How To Live A Life With Purpose
Let’s take a moment to think about why you do what you do.
I’ve observed in many conversations with friends, family, and business acquaintances that some of us are “drifting” through life with no clear direction.
Many of us end up experiencing that “how did I end up here” moment. These reflections come with feelings of regret and listlessness.
My own experience has taught me that living a life with purpose and reason is an antidote to this drift and leads to more moments of contentment and fulfillment.
Since following this approach in my own life. I’ve received some great rewards, which I have listed here:
• Co-founded a successful startup – Paper Not Foil
• Turned around or improved multiple small businesses | World Fitness | Arrowtown Hair
• Paid off $100+k of personal debt
• Successfully recovered from shoulder surgery.
• Improved my average sleep from 4.5 hours a night to 7.5 hours (Tracking this with Oura Ring)
• I have developed many lifelong friendships.
• Significantly improved my substance abuse issues
• Improved my mental health
I’ve found that defining my purpose and creating a business to serve my purpose has significantly improved my life.
Living with Purpose
“Fate: the development of events outside a person’s control, regarded as predetermined by a supernatural power.”
If you’re not living with purpose, you’re letting “fate” determine your journey. You’re allowing societal and cultural constructs that don’t care about you, determine your life.
Letting society direct your life does not seem like a good strategy for success. Fate doesn’t care about you. Let’s find your why, your purpose, and create a life and business that serves you.
Without a “why,” creating fulfillment in your life looks more like a game of “whack a mole” than purposeful achievement.
“Fulfillment has a clear definition, unlike happiness. Fulfillment is a state in which one has achieved the necessary conditions to feel satisfied.” – https://medium.com/project-untitled/the-characteristics-of-personal-fulfillment-creating-a-more-fulfilling-life-51b86eb91b12
I’ve developed tools for defining my purpose from many conversations, readings, and watching, which I will outline below.
The outcomes here will change over time. What’s important to you in your 20’s will likely be different in your 30’s as it will in your 40’s. As your life develops, circumstances change, self-awareness improves, and your priorities will reflect these changes.
1. Setting Your Values
Before we lay out a vision of how you want your life to be, we’ll establish some values that will guide you along the way. I like to call these my general operating principles.
Subconsciously you have values that are already guiding you; we just want to bring them into consciousness. This is especially important when making decisions influenced by money. When we let money take precedent over our core values, we’ll end up with an outcome we regret.
I’ve found asking myself honest questions to be useful here. Here’s my top five.
1. Think of the decisions you’ve made in your life that have been a “mistake.” Why was this a mistake? What was the outcome, and why didn’t you agree with it. What influenced your decision, and if you could choose again, what would this choice have been?
2. Who do you support politically, and why do you agree with them? What decisions has the government made that you agree or disagree with? If you dig a little deeper into your reactions to politics, you’ll unlock some of your core values.
3. What have you heard or read that resonated with you?
4. Who are your role models? Do you “look-up” to particular people in your life or look to emulate certain people. Why are these people particularly inspirational to you?
5. Do you follow a specific set of philosophies or a religion? What are the core tenets of that philosophy or religion?
List all your answers from the above questions and see where the overlaps occur. If there are recurring themes that pop out from those examples, you subconsciously adhere to these values.
Start with a list of ten. Write these out and make this list easily accessible. I use a Google Doc and have this bookmarked for quick access in my internet browser.
Here’s a few of mine to help you get started.
Over time reflect on your list and keep adjusting accordingly. Your values will change, make sure your list continues to resonate with you.
The size of your list is not essential. This will increase and decrease as you go. Mine is currently sitting at 17, and I expect this will increase to around 30 – 50 throughout my life.
Defining Your Vision
If you have anything meaningful you want to accomplish in your life, you’ll need to focus a lot of your time and energy in that direction.
Life is going to keep throwing things at you, opportunities, disappointments, and everything in between.
It’s easy to get distracted and lose focus.
You get busy and bogged down in the weeds of life and head in a completely different direction.
Even setting goals doesn’t provide enough direction. They’re too easy to adjust or misinterpret over time.
Goals are like the finish line of a race. Once you’ve hit that goal, then what? It’s easy to find some arbitrary goals to achieve that’ll provide some level of satisfaction. How do we ensure we set the right goals?
We start with a vision.
Here’s how I’ve crafted mine.
First, I outlined my mission, why I think I’m here, and what I want to achieve.
Summarise your mission in a few short sentences.
I’ve found the 5 W’s framework incredibly helpful to flesh this out.
• Why: Why is my mission important to me
• What: What will I be doing to achieve this mission
• Where: Where will I achieve this mission
• Who: Who do I want to achieve this mission with
• When: When do I want to achieve this by
Here’s my current mission:
Next, I have established my “Pillars.” I like to think of these as the building blocks for my mission. They set minimum requirements my life needs to meet.
Your pillars may be different to mine; just pick the areas of life that matter to you most.
• Physical health
• Mental health
• Social health
• Spiritual health
• Financial health
Once you’ve outlined your pillars, you can add your minimum requirements for each pillar. I’ve set 3 – 5 standards for each.
Here’s an example:
Each ‘standard’ I add to my pillars are what I believe makes me happier or gives me fulfilment.
4. PERFECT DAY
After setting my Mission and laying the foundations (Pillars) of my life, I then thought about my perfect day. I.e., if I had to live the same day on repeat every day for the rest of my life, what would I want this to look like?
The reason I consider this important is because this is your process. You’ll spend the vast majority of your life living your process.
Wins and rewards are fleeting moments in life. The majority of our time is spent working towards them. If we’re not enjoying the process of getting there, what’s the point?
My approach to outline my perfect day is straightforward. I look at each hour of the day as a “unit” of time that I get to spend. I try to spend these units of time doing things that will satisfy my life pillars.
• Please note this is my perfect day, but not how I spend every day. Shit happens. I do try to follow this as best I can. I generally get the most satisfaction from a day when I do.
5. MY VISION
After outlining my mission, my pillars, and my perfect day, I combined them to craft a future vision for my life. This vision is my version of success grounded in personal fulfillment.
I’ve summarised my vision into a single page outline that incorporates all the different aspects that we’ve worked through above. I have a clear understanding of the direction I want to lead my life and how I will make the decisions to get me there.
Here’s the intro for my vision to help kickstart yours:
Once you’ve drafted your vision, read it out loud. Does it inspire you? Does it clearly define the life you wish to live? If not, keep refining your vision until it does.
Now, where does your career or business fit within this vision? Is it going to serve your purpose?
Yes = A life of Fulfillment & Success
No = A life of Regret & Unhappiness.
Going through this process has been truly life-changing for me and only required half a day to think through and create. As always, though, execution is the key.
I would love to hear if anything here has resonated with you. Please let me know in the comments.
Also, I recommend reading Taylor Pearson’s writing on this topic. He’s does a great job of articulating this process.