sex. But honestly, these other more general/noble purposes just don’t move me as much as the thought of living a life full of romantic love. As an example, in the past, I was deeply motivated by career accomplishment and working at these high-profile companies. I never stayed in a particular job longer than 1 year and I kept moving up and up the proverbial corporate ladder looking for the next challenge. And every job I had was the result of self-motivated selfeducation that I willingly did myself on my own free time and paid for with my own money. So even though that purpose wasn’t necessarily all that general or noble, and doesn’t really motivate me all that much today, I still think I was able to accomplish a lot while I had that particular purpose involving personal career advancement. So I guess my question is should I just follow whatever current purpose that really seems to motivate me at this point in my life? Or am I selling myself short by not discovering a more universal or noble purpose? Or will the more noble life

purposes, such as service and compassion, come to me later when I’m older and have more life experience? Because one of my biggest fears right now is trying to help others and ending up making things even worse. Kind of like as if I was some pointy-haired manager who “inflicts” leadership and compassion on other people who don’t even need it. 27. Brian Yamabe Says:
February 15th, 2005 at 4:04 pm

I was pretty sceptical about this. I tried sitting down and doing this for 20 minutes and felt some tugs, but I didn’t think there was anyway this was going to work. I kept putting down things like own my own business, have a successfull this, be good at that. Nothing. It seemed like something that might work for some, but not for me. So, I was reading some other article by Steve today and found my way back to this one. After reading the article again, I still couldn’t imagine this working. I then started reading the comments and decided to follow trackback #4 as Steve suggested. whoisnick.com ’s purpose turned on some lightbulb and BAM! I was balling. I’ve found my purpose and it make sense. I think the people having trouble are taking the wrong approach. Your purpose is not something you do, it’s the reason you do things. One person’s purpose may sound like a goal to someone else and that is part of the reason why this is difficult. In case you were wondering, my purpose is, “To be at home to raise my daughter.” 28. gtdlife Says:
March 11th, 2005 at 11:49 am

My Purpose I’m always looking for ways to improve myself. One day I ran across an article by Steve Pavlina which discusses … 29. Warren Hicks Says:
June 11th, 2005 at 1:05 am

Thank you Steve for a creative approach to the problem of finding out what a person’s purpose in life is. A couple of reflections though – in all the replies i didn’t find many revealing what they discovered. Were they embarrassed or did they discover something they felt was unreachable? I discovered my purpose in life in quite another way – yet I think it might be possible to find it using your method if a person was really honest and prepared to allow his creator to speak to him.

OUr creator is keen that we discover it so he wrote it down and if we are prepared to take the journey he will also reveal it tous spiritually. In general terms it is to be Know the Son of God and to seek to imitate him. 30. thankful Says:
July 16th, 2005 at 2:08 pm

67. To make worthy of my love the unworthy, to enlighten those who are dull, to embolden those who need emboldening, to love a wife, to love children, to know, to learn, and to laugh and cry as much as possible with those who I love. 31. Kenneth Lantrip Says:
July 25th, 2005 at 3:29 pm

Hmmm, Where do I start? Let’s start at the beginning. I was as lost as anyone on this subject, searching for purpose in my existance. And I mean, heavily searching. As in the kind of search for answers to keep you a participant in this world. So one day about two months ago, I was thinking about conciousness and the soul. As in exactly what makes my conciousness me. I got to thinking about who I would be if I were cloned. Which body I would be in. The original at first but maybe the second if suddently the original died, say in it’s sleep. I would wake up in the second. I got to thinking, that if the thing that makes this person me is the pattern of processing in my brain, then copying that pattern is copying me. I would then be inside two bodies at once with some hidden tanglement connecting the two as one. If not, then the pattern is NOT what makes this person me. Hmm, let’s go a little deeper. Since, I find myself in existance now, it is a hard “self-proovable” fact, that I do exist. The world around me may not exist as I perceive it. But I exists none the less. What would happen IF there was no God and religion was just made up? Let’s think about that. Well, let’s see, first, I exist anyway. So when this body dies, so will the processing that makes it me. Hmm. Then what? Well, since time is infinite, and the atoms of this universe did happen to make me in existance once… It could happen again. And again. And again! Oh dear, that kind of exposes a problem. What shall I do about this problem of hopping into existance over and over till…. the end of time… which, is NEVER??? Hmm, I think, I’ll need a safe place to spend my awake moments. If I’m lucky, I’ll land into an existance that will be enjoyable to be in. Unlucky might land me

in a ground excavation machine, stuck in a mountain for a very long time with nothing but myself and my limited memories. Hmm, I wonder, if there are any entities out there that are already smart enough to have thought of this problem? Perhaps one that would care about us “lost souls” and that would create a safe place specifically for “holding” souls in say, a paradise of some sort. Hmm, that sounds a lot like GOD. Maybe, there is something to religion, after all. Long story short… I personally don’t think God created people specifically. He created a creating ground that would allow us lucky souls to come into his existance. Once here, it is our responsiblity to seek the safety that he has provided. And in that, you can find, the grand purpose for your life, and everyone around you. 32. Tomas Says:
July 30th, 2005 at 7:25 am

great article, thanks Steve! 33. EA Says:
August 26th, 2005 at 5:01 am

Ah, I see the problem. Nick, you’re assesing activities, not purposes. See, a purpose consists out of your goals, which are filled with necessary activities. With other words, you’re on a different abstract level. To be more of a helping hand, ask yourself: “What good would I give to humanity?”.

