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Activating the Life Purpose That’s Right Under Your Nose

Purpose

“Our obligation is to give meaning to life, and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.” ~Elie Wiesel

After surveying 3,000 people, psychologist Cynthia Kersey discovered that 94% had no clue as to their purpose in life—94%!

As painful as this statistic is, it is even more painful in light of how relatively simple it is to discover a worthy and fulfilling life purpose.

For most of us, a meaningful purpose lurks just beneath the surface of conscious awareness and can be discovered in a few minutes.

This is the easy part. What happens after you discover your life purpose is the plague of humanity.

I discovered my life purpose in high school psychology class at age 17. A local therapist visited our class and asked us to sit on the floor in a large circle. We cleared out the desks and sat. Then he said the following:

“You’re trapped in a cave with the rest of this class. Only a few of you will make it out alive before the cave collapses. A few at the front of the line will make it. Those in the rear will be crushed. Now, as we go around the circle, I want each of you to explain to the class why you need to get out alive. Tell us why you should be at the front of the line.”

One of my classmates raised her hand. “What if we don’t want to be at the front of the line?” she asked.

“Then say so, if you really feel that way,” the therapist conceded. (Therapists can be such pushovers).

I was on the opposite side of the room and listened, one by one, as more than 20 kids declined the opportunity to state what they wanted to live for and merely said, “I’ll just be at the back of the line.”

On my turn, I took the risk and said, “I wouldn’t want to be responsible for someone else not getting to live, but since you asked why I need to get out alive, I’ll answer your question.

I want to live and make something of my life. I am being raised by a single mother who has made sacrifices to see that I get an education and stay out of trouble. I don’t want to let my mother down. I feel I owe it to her to make the most of myself. If I can do something really great in life, it will make her sacrifice worthwhile.”

I caught the nod of respect from the therapist and noticed a few of the girls in the class looking misty-eyed and—right there—I knew my purpose. I knew that if I could help people discover something great within themselves, like I had just discovered, I’d live a meaningful life!

That was easy compared to what came next.

I fought it. I failed out of college the first time around. I passed on great opportunities to advance my education and career by telling myself, “You can’t do it. You are not worthy. You’re a fake.”

I looked for shortcuts. I refused to cooperate with my supervisors because, even though I was plagued with self-doubt, I still thought they were stupid.

If you looked at my life, you’d wonder just how I was manifesting any purpose that had to do with helping myself and others grow.

One step forward, two steps back! That was me.

Later, when I did find opportunities to advance my career by teaching workshops, I made it horrendously difficult. I demanded perfection of myself at every performance, which created unbearable anxiety.

I often walked to the front of a lecture room just knowing I would have a full-blown panic attack and be carted out on a stretcher and never be invited to speak anywhere again.

I just couldn’t give myself a break. My purpose in life not only lacked fulfillment, but also became a source of personal torment.

I know what it is like to fight your purpose in life. I’ve been there. In fact, I now believe that most people who are not living a life of purpose are sabotaging their efforts as I was.

Many people give up on their purpose because of all the perceived trouble that comes with making it real.

My parents won’t approve.
It is too difficult.
I can’t do it.

It’s not realistic.
I won’t fit in with my friends anymore.
Where I come from people don’t do that.
I’ll never be able to pay the bills.
I am sure I will fail in the end and be right back where I started.
It’s just not worth it.
It’s too late.
I am comfortable where I am.

And so the story goes. We resist a more meaningful life because we get in our own way. This is the saddest story ever told!

Worse, so many have written off their purpose to such a degree that they don’t know where to begin to find it.

It is right under your nose.

If you’ll take a few minutes to do the following experiment, you are very likely to discover something wonderful that might serve as a purpose for your life.

Take a few minutes alone to simply breathe and think. When you are relaxed, ask yourself some simple insight questions per the following examples.

When you’ve gotten greater insight as a result of the questions, ask yourself how the insights apply to a potential life purpose. This is the application question mentioned below.

Insight Questions

What do I love?
Why do I love this?

What talents has the universe given me?
Why are these talents important?

What are my dreams?
Why are these dreams important?

When and where have I found joy in my life?
Why did I find joy in that?

