People who've achieved exceptional results often talk about how they found their life's purpose, "their why", and that this was the secret to their success.
If you'd love to know why being clear about your life purpose is so powerful and how you can make it work for you, you're in luck! - I've broken it down below, including understanding the key concepts, a step-by-step guide for writing your own inspiring statement of life purpose, together with lots of inspiration and resources.
Sounds good right? Let's dive right in!
This article is organized into 3 main sections:
- Definition: What is a Life Purpose Statement? - Your "Why"
- Why Finding Your Why is So Powerful
- Make Better Decisions Consistently
- Get Inspired & Automate Your Motivation
- Have Unshakable Confidence
- Be Highly Effective
- Eliminate Bad Habits
- Live a Life that Matters
- Have a Noble, Enjoyable & Fulfilling Life
- Life Purpose - Aligned & Effective
Definition: What is a Life Purpose Statement?
Your life purpose statement is your "why" for life. It's "why" you jump out of bed each day, eager to get on with life! It's the essence of:
- The values and activities that are important to you.
- The outcomes you desire for yourself.
- The contribution you wish to make to others.
You can call this your "Life Purpose Statement" or your "Why". I've used these two phrases interchangeably throughout this article.
It is typically 2-3 sentences.
Why Defining Your Life Purpose is So Powerful
There are many important benefits of having a clearly defined "why" for your life including:
Your why is a simple and powerful reminder of your values.
When you compare good vs bad decisions, you'll often notice a pattern. For example:
- Make yourself a healthy lunch vs Eat a hamburger on the go
- Safe and invest vs Splurge on flamboyant luxuries
Perhaps the most famous of these comparisons is the "Marshmallow test". It is widely considered to be the most reliable indicator developing a successful life in its various facets including health and wealth.
When you make the good decision, you have prioritized a long-term benefit (using the examples above: health / financial security) over an inferior short-term 'benefit' (a taste we enjoy / playing with a shiny new thing). The reason we often prioritize the inferior short term benefits is due to the "now bias": The benefits of something that's right in front of us in the here and now are very clear and therefore very compelling. The solution is to create a more powerful awareness in your mind of the long-term benefits. A great way to do this is to have a simple, easy to remember "Why" that reminds you of your values:
A well-defined "why" will naturally guide your mind to make the better decisions, based on the superior long-term benefits that you desire.
Your why gives you clarity of purpose
Some days you jump out of bed and have a super enjoyable & productive day. Other days you get up a bit late and drag yourself through some mundane tasks. So why the difference? On the days that went great, you were clear about what you wanted to do that day: You had clarity of purpose. This not only helps you get much more done but it also helps you enjoy the process, because you know why you're doing it. Even if the task itself would otherwise feel mundane/unpleasant, you can feel good about getting it done because you know it is helping you make progress in the life you have designed.
At any time you need to, you can have a shot of "psychological coffee" by taking a quick look at your "Why" – it can instantly get you in a positive state by reminding you of the awesome experience that your life is.
Your why is your internal compass
We are living in a time of unprecedented change: Globalization is redefining what borders are. Technology is revolutionizing whole industries and redefining what jobs are done by machines vs humans.
We all face challenges in life from both people and circumstances. In the moments that you face questions from outside or within, your why will provide you with an internal compass that enables you to confidently commit to decisions that are good for you and those around you. So instead of fearing change, you will embrace it as opportunity to learn and grow.
It will give you a strong foundation to protect you from the buffeting of changes around you, so that you stay on track and stay in a positive state.
Most people … are like a falling leaf that drifts and turns in the air, flutters, and falls to the ground. But a few others are like stars which travel one defined path: no wind reaches them, they have within themselves their guide and path.Hermann Hesse
Your why gives you focus
If you're thinking about buying a particular car, you see examples of that model of car all over town. It's not that suddenly, more of those cars have been specially imported; It's just that you've tuned-in and noticed the ones that have been there all along. The same thing happens in all areas of our lives: You filter your experience according to what you are focused on. So it makes a lot on sense to intentionally focus on the things you want. You can do this by defining your life purpose clearly and reviewing it regularly so that it is a natural focus of your subconscious. So as you go through life, you will naturally notice and act upon the opportunities that will take you in the direction of your life's purpose.
