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Discover Your Life Purpose

Updated on March 9, 2016
Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah is a writer, healer, and teacher. Her goal is to help people live their best lives every day by sharing her joy and love of life.


Why Am I Here?

From the dawn of time, people have wondered about the meaning of life. Of course, at first, the meaning of life was simply about survival. Finding food and shelter. And even today, that is the first priority for many.

But after you have eaten a meal, and are falling asleep on your bed or on your mat or on the sidewalk, the thought may come into your head, "Why am I here?"

And it's not always a rhetorical question. The question sometimes bounces around in the brain, demanding an answer, refusing to be ignored, until again, you ask yourself, "What is the purpose of my life?"

The answer is different for every person, but at some level, it can also be the same. What is the meaning of life? It's whatever you say it is. The meaning of your life might be quite different than what I describe as the meaning of my life. But how do you find out your purpose? How do you discover your gifts and potential? How do you live a life worthy of being lived?


Discovering Your Meaning

Every person on the planet, every person who was ever born, or who ever will be born, has a different and unique set of talents, skills, abilities and gifts. Each one of us is unique and special and can create a meaningful life from those talents.

The real question is not, "What is my purpose?" but rather, "How will I use my gifts to create meaning?"

The skills you have and the skills you develop during your lifetime can shape who you are and how you show up for your life. The first step to discovering the meaning of your life is to take an inventory of your talents, gifts, and skills.

These don't only include things you are good at, but also things you enjoy. What do you do well? What makes your heart sing? Those can be very different.

All my life, I have been a writer. In school, I always did well with written assignments. It was a skill that I developed and improved in college, and continue to utilize in my daily life. For a while, I worked as a newspaper reporter, and developed a unique skill set as a result of the job requirements. Because I write well, I have developed that skill and have used it as part of my professional development. Not only did I work as a reporter, but I have also written two books, and I write blogs for different sites, as well as magazine articles. I enjoy writing. It is a skill I have developed.

But what makes my heart sing? I enjoy helping people enrich their lives. Is this something I can do through my writing? Yes, it is. And because of that, I find part of my life's purpose is writing things that will make life better for other people.

Another thing that makes my spirit feel alive is practicing yoga. I have practiced yoga since I was a young teenager. It makes me happy to move my body and breathe deeply. Now, I am a yoga instructor. Not only do I get to do yoga every day, but I also get to help other people feel better. Another part of my life purpose.

In order to determine your own purpose, begin by making two lists. One of the lists will be all of the things you are good at, no matter how varied they are. It doesn't matter what you are good at. Nothing is insignificant when you are creating a meaningful life. Write it down. Everything you can think of should go on the list.

Now, on a separate sheet of paper, list all the things that you really enjoy. The things that make you lose track of time should go on that list. The things that bring you joy should be on the list. The things that make you smile, that make you happy, that make you heart leap with joy, put those things on your list. Anything that gives you joy will help you create the meaning of your life.

If you can't think of things you are good at, or things that you enjoy, then ask around. Your family, friends and coworkers probably have a pretty good idea of what you are good at, and what makes you happy.

Ultimately, the list is yours to create. You are discovering your life purpose, and no one else can determine that for you.


What five things do you need to know?

How I discovered my purpose

It began innocently over lunch, but it was a day that changed my entire life. I was working as a newspaper reporter, doing massage part time, out of my house, and trying to write in my spare time.

One of my daughters had come for a visit, and during our lunch, she asked me what my ideal day looked like. I shrugged nonchalantly, and answered, "I don't know."

"Come on, mom," she urged me. "Think about it. From the time you get up, until you go to bed, how would you spend your day, if you could do anything you wanted?"

I thought about her question. In fact, I was not spending my days at all like I wanted to. As a reporter, I worked nearly 60 hours each week. Because I was on salary, I made $400 per week, regardless of how many hours I put in. After taxes and insurance, I brought home $262.38 every Tuesday. My days were spent writing stories and interviewing people and attending events, and while it was mostly fun, I had lost my passion for the job. I had no time for my family, we were barely scraping by, and there was no time for my massage business.

A picture began to form in my head. "Well, for starters, I'd get up early, do some yoga, maybe go for a run. Spend the morning writing. Maybe do yoga again. Then spend my afternoons doing massages. Then be home in the evening to spend time with the kids."

She pressed me for more details. "Where are you? What is it like? Who is there with you?"

"Ideally, I'd be on the beach, teaching yoga, writing in an airy studio, and doing massages in a beachside cabana. With a kind, caring partner, someone I could spend the rest of my life with."

She looked straight at me as she asked, "Well, why aren't you doing that?"

"Don't be ridiculous," I answered, agitated, "How could I afford that?"

She shrugged her shoulders, as only a kid can do, and said, "I don't know. If you really want that, you'll figure it out."