What have I always found meaningful?
Why is this so meaningful to me?

Write down the answers to the insight questions that appeal to you. Remember, this is just you. Imagine for a moment that nobody else in the world matters. No one has any say here but you.

As you are writing, notice how you are feeling. Which particular words cause you to surge with positive energy? These words are a major clue as to your purpose in life. 

Application Question

While in that positive state, ask yourself the application question.

How might the answers to any of the above be part of your life purpose?

For example, imagine you are writing about a particularly meaningful experience that came to mind as a result of an insight question. Let’s say you remembered when you were meditating and felt a deep connection to the universe.

You asked yourself, “Why was this so meaningful to me?”

The answer came, “Because that is what life is all about—connection.”

Next, you asked the question, “How might connection be part of my life purpose?”

So many ideas might flow from there:

Your purpose may be to simply stay connected! Whatever you do in life, you remain open to the possible connections to others and beyond.

It may be that you feel a desire to help others connect to the universe—a great life purpose.

Perhaps your purpose is to help children experience greater connection.

The possibilities are limitless! If you center your life around staying connected and helping others to do so, you will surely experience the fulfillment that comes with a clear life purpose.

How can you make your purpose real? There are a million ways. The better question is how are you likely to get in your own way? How do you subconsciously protest having a purpose? How might you attempt to devalue your purpose?

Learn your purpose. Learn the ways in which you sabotage it. Get out of your own way and follow your heart.

Life can be complicated. Sometimes we convince ourselves that what we want is impossible. This is where education and a compassionate, intelligent outsider’s perspective can be a life purpose saver.

To the life purpose under your nose….

Avatar of Mike Bundrant

About Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is co-author of The AHA Solution: An End to Self-Sabotage. To watch a free, 20-minute webinar on psychological attachments and how to end self-sabotage in your life, click here.

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  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Thanks for sharing your story Mike and suggestions on how to find our life purpose. Reflecting, writing and observing the feelings will definitely reveal clues as to what one should be doing in their lives.

  • http://www.successconsciousness.com/ Remez Sasson

    Thank you, Mike, for this article.

    For many, it doesn’t occur to seek a purpose, and those who are aware of the importance of having a purpose in life, have a hard time finding this purpose. I know people, who are aware of the importance of having a purpose, but cannot make up their mind what it is.

    There are hope, expectation and inner happiness, when there is a clear and well defined purpose. There is more focus, and less waste of time and energy.

    Sometimes, you discover your life purpose, but do nothing about it, and only years later you start to fulfill it. I had a job for years, but had other dreams, until a day came that I quit my job, and started to do something I love, writing books and articles to help people improve their lives.

  • http://risingdaily.com/ CJ Rising

    Hi Mike, I was so glad to come across your post this morning because I was just reflecting on the importance of leading a life of meaning. I fully agree with you that finding our purpose in life is a key to living a fulfilling life. And I do think that many people haven’t found their purpose, or maybe aren’t even looking for it. I really like the questions you ask. For those of us who do feel like we’ve found our purpose, answering the questions can be confirmation that we are on the right path. That’s what your questions did for me, and that is a great realization. Thank you.

  • mary

    Beautiful…Once you have learned how to love, you have learned how to live:).

  • tushar

    I really like the article.. thankyou for posting it.. helps me to find my purpose..

  • http://piercingthebubble.com/ Bethany @ Piercing the Bubble

    Thank you for this.

    Perceived unworthiness was my biggest hurdle, and one that I only recently have overcome (I wrote about it here: http://piercingthebubble.com/2013/11/27/emerging-from-the-fog-of-unworthiness/ ). Understanding my true value and potential was really the beginning of my journey toward discovering my purpose(s) in life.

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    So nice to know, CJ. That’s an interesting point – some people may not be looking for it, which is a sure way to be deprived of it…

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    Hi Remez, yes, I wonder if you can get to a purpose by “making up your mind.” I think of it as a simple process of discovery – all the elements are usually right under your nose. Then it is more a matter of allowing yourself to accept it. Good points!

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    Thanks:)

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    Yes – so important to open your heart – to so much. Often, we suppress the pain in our heart, and sacrifice the love along with it. Suppress pain = suppress love.