Having your subconscious aligned with your life purpose is important for another reason: Establishing and maintaining healthy habits is much easier. Habits are instinctive behaviors driven by your subconscious rather than your conscious reasoning. So the best way to influence your habits is to influence your subconscious. For example: If you include staying healthy in your life purpose, it's a lot easier to justify taking the time in your day-to-day to eat well and do exercise because your life purpose reminds you that this is a priority for you.
Having a powerful and irresistible “Why” will provide you with the necessary “How”Tony Robbins
Your why conditions you to live a noble life
Ever notice yourself engaging in a bad habit simply because you "haven't got anything better to do"? When you have a powerful "Why" it's easy to focus on activities that help you do good and feel good!
For example, someone might blow their money on (choose your vice) but if they give it some thought, they could find a use for the money that will bring them and others much more happiness: Such as taking their partner out for a date or for a surprise weekend break!
Change your thoughts and you change your worldNorman Vincent Peale
Your Why reminds you of your priorities so you focus on things that matter
To do lists don't work. As Tony Robbins quite rightly points out, we only get done our "Must Dos" in life: "I must go to work, I must pick up the kids, I must pay the bills" etc – sound familiar? Meanwhile we have a list of wonderfully fulfilling and enjoyable activities that we never get to!
The solution is to get the right things in the "Must Do" category. You can do that by having a compelling life purpose statement that reminds you of your priorities and referring to it regularly. This will ensure that your real priorities are at the forefront of your mind, so you are focused on the things that matter to you.
Most people major in minor things.Tony Robbins
Your Why enables you to work towards your higher purpose
Most of us have had times in our lives when it felt great to be alive and we were enjoying what we were doing so much that we even lost track of time! Often referred to as being "in the flow", these moments come about when we're doing something that both we're good at and we enjoy! For most of us, these experiences are sporadic. By defining your why and therefore the direction your life takes, you can intentionally create these moments of intense enjoyment & fulfillment much more often.
For example, if you know that your why includes contributing to others you can set up a community with regular events, putting you in a position to share this joy regularly!
You are the masterpiece of your own life and you create it with your thoughtsJoe Vitale
Life Purpose - Aligned & Effective
Creating a "perfect life plan" on paper is easy. So why do we often fail to follow through? It's because there are a number of forces that can act as powerful headwinds if we're not mindful of them. These include our emotional needs together with the quest for money and happiness.
The great news is that we can use these same forces to help us succeed once we understand them! Here's how:
This explains why we have habits that we aren't happy about: We are driven to engage in some negative behaviors because they fulfil, to some degree, one of these fundamental needs. The good news is that we can use the understanding of these needs to eliminate these negative habits and replace them with positive habits: We can come up with an alternative behavior that fulfils the same need but in a much more positive way. For example, if a person eats too much to have a sense of security, they could work on their health to get an increased sense of security from their sense of well-being. The times you have been able to overcome a negative habit in the past are often because you understood that it wasn't the best way to fulfil your needs and you replaced it with a healthy alternative.
When thinking about your life purpose, it's helpful to think about how you can fulfil each of these needs in the most positive way. This will both protect you from bad habits and enable you to design a noble, fulfilling and enjoyable lifestyle.
Note that each person will be drawn to a different degree to satisfying each of these needs so focus on those that resonate most with you – this is what will make your "Why" personal to you: It's important that your Life Purpose Statement is aligned with the needs you value most, so that you are naturally driven by your emotions at all times.
