How to Define Your Life Purpose (+ Why It's Important)

What’s your life purpose?


That sounds heavy. I remember the first time I was asked to define my life purpose. “What the actual fuck?”I thought. How was I supposed to do that? Figure out my purpose? The singular function reason for my existence? Why I was put on this earth? Ummmm what?

Fast forward a few years and here I am, asking my clients to define their life purpose. My how the tables have turned!

So, what gives? What made me not only drink the Kool-Aid but decide you should drink it, too?

Well, for one, I spent some time actually writing out my life purpose. It wasn’t something I crafted in one sitting or completed in one draft. It took revisions and thought—and it’s worth noting I am not the type of writer who likes to spend time editing and re-editing my pieces! (That might explain any typos you find in this post!) However, this felt different. On my first try, I knew the essence I wanted to capture, but it wasn’t even until after I had my “final” version that I found the words that adequately captured what I felt my purpose actually is: Helping people turn the shit that happens in life into fertilizer to help them grow.

And while that seems right to me now, and fits into the sort of work I love doing—coaching, workshop design and facilitation, writing—as well as the way I love to connect with people personally; maybe someday it won’t. Maybe someday I’ll tweak it slightly. Or completely.

This realization, that one’s purpose can (and will, and should) change is another reason my resistance (and fear) toward defining a life purpose statement began to lessen. Where it once felt final, all-encompassing and daunting, the idea of coming up with a life purpose statement now feels like a chance to own my story, break the rules and live authentically. It feels less like a mandate but more like a framework within which I aim to live. It’s not a turn-by-turn set of directions. It’s an intended destination on a road trip with unlimited time to get there and no planned stops on the way. My life purpose statement helps to guide me but is not prescriptive.

So, you may be wondering: what’s the point then?

Well, just like clarifying core values or understanding your wants and needs, defining your life purpose statement helps keep you on track when decisions come up or uncertainty arises. If you know why you’re here, what you’re meant to do (professionally, personally, whatever-ly), making hard choices can get a little easier. I like to use the analogy of an archery target when I talk about values and purpose. Imagine your life as a target. Your life purpose is the bullseye, and every time you make a decision, make a choice, take action, you’re shooting an arrow. Our intention is to get as close to that bullseye as possible, knowing we won’t always make it, but we still try.

Are you ready to work on your life purpose? Not sure where to start? You can try this (but of course, start wherever feels authentic to you and your life!):

  • Think about what is really important to you. What do you really want to do in your life, the impact you want to have?

  • What is a metaphor for this impact?

  • A good formula to start with is: “I am the [_noun_] that [__verb_]” here, insert a noun and verb from the metaphor you came up with.

  • Keep editing your statement until it evolves into something that feels right. At one point, I was a light shining into the darkness, a breath of fresh air helping cut through bullshit. Now my statement doesn’t even follow this formula!

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes! If you’d like to learn more about this and other techniques to help you advance in your life, book a session now!