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    You are welcome.

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    I like how you mentioned “perceived” unworthiness. We so often get attached to the unworthiness that is a projection from others…especially when it happens early in life. To know that it is a projection is the gift of a lifetime.

  • Talya Price

    This is a great article. I wrote all those questions down and I will take the time out to answer them because I have been thinking about my life’s purpose for a long time now. I think that by following my heart I will definitely find it. Thank you for this.

  • Talya Price

    Same here.

  • Lee Davy

    Hi Mike,

    I am so glad that you included an aid to help people find life purpose. A lot of people write about the importance of finding one, but rarely share their views on how to attain it.

    I remember the first time I was asked this question and after a week of trying to find out I was in a flood of tears. It wasn’t until my coach intervened and told me to write a list of every activity that provides me with happiness that I started to understand what the hell life purpose even was.

    Great post and thanks for sharing.

    Lee Davy
    http://www.needyhelper.com

  • C

    This has come to me during yet another time where I am subconsciously trying to ruin a great opportunity for myself. I managed to build the courage to go overseas (after years of dreaming about it) to pursue higher education, and bit by bit I’m trying to tell myself that this degree is just not meant to be because it’s too hard, it’s too intensive, and I’m incapable of such an accomplishment. And yet I know that it’s just my self doubt, self esteem, fear of change, and missing the comforts of home. In fact, I’ve sabotaged many a great thing in my life for the same reasons. So thank you for this article. It was beautiful.

  • http://www.pinchmeliving.com/ Bernadette @ PinchMeLiving.com

    Brilliant post Mike. Loved reading the story of the classroom session. The application question at the end is a great clarifying for people. Thanks for sharing this! Best wishes. Bernadette :)

  • Wandering Mind

    Thank you. :)

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    Thanks, Bernadette!

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    Wow. So glad you read this article. In my experience, self-sabotage or getting in your own way, is the number ONE cause of unnecessary suffering. Most often, however, we experience it passively- as if it were “just happening to us.” When we understand it as self-sabotage, we have a shot at putting ourselves in the driver’s seat.

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    Hi Lee – yep, you’ve got to do the introspection, so asking good questions is important. Thanks!

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    Smart move, Tayla.

  • Twirlingleaf

    It’s great that you became aware of your purpose so early in life, Mike, even it was a stretch actually getting there. I am in mid 40s and still lost on this… I absolutely believe that there is a purpose in my life, and I’ve tried using meditation with very similar questions to those you mention… and I’ve taken many chances over the years in trying out new things and places to take me out of my comfort zone and jolt my awareness a little.. but I still honestly really do not know what that purpose is. I wish I could track it down! Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Dev Arbikshe

    I like the way you put these points across without being preachy or
    artificial. This way it makes it easy to actually resolve the doubts and
    confusion. But again, the hardest part is ,as you said ”What happens
    after you discover your life purpose is the plague of humanity”.
    Can there be a way where you might follow at least one of your talents and
    wait for the other ones to be acted upon ;without craving for
    acknowledgement for the one you enjoy ? The hardest choices are between
    the options that are ”right” and ”more right ”.
    I prefer this :
    ”Whatever you do in life, you remain open to the possible
    connections to others and beyond.”
    Maybe it’s good to remain open to
    possibilities without sabotaging anything.

  • Carrie M

    Mike- this is such a great Post – thank you so much for sharing. I’m in the middle of transition from being a bystander in my life and letting things ‘just unfold’ to changing into the person I want to be and the life I want to have. As usual the universe puts messages in our path to confirm for us that we are indeed on the right path – your article is timely and so right on. Honestly I only got to the part where ‘you’re trapped in a cave…” and what i want to do immediately crystallized with such confirmation I wrote out my goals and set my focus. Now comes action. Its so amazing how this life works – your life, and your experience has helped me and been a tool in my path – It sounds like I’m not alone. Rock on!