As we ate our lunch, I pondered her question and her suggestion. About a week later, my youngest son joined me at the table late one evening, after I got home from my reporter duties.

"Mom," he began timidly, "I want to ask you something. Don't say no right away. Just listen."

I braced myself for his unknown question, expecting the worst.

"How much do you make at the newspaper?" he asked.

I bluntly responded, "$262.38. Every week."

"How many hours do you work?"

"It depends on what's happening around town, but usually between 50-60."

"So you make, like, $5 an hour, right?"

"Yes," I answered testily, wondering were he was headed with his line of questioning.

"And how much money do you make doing massages?"

"I charge $60 for one hour."

"So why don't you just quit your job? You'd only have to do four massages a week, to make what you make at the newspaper. And then you could make more money."

"That's a good question," I responded. I was somewhat ashamed that I hadn't thought of that before now. And I was embarrassed that my son, a sixth grader, had to point out the obvious to me.

After praying and thinking and pondering, I began thinking that perhaps I could quit my job and pursue my passion. My discussion with my daughter had opened my eyes to the possibility of things being different, and my son's logic was hard to argue. I asked a local yoga instructor about teaching in her studio. She gave me the name of an instructor accreditation organization, and said that an upcoming class would be held only an hour from our Wyoming town. If I could get the money, and attend the classes, then she would let me teach.

As I discussed the dilemma with a dear friend, she asked if she could pay for a month's worth of massages ahead of time. Instantly I had the money for my class.

I gave the newspaper six weeks notice. When I went into the publisher's office, he asked what I'd be doing instead of writing for the paper. When I explained my plan he looked surprised.

"That sounds like a terrible business model," he chided me, "I can't believe you'd quit a perfectly good job to pursue your hobby."

Now, a year later, my business, The Mind Body Connection, is thriving. I teach two yoga classes every day. I spend time writing. I am a certified life coach and masseuse, and I love my clients. Life is better than I ever could have dreamed. Finally, I feel as though I am living my purpose.

Living a Purposeful Life

You have a choice. You can move through your life, mostly unconscious, as a victim of circumstances. You can let life sweep past you as you endure relationships and jobs that suck the joy from your being. OR. You can choose your life. You can define yourself and live a life that reflects who you are and what you believe.

Do not be deceived. You have a choice. Is creating a meaningful, purposeful life easy? Not always. Is it financially rewarding? Not always. But what you will discover, as you create a meaningful life, is that you are living ON PURPOSE. You become the maser of your own destiny.

When you declare to yourself, to the people around you, and to the Universe who you really are and how you want to be, then energy is set in motion to support that declaration. When you decide how you want to show up, and you begin showing up in that manner, all of your life will reflect that choice.

In a practical sense, though, how do you live life on purpose? Of course it isn't always easy. First, you have to figure out what energizes you and makes you feel alive. And then, you have to do more of that.

If you are currently in a job or in a relationship that leaves you feeling drained, tired and used, then you are probably not living your true purpose. What would it take for you to turn things around and live the life that you only imagine?

Well first, define your parameters. What is important to you? Do your current relationships, work environment, hobbies, and activities reflect what is truly important? If you say that spending time with family is important, but you never see your kids, then either your priority is untrue, or you need a shift. If you say having a meaningful job is important to you, but you are stuck in a soul sucking job that barely pays the bills, then you probably need to shift your paradigm.

What is truly important to you? Figure it out. For some people, good health insurance is important. For me, that is not an issue. That is not a game changer. For others, it might be a lenient boss. For me, I don't want to be chained to a desk or in a retail shop all day. I know this about myself. Having done both, and enjoyed both, I realized shortly into those jobs that I was not finding joy.

In order to live your purpose, you must first decide what the most important things in you life truly consist of. Be honest with yourself. It is important to take this step seriously. Spend some time, several days or even a week, pondering your own priorities. Don't take on external baggage of what you think should be important, based on what someone else says. What is important to you? It doesn't matter what your spouse or your mom or your kids think. What matters to you?

Without changing your entire life, quitting your job and ending your marriage, you can begin to live life on purpose, one small step at a time. After you have identified your priorities, think about what you can do to incorporate changes that reflect who you want to be.

If you say you want to spend more time with your family, then spend more time with your family. Don't come up with a list of excuses about why you can't do it. Instead, brainstorm some ways to be there. You might have to say no to people. That is okay. People ask you to do things, because they know you will say yes. But when you say yes to others, you are saying no to yourself. Say yes to yourself for a change. Do what makes you feel energized and productive.

You say you want to work out more? Well, then do it. Stop making excuses. Plan an hour into your day for yourself. You want to take a class, learn a skill, try a new hobby? Do it. It really is that simple. Stop making excuses. Stop putting yourself last, and begin to invest in yourself.

