Living the questions: How to find your purpose
Much has been written of late about the value of purpose-driven leadership. Even I myself recently wrote that purpose-driven leadership is more important than ever during these times of tumultuous change and uncertainty. The problem with all these articles and blog posts promoting purpose-driven leadership is that they assume we have all done the work of identifying and living our purpose.
To lead with purpose requires that you first live your purpose. And to live your purpose requires that you know your purpose. And finding your purpose is where the real work lies; in fact, it is arguably one of the most difficult and important feats in life! And yet, we are rarely given any insight into how we are supposed to do this.
There are differing opinions about whether purpose is static or dynamic. At THNK, we believe that the work of identifying your purpose is an ongoing process and one that should be continued throughout one’s life. For some people, their purpose may become clear early on in life and will change very little; for others, their purpose may morph and shift over time. Regardless of which camp you fall into, we at THNK believe that checking in with yourself and (re)aligning with your purpose should be a regular practice.
Asking yourself the right questions can help you uncover your purpose
While it may seem counterintuitive, your purpose is not usually something you just know. It takes time and a concerted effort to find it. Knowing what you want to do with your life is different from knowing what it is that truly drives you. Your purpose is not your work; it is your reason for being and what carries you forward.
The best way to find your purpose is to ask yourself the right questions. Imagine if someone asked you, “What is your life purpose?” Would you be able to answer them right away? From a young age we are asked these types of “big questions,” but they often don’t actually lead us to helpful or insightful answers. Questions like “what do you want to be when you grow up?” or “what impact do you want to have in the world?” ask us to think externally about what we will do or what we will leave behind, as opposed to thinking internally about who we want to be.
Your purpose is not what you do. Your purpose is embedded in who you are.
What are the right questions?
The right questions are those that really make you think, but that are also specific enough to have a precise answer. The best questions are based in history and experience. These are questions that ask you to reflect on tangible things, experiences you have had, or events that have impacted you. You may need to sit with them for a while, and they may make you feel uncomfortable, but the answer will be worth the effort.
For example, imagine if someone asked you, “What makes you completely lose track of time?” Chances are you would have to take some time to think about your answer, but the answer is already there inside you. You have experienced “losing track of time” before, so you’re not trying to come up with something new. You just have to locate that memory.
Questions like this can help you hone in on the things that really matter to you. If something makes you lose track of time, it’s probably something that you really care about or it really brings you joy. And those types of things are the key to unlocking your purpose.
Want more examples of great questions? Download our mini-workbook of reflective questions here:
Live the questions in order to live your purpose
Great questions can open windows into the soul and help us identify the things that truly matter to us. Those things can change over time, however, which is why we at THNK believe that asking yourself great questions and aligning with your purpose should be a regular and continuous practice.
Truly great questions are the ones you can ask yourself over and over again and that really force you to think about what matters most to you. The work of identifying your purpose is not a one-time experience. It is an ongoing process that can morph and change. But while your purpose may shift, the questions don’t have to. The same great question can bring you new insights day after day, and year after year.
Our advice to you? Live the questions. Find the ones that really make you think and make it a habit to ask yourself those questions on a regular basis. You may be surprised at what emerges.
Do you want to ALIGN with your purpose and build a continuous reflective practice for yourself? Join us in our new short-format program, ALIGN: Manifest Your Purpose, starting December 10!