“How do I find more meaning and purpose in my life?”
This is one of the most common questions my clients come to me with. Chances are you might be in the same boat.
Most of us spend our lives meandering around without a clue as to what we want to do with our lives.
At 18 we’re told that we should know what kind of a career we want. After all, “how else will you declare a major in college?” We finish school, get a job and still feel unfulfilled. Along the way, we might change jobs, change career paths and maybe even get more education and training so we can make a career pivot towards having more meaning. Yet, things are still looking a bit fuzzy. And we’re actually not quite sure what higher purpose we are pivoting towards.
We then turn to self-help articles and books that promise to help us find our meaning.
- Five Steps to Finding Your Life Purpose.
- 7 Steps to Discover Your Purpose.
- 10 Life Purpose Tips to Help You Find Your Passion.
Still haven’t figured it out… What gives?
I would venture to suggest that perhaps we’re just not asking the right questions.
As Edward Hodnett said, “If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers.”
Most often, we’re asking big and broad questions like:
- What do I want to do with my life
- How do I live a life with meaning?
- What is my purpose?
- How do I figure out what my purpose is?
- Why can’t I find my purpose?
- What happens if I don’t have a purpose?
For those asking slightly more specific questions, it might sound like:
- What are my top four values?
- What dreams have I been deferring?
- How do I want to contribute in my life?
- What do I love to do?
- How do I want to feel every day?
These questions are too big and too broad to provide a good foundational starting point.
Instead of helping to guide you to where you want to go, these questions will leave you feeling even more overwhelmed, flapping wildly like an inflatable flailing tube (wo)man that you often see in front of a car dealership. How do you even begin to tackle such big questions?
When it comes to discovering your purpose, the key is to ask big and specific questions that are both inspirational and fun.
This is where Mark Manson’s 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose comes into the picture.
Mark offers seven thought provoking and, yes, strange questions that help you dig into what really matters to you at your core. These are different than your typical ‘what is my purpose’ type of questions. They’re big and specific, which will require you to respond with a big and specific answer. They’re also inspirational, fun and slightly ridiculous. This will lead you to an inspirational and fun answer. Because what’s a life purpose if it isn’t inspirational and fun for you?
My personal favorite question to ponder is
#3: What makes you forget to eat and poop?
“We’ve all had that experience where we get so wrapped up in something that minutes turn into hours and hours turn into “Holy crap, I forgot to have dinner.”
The essence of the question is “What activities put you in flow?” Moments when you feel completely immersed in an activity. You are living in the moment, fully absorbed with what is at hand. Time completely disappears. Any sense of exhaustion, hunger, or the need to poop completely dissipates. It’s the perfect intersection of the level of challenge matched with your skill level.
Knowing what puts you into this state can guide you to a deeper understanding of your intrinsic motivations, your areas of passion and where your strengths lie. But it’s not just about the activity itself. It’s taking it one step deeper and asking yourself, “What is it about the activity that really matters to me?”
I get lost in hearing people’s life stories, particularly strangers. I can sit for hours just listening as someone shares their wildest dreams and deepest fears; their heartfelt desires and greatest struggles. I would listen and forget to eat and poop.
What excites me most isn’t just about the socializing. It’s about learning people’s life story and witnessing how much love and kindness is within all of us. It’s about understanding how similar we all are and connecting the dots behind what makes us all tick. It’s about recognizing how so many of us have big, lofty, remarkable dreams, yet we will let our harsh inner critic hold ourselves back from making moves.
Listening to stories always get me wondering why so many of us end up living a life assigned by the ‘should’s’ of others. It seems as if most people are merely mimicking patterns of living that are passed onto them by family, school, culture, work and media.
Becoming aware of these moments and my intrinsic motivations led me to my personal passion and mission: to empower people to boldly grab their fountain pen so they can finally be the author of their life story! Because everyone has a dream they want to pursue (even if they don’t fully know what it is yet). And more importantly, because if you don’t own and tell your story somebody else will. That’s my passion. And it all came from noticing what makes me forget to eat and poop.
So, what makes you forget to eat and poop?
And if you were to dig deeper, what’s behind the activity? What about it absolutely enthralls you? These answers are your foundational starting points for understanding your passions, strengths, and ultimately, your purpose.
Continue asking the right questions and you’ll arrive at the right answer.