  • Valerie Bowman

    I used to ask myself all these types of questions and still come up blank. I loved to read romance novels but I would never have put that on a list of things I liked to do because it seemed so far beyond anything that could convert into a career. I mean, WHO is a romance novelist? Well, now I am one! I encourage anyone reading this who is still searching to really DIG DEEP and list ANYTHING you like to do no matter how seemingly insignificant. The universe finally showed me the way, but exercises like this never helped me because I was skimming over and not paying close enough attention. Dismissing small things because of preconceived notions. Don’t do that. :)

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    Wow – this is great, Carrie! Go for it…

  • http://inlpcenter.org/ Mike Bundrant

    Hmm..I might try approaching this one from another angle. Is there a part of you that absolutely does NOT want you to know your purpose? Is there a part of you that WANTS to stay confused or deprived? What lessons learned might motivate these parts?

  • sbelmonte

    Kismet, fate, destiny – whatever – I needed this tonight. Big time. Just found you today and will continue reading. Holy Crackers.

  • sbelmonte

    Kismet, fate, destiny – whatever – I needed this tonight. Big time. Just found you today and will continue reading. Holy Crackers.

  • John Jacobs

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve been reading quite a few posts on these topics lately, given my current situation of considering giving up decent pay to get out of a job I hate, hopefully moving on to something more worthwhile once I have the free time. It’s a scary thought, but necessary, and I’ve read a lot of authors whose experiences push me to go for it. But I think for people who have no idea what direction to go, the insight questions may not be helpful. If a person is easily able to answer what makes them happy, or what they find meaningful, then they essentially have an understanding of where to go and only need to take a few more steps. For the many who have no clue what to do with their lives, a bit more searching is often needed.

    You were able to figure out a way to drive yourself at an early age and, from this post, didn’t lose it too far. Some people get in a rut. Some people don’t realize how many years have gone by since they last felt their dreams getting closer. Some people don’t have the innate drive that allows them to feel fulfillment in the same clear way. Some of those people posted comments on this post. Each person is different and has different challenges, but I think that a lot of the challenge in this comes from trying to hard, and seeking some magical sign from the universe that will tell them what to do. Your purpose doesn’t have to be a high powered career. It doesn’t have to be helping children with disabilities. It can be as simple as having the free time to garden, or setting up the ideal home out in the woods somewhere. It can be a goal, such as traveling the world. Regardless of what it is, I think it comes down to an important concept- letting go. Letting go of the images you may have when you think of ‘success’. Letting go of expectations from others, or worries about the size of house you can afford, or what your friends will think. You listed a lot of these problems that people give themselves, but didn’t go far into how to combat them. It’s hard for people to think different, but it’s a wonderful experience once people learn. And for anyone on a similar journey of change, remember that you don’t have to do anything alone. Mentors and friends are all around if you look for them.

    Sorry for the rambling. That job I hate leaves me tired and burnt out when I get home, so this may not be as eloquent as I would imagine in my head. More of a stream of consciousness than anything. Again, thanks for sharing, and I’ll be looking at the rest of your posts now that I’ve been introduced to them.

  • Shakthi

    That answer that you gave to the Therapist is so much close to what I say myself when I am down. A single mother raising her child involves so many sacrifices. Those few lines reminds me how much I love my mother. She keeps telling me that bringing me up into a complete and competent girl is her purpose in Life. I will make her proud and this article is a definite boost for that. Thank you so much.

  • Joana Rocha

    Hi Mike, thank you for your article. I am in 30s and still lost on this… I believe that there is a purpose in my life and for a couple of years I’ve been trying to discover what is it! But I’m too unstable, sometimes I think I love something but the interest disappear after a while. I’ve tried using meditation with very similar questions to those you mention, but unfortunately I’ve never had big dreams, passions and I think I don’t have a special talent… On the other hand, I think our mind is always tripping us. Hope to find someday what my purpose is, I consider it is the most important thing to make us truly happy – maybe that’s why I’m always depressed… Thanks for sharing your story!

  • amina kimberly

    Hi mike am very grateful I read this article.All my life I lived trying to find my purpose and I could never make my heart and mind coming into terms.My family and friends happiness is all that I always lived for,thus I ended up neglecting my own happiness.we all want happiness and to have a fulfilling life we have to find a purpose and am glad after reading this article I have.I hope to live my life to the very best.Thanks so much