I studied engineering in school because I didn’t really know what I wanted to study to become after junior college. So I went to the local university and spent four years of my life there. I did well enough to graduate and I remember after I had cleared all the exams and waiting to leave the university hall of residence where I stayed, I felt really lost and didn’t know what I was going to do after graduation. A lot of people felt that way I’m sure. Eventually after a few months I found a job with an engineering firm and worked there as a test development engineer. I struggled quite a bit and found that I really didn’t have a great interest or talent to make it as a good engineer. I started looking for another job and found a job as an IT systems engineer after 6 months. The job was better and I learnt a lot of new things and got immersed in doing project management work. It was demanding but I pulled through the first year. Subsequently I moved to handle different projects over the years. When globalization became widespread, the IT industry responded accordingly and IT services became regionalized and globalized. A lot of change started to happen. As part of the IT function, I went through those re-organizations constantly. While I was doing ok, I felt there has to be some deeper meaning to life and work – something was missing. One day, I came across Stephen Covey and his book – the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. That book changed the course of my career and life – I remember reading the chapter where he asked me to imagine my life when I was an old man and looking back at my life – what did I see? Did I pursue my passions? Did I live my life without any regrets?
Dr Covey was in fact gently nudging me to find my purpose in life. I started reading and researching about purpose and finding out about myself. After some time, I came to the insight that finding our purpose has to do with finding out what is our contribution to the world or to other people. It’s about how we contribute and how we choose to make a difference. Each one of us wants to make a difference. It’s how we make the difference that distinguishes my purpose from your purpose. To answer the question of what is your purpose in life, you have to fill in the blanks to: My purpose in life is to make a difference to others by ………….
I felt that since I spent so much time at work, I wanted my work to be aligned to my purpose. To do that I have to figure out what kind of activities excite me and what activities I find meaningful. For me, it was learning new things and helping others learn new things. To find out what you love to do, go inside yourself. Take the time to write down what you like to do, take time to become more aware of what you enjoy doing.
This is the simplest and an effective way to find out your life purpose. There are 5 questions to answer. Ready to find out what they are?
The 5 questions are:
Who am I?
What do I do love to do?
Who do you do it for?
What do they want or need?
How they change as a result of it?
I heard these 5 questions from Adam Leipzig from his TEDTalk and they’re excellent!
First question – who am I? That’s your name! Say it out! Write it down here
Second question – what do I love to do? Ask yourself what is the one thing you feel you are uniquely qualified to teach others? Say it out! Write it down
Third question – who do you do it for? Say it out! Write it down
Fourth question – What do they want or need? Say it out! Write it down
Fifth question – How do they change as a result of it? Say it out! Write it down
Notice that only 2 questions are about yourself. The other 3 is about other people and how we serve others.
Here’s the good thing about expressing your purpose – you will be happier. Happier people focus on others and how they can serve others and take care of others. When they do that we will feel happier too and life will reward us for helping others.
When someone asks you what do you do? You can just tell them the answer to the last question.
For example, you may say I help people look and feel their best if you’re say a hairdresser or retail assistant at a shop. You may say you give kids awesome dreams if you’re a children’s book writer.
I would say I help people be more effective, motivated and happier at work.
A young man wanted to find his purpose and went to the village wise man for help. He said “Follow me”. He brought him to the river where the young man could see many people panning for gold.
The old man said “There are 3 type of prospectors”
“What do you mean?”, asked the young man
“The first type is those who strike gold straightaway. They take their plunder, cash it in and live comfortably for the rest of their lives”
“The second type of people – they pan for years – they know there is gold there and they have seen others strike it rich, so they persist until they too find the gold they are looking for”
“What about the third type?” , asked the young man
The wise old man said “The third type of people they are the ones who get frustrated they haven’t found gold, so after a day, 2 days, a week or a year, they give up and walk away and never find gold”
Slightly confused the young man asked the old man “What’s that got to do with finding my purpose”
“Aah –yes, there are those in life who look for their purpose and seem to find it almost immediately. They have a clear sense of purpose and pursue it with enthusiasm. Then there are those who have to look harder and persist and after perhaps many years they find it. Then there are those who want to know their purpose but are frustrated with the search and give up too soon”
The old man told the young man “The search is worth it just like the gold in the river”
In my case, after I’ve identified my purpose, I went in pursuit of it. I decided to move into the field of organization and people development. I pursued further qualifications, getting a diploma in training initially and later on, a masters in organizational leadership. I volunteered for external facilitation work to gain experience and eventually made an internal transition within my company to do the work full-time.
My struggle to live my purpose is not easy but it is also not unique. I believe that each of us has a purpose. Articulating our purpose is very affirming to the soul and is one of the sources that would give us a strong sense of meaning in our lives.
Take the time, have faith and search for your purpose – you will find the gold eventually.