As you begin to incorporate more things into your life that bring you joy, you will find yourself energized, enthusiastic and happy. Living a purposeful life is about doing more of what you love, and less of what you don't. It really is that easy.

Not everyone may understand or agree with the changes you are making, and that is okay. People around you might get angry when you start living a life you love, and doing what makes you happy. They might think it's unfair of you to have fun in life, when they feel stuck. Gently let them know that they too, have a choice, just as you do. They can choose a joyful life.

Living with purpose is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage, confidence and determination to find what you love and live your life that way. The good news is, you can do this.

Does Life Have a Meaning?

Do you believe there is a meaning to your life?

See results

Your future best self

Five questions to help determine your purpose

Who are you?

What do you love to do? What is the one thing you feel qualified to teach other people?

Who do you do it for?

What do those people want or need?

How do people change/transform as a result of what you give them?

These are five simple questions asked in a Ted Talks, by Adam Leipzig. Only two of the questions are about yourself, while the remaining three are about others. Who do you serve, and how do you do it? How are people changed by you?

Answering these questions honestly will help you formulate you life purpose. Become outward oriented, rather than egocentric. Look for ways to use your purpose to serve the good of others. Once you decide what you want, then begin to imagine how others will be transformed by what you do.

When I began my own business, The Mind Body Connection, I came up with a simple tag line. "Transforming your life from the inside out." That is my life purpose, my meaning, my goal. I want to help people transform their lives. I use yoga, life coaching and massage as tools to help people reach their dreams and goals. I want to improve the world, one person at a time, and I started with myself.

Once I identified what was truly important, I then began taking steps to have my life reflect that ideal. Within a few months, I had gone from an overworked, underpaid newspaper reporter, to a peaceful, happy, fulfilled yoga instructor, life coach and massage therapist.

I went from being lonely and alone, to having a fulfilling, happy marriage to a kind man who loves, respects and cherishes me like no one ever has in my entire life. All because I changed my mind. I changed my focus, and I changed my life.

You can do the same thing. First, change your mind. Decide what you want to do, and how it will positively impact others. Decide how you want to show up every day in your life, and do it. You have a choice, in each moment. You can decide who you really are, and you can be that person. If you don't like what decisions you made, what words you spoke, what actions you took, then change your mind and choose again. In the next moment, you have the chance to be exactly what you desire.

People will shake their heads, and declare that change is not that easy. It is as easy as changing your mind. The hard part is changing your mind.



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    • Deborah Demander profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Demander Reno 

      7 months ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      @E Kyle Morris, I couldn't agree with you more. It is fear that holds us back, and trust in something greater in ourselves that compels us forward, into our greatness.


    • gitbetter profile image

      E Kyle Morris 

      7 months ago from Tennessee

      What a great article. Informative, thought provoking, and encouraging. I think the number one reason some people (perhaps many people) do not find their purpose is FEAR. Fear of change. Fear of failure. Fear name it. For me, as a believer, it all comes down to 'Who do I trust', God or myself. I know at times I have had to step out in faith. Frightening? Yes. But in looking back I am glad I trusted His leading because each time it has turned out for the best and I fulfilled yet another step of my purpose. Thank you for this article.

    • Deborah Demander profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Demander Reno 

      2 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Dream On, Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I think a lot of people would have much happier lives, if only they knew what they really wanted.


    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 

      2 years ago

      I wonder how many people would of avoided getting in trouble and going to prison if they took the simple test to see what they want out of life and followed through finding the life they wanted. Thank you so much for sharing another great hub.

    • Deborah Demander profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Demander Reno 

      3 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Ebony, thanks for reading and commenting.

      I am lucky to have great kids, who are good people. And while I don't always listen, I'm learning.

      Thanks for stopping by.


    • Ebonny profile image


      3 years ago from UK

      What insightful, intelligent and mature children you have - and you too are to be celebrated for actually really listening to them rather than dismissing them simply based on their youth. Thanks for sharing. Lots to ponder.

    • Deborah Demander profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Demander Reno 

      4 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      kittythedreamer, thanks for reading and commenting on my article. I look forward to reading more of your work.


    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Kitty Fields 

      4 years ago from Summerland

      I really enjoyed this, Deborah. And I didn't know you'd written a couple books! I'll put them on my TBR list. :) Thanks for sharing such a deep hub.

    • Deborah Demander profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Demander Reno 

      4 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Thank you, billybuc, for reading, and for your comment. I must agree, in the end, everything we do should come back to love.

      Take good care, my friend,


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I wonder, if you surveyed a thousand people, how many could answer that question....why am I here? What is my purpose? I see a lot of lost people in the world today, and I want your message to resonate with them all....find a purpose....aim for a a purposeful life...and!


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