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Chapters 1 to 4: The Preparation participant:

stage will see the

• • • • • •

clarify their career direction conduct initial job market research identify target organizations adjust their job resume and applications brief their referees, and gain a positive mindset

Chapters 5 to 7: The Action participant:

stage will see the

• • •

access the visible and the hidden job markets develop and utilize networks tailor marketing letters and job applications manage recruiters prepare for job interviews celebrate achievements

How do I buy?

• • •

Preparation Stage
Chapter 1: Taking Stock

• •

Enables examination of your career goals and needs in the context of other life priorities Ensures that you are exploring your needs and taking into consideration:

o o o o

What type of work is the most fulfilling and satisfying for you Your career anchors Your dreams and aspirations Personality and background

o

Career needs in the context of what stage you are at in your life

Chapter 2: My Offering

Download Free Career Enrichment Tool Kit Overview

Requires you to critically examine and articulate what you are offering the marketplace in terms of:

o

Specific marketable achievements Skills Motivations and passions Values Personal Qualities Capability level Aspirations

o o o o o o

Chapter 3: Identify and Plan Direction

Supports you to prepare a long-term career strategy map Supports you to plan and make decisions about what options are available for the next step in your career Provides a decisionmaking template for you to make choices about whether you move into your next

role within your company or plan to exit your company

Guides you in the steps to take in getting promoted within your company Informs you in the options available to you should you decide to leave the company Guides you on how to position yourself if you leave your company in difficult circumstances (termination) Provides a framework for you to clarify your desired role Articulates your sales pitch on what you have to offer and what you want in your career Identifies how to prepare a target list of companies and research those companies Enables you to complete your selfmarketing plan Provides useful hints on how to manage your energy and focus during a period of transition

Chapter 4: Resume Preparation

Enables you to construct a comprehensive and highly targeted resume to position you in the best possible way Explores the appropriate style and format of resume for your role specification Selection of the best referees Briefing referees on

• •

what you wish them to say about you

Action Stage
Chapter 5: Getting Into Action

Supports you to identify opportunities for roles in the hidden and transparent job market Builds skills in networking to increase employability and conduct research about roles and industry Helps you to prepare marketing letters Explains the most effective way to respond to job applications Provides useful hints in how to cold call network contacts Guides you in how to get the best out of recruitment agencies

• •

Chapter 6: In the Marketplace

Prepares you for job interviews and psychometric tests Understanding the different types of interviews Understanding the importance of body language and presentation Builds interviewing skills through practicing answering tough job interview questions Provides a framework for negotiating the

terms of salary package and benefits

Items to consider in evaluating multiple offers

Chapter 7: Career Enrichment

Ensures that you celebrate and reward your achievements in career transition Teaches you to clarify performance expectations in your new role Identify learning and development needs Engage in ongoing professional development Mentoring and executive coaching Recognizing the importance of managing relationships Recognizing the importance of managing perceptions Deciding what to do if the role does not work out Mapping your next career step

• •

• •

Career Decision Making Process

Many students are challenged from the moment they enter NU to answer the question: "What career are you going to choose?" In order to make a career decision that is right for you, you must engage in the career decision making process. The career decision process is: ...A process that takes time. You cannot make a good decision until you have adequate information about yourself and the world of work of self

knowledge and information gathering, as well as having experiences that point you in a direction that is right for you. ...A proactive process. No one can tell you what you should do, and a career decisions will not appear through thin air. You must take the time and the effort to engage in actions that will help you to make decisions. You must also be self-reflective about these activities. You cannot just take in information, you must reflect on how this information fits with your own interests, values and skills. There are things that you can do during all 4 years at Northwestern to increase your chances of making a decision that is right for you. ...Not a linear process. While there are specific steps that can be taken, there is no specific order in which these steps should be taken, and you may repeat steps throughout the process. Some tips for beginning the process: ...Examine your motivation for engaging in the process Many students will begin the process because they feel pressured by others (parents, peers, advisors), or because they in some way feel that they are “behind”. Your journey must come from a genuine desire to engage in self discovery. ...Challenge any myths you have about the career decision making process ...Be open to new experiences and ideas. We only see or hear about a few careers fields on a day to day basis. New careers are being created every day. In addition don't be afraid to experiment with new roles in student groups, the classroom, or at work to discover new information about your skills and interests. ...Be aware of external influences on your decision making. Are you following in the footsteps of peers, parents, and advisors, or are the decisions you are making truly your own? How does your culture, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status influence your decision?

It is not uncommon to work with both a career counselor and an internship advisor/job search advisor at the same time. What is most important is that you are engaging in the process and taking steps towards a future that is fulfilling and meaningful.

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