For many people "making lots of money" is one of their big goals in life. It's important to remember that money is neither good nor bad: It is simply a tool. Like most tools, it can be used to create both positive and negative outcomes. Money is a particularly powerful tool: So it makes sense to include "making money" in our life purpose because having money facilitates virtually every aspect of life. However, because it is so powerful, we need to be especially careful how we think about it and consequently how we use it.
Money is portable power
There are both good reasons and bad reasons to want money. When defining your "why" it's important to ensure that the underlying motivations are positive:
Examples of bad reasons to want money:
- To show off
- To control/exploit people
- To over-indulge in extravagant behavior / vices
Examples of good reasons to want money:
- To provide security and peace of mind for yourself and those close to you
- To invest in your health and wellbeing
- To invest in education for yourself and others
- To have the freedom to do meaningful work that's good for you and others
- To have the time and opportunities to establish meaningful connections with other people
- To contribute to society / help people
- To create positive experiences for yourself and those around you (eg eating out, weekend trips, holidays, generous tips)
- To enjoy all the positive things life has to offer
- To simplify your life
Luxury is a matter not of all the things you have, but of all the things you can afford to do withoutPico Iyers
Ensuring that your financial goals are driven by positive reasons does wonders for your motivation: It eliminates internal conflicts and gives you a wonderful sense of alignment in your thoughts, words and actions.
Should the pursuit of happiness be a part of your life purpose? I say a resounding yes to this for a number of reasons:
- It's very pleasant to be in the company of happy, positive people. Be that happy positive person for others!
- We are driven by our emotions. When you are feeling happy and positive, you jump out of bed in the morning and are highly motivated to get lots of useful things done.
- Happiness, like love and knowledge, is one of those wonderful phenomena that multiplies when you share it: When you give it to others, you get to keep at least as much yourself as well. By doing this we can create powerful waves of positivity as we interact with each other.
- Having a great life purpose can create and maintain a wonderful "joie de vivre" in you - the joy of being alive!
If you want to make yourself happy, make someone else happyMark Twain
The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you or gives you a sense of meaning, joy or passion.Terry Orlick
Contribution deserves a special mention because it can create fulfilment:
Before you start worrying about how much money this "contribution" is going to cost you, let me clarify – money is just one of many things that you can contribute, and it's not even the most important one. You can also contribute your time, experience, insights, skills/talent, caring, energy, company, focus etc.
Examples of ways to contribute to others:
- Appreciate your partner. Regularly show them you love them in ways that are meaningful to them. For example, if they love hugs, give them lots of hugs!
- Appreciate your family and friends. It can be as simple as staying in touch and spending time with them.
- Give to people you don't know (yet). Aside from the obvious, money, there are lots of ways to give. For example, you can give your time by volunteering or simply by smiling at a stranger you could make their day!
- Accept Gifts from Others Graciously. With all this focus on "selflessness" it would be easy to think that the right thing to do is not to accept help from others, so as to not "put them out". Remember how good it feels to give to other people? If someone is offering to give you a gift or help it's because they want to, so allow them the pleasure of giving by accepting gracefully!
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that's considered a strong positive factor in longevity and life satisfaction. It's based on the evaluation of four key questions, considered together:
- What do I love doing?
- What does the world need?
- What can I be paid for?
- What am I good at?
It's clear that the more of these conditions are met, the better you'll feel about your life. In fact, because each of these questions is so important, unless you meet all four, there is a significant sense of lacking and unease.
For example: If you focus on what you love, what you're good at and what you can be paid for, you'll enjoy what you do but you may feel you're not contributing anything of value to others (what the world needs).
This illustrates how important it is to identify and answer all the key questions when defining your why.
