Your life purpose is like a 100-year-old, natural walnut bookcase that’s hidden in the back corner of a consignment store.
It’s beautiful and valuable at its core, but it’s been painted over so many times that no one imagines it’s priceless. With lots of work, the original wood will begin to show. (But even then, it won’t appear all at once.)
Now, how does that walnut wood—our core purpose—get hidden over time? With learned behaviors and accepted paradigms that disguise our real core like coats of paint.
Over the years, circumstances and people (often well intentioned, sometimes otherwise) have applied these layers one by one. Folks like
- People we model
- And others
In fact, behavioral research shows that our basic wiring, attributes, and talents are formed before 5 years of age.
From those early years onward, an awful lot of paint can get applied.
Discovering Your Core Purpose
Fortunately, your core purpose is even stronger than walnut. Through intelligent questions and discussions, and with the help of input from others who know you and work with you, patterns that define your core begin to emerge from beneath all those coats of paint.
The process of searching for your purpose will prove fascinating—if also frustrating at times. After all, your purpose is already there inside you, but it’s often hidden. And you’re the only one with the information necessary to find it.
The first step in your discovery process? Find an outside helper. This could be a trusted advisor, coach, or mentor. The key is to find an unbiased resource to provide perspective and help guide you through this exciting and challenging process with experience and honesty.
With the right tools and questions, a good coach can identify patterns that point to your core purpose. Your behaviors, convictions, motives, and paradigms are threads you can follow to expose these patterns.
To do so, you might use some of the following tools:
4 Tools for Discovering Life Purpose
1. Love and Dread Analysis
Begin by sitting down with your helper to discuss your past experiences. As you do so, focus on the things that you have most loved or dreaded. Look back at
- Grade school
- Camp experiences
- Summer jobs
- High school
- Adult jobs
- Volunteer work
- And so on
You’re looking for extremes here: the life-guarding job you detested in your teens, the manager you adored working for, etc.
Most likely, this discussion will take many sessions. But when you’re done, your coach will be able to tease out patterns and insights essential to rediscovering your core purpose.
2. Feedback from Others
Input from colleagues, friends, and family members provides valuable clues to your core.
This feedback itself is highly informative. But patterns of contrast often prove equally revealing. What are the differences between your work life, home life, etc.?
3. Envisioning Solutions
We are often good at defining what’s wrong—problems we’d like to see fixed. But a positive twist on this analysis can provide great insight.
The next time a “problem” comes your way, don’t just focus on the negative. Instead, work with your coach to envision the situation as you would like it to be—to describe the most positive outcome you can imagine.
The picture you paint reveals volumes about your core.
4. Describing Positive Feelings
Describe a handful of extremely positive life experiences in detail—how you felt and behaved, what you most remember.
What you see as positive—and how you describe it—reveals a great deal about your attribute profile.
As you use these tools and analyze the results, the goal is to concentrate on patterns. That which is rooted in your purpose will repeat itself.
Next step: weave these common threads into a statement of purpose. And just like that, you’ve begun the journey of intentional living.