Life Purpose - Action Plan
Life Purpose Guide - How to Find Your Why
Here's the step-by-step guide that will enable you to define your life purpose and make it work for you:
1. Life Purpose Quiz
Questions to Ask Yourself
The 6 Human Needs
Define your life purpose so that it fulfils your six human needs in a positive way. So you create a mentality that eliminates bad habits and fosters good habits. With this in mind, it useful to ask yourself the following questions:
Having Ikigai gives you a strong sense of having positive things to live for and to look forward to. This does wonders for your health, motivation and sense of joy in life! With this in mind, consider the following questions together. Of the things that interest me:
2. Life Purpose Tips
3. Define Your Life Purpose
4. How to Make Sure it Works
Defining your life purpose will have the powerful positive effects discussed in this article only if it is a dominating and consistently present concept in your mind. How do you do this:
Life Purpose Inspiration & Resources
Life Purpose Quotes
“Having a powerful and irresistible Why will provide you with the necessary How”
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
“You are the masterpiece of your own life and you create it with your thoughts.”
“The purpose of life, as far as I can tell, is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant.”
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
“When you find your life purpose: Work is required but suffering is not.”
“It’s never too late to start doing what makes you happy!”
“We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give”
“There is no exercise better for the human heart than lifting someone else up”
“True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
“Most of us are trying to be so efficient that we’ve lost the emotion, which is what makes us effective”
“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”
“The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, or gives you a sense of meaning, joy, or passion.”
“If you can tune into your purpose and really align with it, setting goals so that your vision is an expression of that purpose, then life flows much more easily.”
A thought transfixed me: For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.
“The purpose of a goal is what it makes of you as a person.”
“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.”
“Being efficient is doing things right; Being effective is doing the right things.”
“Your goal is not to be better than anyone else. Your goal is to be better than you used to be.”
“I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.”
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.”
“I was with a Buddhist teacher a number of years ago. And he said, ‘Let me give you the secret. If you were to meditate for twenty years, this is where you’d finally get to: Just be yourself. But be all of you.’ ”
“I’ve made a huge ‘To Do’ list. I just haven’t figured out who’s going to do it!”
“Some days you eat salads and go to the gym. Some days you eat cupcakes and refuse to put on pants: It’s called balance.”
“It will never be perfect – Make it work.”
“Don’t take yourself too seriously – No one else does!”
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and miss but that we aim to low and reach it!”
“You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way!”
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”
“Be the person that you most admire.”
“Most people major in minor things: They are focused on how to make a living instead of how to design their life.”
“When you clearly know what aims you wish to achieve over the course of your life, be they material, emotional, physical or spiritual, and you spend your days accomplishing them, you will ultimately find eternal joy. … You will come to know a splendid reality. But you must know your life’s aim and then manifest this vision into reality by consistent action. We sages call this Dharma, which is the Sanskrit word for life’s purpose.”
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
“At any moment in time your reality is based on whatever you focus on.”
Life Purpose Statement Examples
“The purpose of my life for me, Tony Robbins, is to serve God and my fellow man by being a powerful, loving, passionate, outrageous, courageous, strong, playful, crazy example of the unlimited possibilities that God gives when you commit your life to service and contribution.”
This statement was made by Tony Robbins in his audio program "Ultimate Edge". He explains how it's an evolution of various careers that attracted him when he was growing up:
- Archeologist – Why? - To uncover things that had been not discovered before and to share them with other people.
- Police Artist - Why? - To be creative & help people.
- Rock Star - Why? - To entertain people & change their emotional states.
Tony feels aligned in his life purpose because he's found a way to fulfill all of his "Whys" with his lifelong passion of studying peak performers and sharing this knowledge to help others.
“My life’s goal is to be of service to a greater good. Wherever that true calling takes me, I’ve always been willing to go.”
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Life Purpose Resources
Life Purpose Coaching
Date With Destiny - Tony Robbins
Date With Destiny is a six day live event run by Tony Robbins. One of the main goals of this full emersion experience is to create a life purpose mission statement aligned with your personal values so compelling that you take immediate and massive action to make it a reality.
Life Purpose Course
Ultimate Edge - Tony Robbins
Ultimate Edge is an on demand course by Tony Robbins that distills the lessons that he teaches in key areas of life including: Defining your life purpose, setting meaningful goals that you will achieve together with making the most of your health, relationships and finances.
TED Talks about Life Purpose
Tony Robbins TED talk - Why We Do What We Do
Tony Robbins explains that that he's not a motivational coach. He considers himself "The Why Guy" because he's focused on understanding why people do what they do. He asks us to confront the real reason people fail:
"The deciding factor is not resources; it's resourcefulness." - Tony Robbins
Ken Robinson TED talks - Do Schools Kill Creativity? & Bring on The Learning Revolution!
Ken Robinson urges us to re-evaluate the importance of creativity in our education, values and life choices. He also discusses the importance of finding "your element" as the key to having an enjoyable, successful and fulfilling life. He points out that we should recognize and embrace the many different ways that people can excel in life so that each of us can choose the path that best suits us.
"Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent; Not a singular conception of ability" - Ken Robinson
Movies about Life Purpose
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Walter Mitty has a habit of daydreaming in the most inopportune moments which, together with the fantasy style filming, leads to many funny and inspiring events. As Walter struggles though his hum-drum work and his frustrated love life, it's his imagination that carries him forwards until it goes so far that it blurs with his reality. This film is a powerful reminder that we can manifest great things by focusing our thoughts and actions on positive outcomes and going for it! (See Trailer)
The Family Man
We catch up with Jack when he's riding high in a highly lucrative career in finance. In a curious turn of events, Jack experiences a dream-like vision of what could have been if he'd stayed with his first love and started a family. It dawns on him that, in his lavish lifestyle, he was chasing after ever more expensive short-term highs. He came to understand that real and lasting joy comes from the relationships with those you love. It's a cleverly made and enjoyable feel-good movie with a heart-warming message. It also illustrates the more profound observation: Our character is not fixed & immutable; It is shaped by our goals because of the behaviors we adopt to achieve them. (See Trailer)
This classic comedy reminds us that the decisions and actions we take each day have real consequences for both us and the people around us and that we control this. It's a powerful reminder to be mindful of our daily choices, no matter how mundane they might seem because our daily choices shape our relationships, the outcomes in our life and ultimately our destiny. (See Trailer)
Forest Gump is an unassuming character who would normally be overlooked by most people. However, as he navigates moments in life ranging from hilarious to heartbreaking, Forest achieves unprecedented success in a succession of different endeavors. He does this by engaging a superpower that is available to all of us: Having clarity of purpose and a singular focus. He's also a good and very likable person so we're willing him to succeed along all the way! (See Trailer)
Books / Audiobooks about Life Purpose
Awaken the Giant Within - Tony Robbins
This is a quick read with a powerful message: We are driven by our emotions. Specifically: We are driven by the desire to avoid pain and to attain pleasure. Tony breaks down the implications of this powerful concept. This enables you to create a plan for your life that aligns these powerful emotional forces so you are naturally driven to succeed. (See Book)
The Element - Ken Robinson
Ken explores the concept of finding your element. Using multiple examples of life stories from people in all walks of life, Ken illustrates how finding your element can enable you to eliminate challenges in your life, achieve exceptional results and enjoy life! (See Book)
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari - Robin Sharma
This entertaining read is a journey of self-discovery as told by one friend to another. It includes practical advice told in the form of memorable parables. It blends an original perspective on familiar concepts such as improving vitality, self-discipline, finding purpose, contribution, practicing mindfulness and the benefits of nature together with eastern philosophies including Japanese terms such as Satura (instant awakening) and Kaisen (constant improvement).
It reminds us about the importance of periodically taking stock of what you are prioritizing and the direction your life is taking. It also provides some actionable strategies to improve these aspects of your life.
Over to You!
I hope you are now clear about how to find your why and you're inspired to write your life purpose statement!
Feel free to get in touch if you have any feedback / suggestions or to share the life purpose statement that you define for yourself!
Share this page and inspire your friends to find their why!