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The One Purpose We All Share in Life

Purpose

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.” ~ Mary Dunbar

I sat staring at myself in the mirror.

All I saw was failure.

And for the first time in a long while, I cried.

All I could think about was having to get up the next morning and force myself through another day. Force myself to put on a smile and pretend to be happy. Force myself to act like everything was moving in the right direction.

I’d been putting on this façade for months by this point.

My fitness business was finally growing at a good rate after years of struggle, finances were the best they’d been in a while, and I felt like I was helping a lot of people.

Yet I felt stuck, broken on the inside, and like I was massively holding something back in terms of what I had to offer the world.

And in that tear-filled moment with the mirror, I knew I had to let go of the business and life I had worked so hard to gain momentum with.

I spent the next year trying to work out what the hell was going on. I suppose you could say I was trying to find myself, but the cliché-ridden nature of those words makes me cringe even now. So I prefer to say “working s**t out.”

I stepped back, traveled, sought connection, read, listened to podcasts, and dug deep into my soul for answers to questions I had previously written off as too time wasting for a busy business owner to deal with.

But a key question that kept coming up for me was “what is my purpose?”

I would muse on this for days, weeks, and months at a time, desperately trying to figure out the answer and looking for some Eureka moment.

Almost every book I read, every podcast that I listened to, and every video I watched all seemed to keep coming back to this question in some roundabout way. Each moment of consumption giving me more information on systems, steps, and questions to find out what my purpose is on this earth and what I am “here to do.”

I became obsessed.

And in that obsession I created confusion.

Who was I? What did I want to start? What did I want to talk about? How could I help and serve others without draining my own life force?

After traveling to various parts of Europe and South East Asia, connecting with others and trying to figure my own stuff out, I still felt completely lost. Like I was just wandering the globe, going from place to place without any reason, and simply shuffling through life with a black hole continually expanding inside of me.

I would dive into things headfirst and keep them going for a few weeks before deciding I was on the wrong path. Some idea would catch my eye and I’d take steps forward before getting bored and slacking off.

Until one day I had what I lovingly like to call a “f**k it” moment.

I just couldn’t take any more listening to other people tell me how to find this purpose thing that was supposed to be so great.

I’d gone from never thinking about my purpose, to being obsessed with finding it, to just getting fed up with it all. In fact, I was pissed off that all these other people seemed to be living “in line with their purpose” while I was left stuck and still asking questions.

It was like when you’re a kid and your weird uncle does that crappy magic trick, and you just want him to tell you how he did it so you can stop trying to figure it out and get on with your life.

Then almost as soon as I gave up trying so hard, things became a lot clearer.

And I started to realize what a poor, vague, nothing kind of question it is to ask “what is your purpose?”

Because, when it really comes down to it, we as human beings all have just one, universal purpose.

To create.

Think about it. We create thoughts and knowledge and content and books and podcasts and TV programs and websites and furniture and iPhones and apps to go on those iPhones and other phones to rival those iPhones and slightly bigger iPhones we call iPads and all sorts of other inventions and relationships and businesses and lives for ourselves….

We even create other human beings!

But we also create fear and negativity and judgment and perfectionism and evil and other bad stuff.

So “What is my purpose?” is actually a pretty poor question when it comes to the kind of answer most of us are really looking for. The answer to that is simply to create.

This brought a huge perspective shift for me. All of a sudden, I stopped asking myself the same question over and over again and expecting a different answer every time.

Now I had a new question: What did I want to create?

Screw purpose! Screw this elusive, intangible, nothing of a question. What did I want to create? And I mean really want to create?

No longer did I feel like I had to find this one thing that I was put on this earth to do. No longer was I searching for this magic moment that would give me a sign that I should definitively label myself as this or that.

All I had to start doing was creating something, anything, several things that would make me feel purposeful.

But this then posed another problem.

What did I want to create?

It’s all well and good saying to go create something, but if you don’t know what or how then it’s still meaningless. Surely, if we truly want to feel purposeful, we must know ourselves first.

So I took a deep internal dive again. Only this time, with this new angle to my questioning at the helm.

I wanted to look deep into the depths of my heart and soul in order to find out what was really in there. To peel back all the pretending, all the bravado, and all the BS so I could just know what was really going on in there.

I asked myself about my beliefs, my fears, what I love, what makes me feel passionate, what doesn’t, my strengths, my weaknesses, and what I would say to the world if I had everyone’s attention for just fifteen minutes.

I wrote everything down, even if it was uncomfortable. And I didn’t settle for superficial, meaningless answers.

But the biggest thing of all, the thing that opened my eyes the most, was getting clear on my values.

Our values are the very essence of who we are as individuals. They are what guide us when it comes to making decisions so that we don’t end up feeling like a tangled mess inside. And they act as our inner compass when it comes to what we should create and put into this world.

So the act of creating something that made me feel purposeful became rather straightforward.

What knowledge or skills or expertise do I have in my head and heart? What do I love? And how can I bring all this together to create something that helps and serves others?

Suddenly, discovering “my purpose” became inconsequential.

Why do we need this one, single purpose? The real answer we want to that question, the feeling we want to garner, comes from creating purposeful and meaningful things. Things that make us feel like we are adding to the world and like we are helping in some way.

But we can only know what we class as “meaningful” and “purposeful” if we take the time to discover ourselves and know who we are.

So, if you’re like me and have struggled, or are struggling, with this whole purpose thing, I invite you to just give up looking. Instead, try going deep with yourself on two questions:

1. Who am I?

2. What do I want to create?

Maybe shifting your perspective like this can help get you unstuck, as it did with me.

And it may enable you to go and create something truly meaningful, whichever way you define that yourself.

Now, I know there may be some people out there to whom this all seems a bit over the top, or maybe even irrelevant.

We all have jobs or businesses to focus on, bills to pay, families to feed, and general life stuff going on. Thinking about all the bother of creating this big, elaborate, purposeful thing may be pretty close to bottom of the to-do list for a lot of people.

But that’s the thing—it doesn’t need to be a big, elaborate thing. You could choose to create happiness, or connection, or laughter, for example.

Sure, you could create a billion-dollar company, an international movement, or a charity helping millions of people. Or you could create joy by volunteering at a children’s hospital, or by making it your personal mission to lift other people’s spirits when they’re feeling down.

We don’t need to go into this with an attitude of having to create something huge and entrepreneurial if we don’t want to.

We can garner that feeling in smaller, yet equally as significant, ways.

Simply bringing ourselves to the present moment and asking “What can I create right now that would make me feel purposeful and meaningful?” can be pretty powerful.

Start small. And maybe you’ll get hooked from there.

Because, after all, we are all worthy of feeling purposeful. We just need to decide what this looks like to us.

About Michael Glover

Michael Glover is a Mindset & Performance Coach, helping people balance mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health in order to build strength from the inside-out and realise their truest potential. He is host of the Enlightened Entrepreneurial Badasses podcast and blogs over on his site at iammichaelglover.com. Feel free to add him as a friend on Facebook.

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  • tricia

    A big thank you to Michael Glover. His article about ‘purpose’ really resonated with me. I have just signed up to this site and have found all the blogs thought providing, honest and helpful. I am at a similar crossroad of needing to walk away from 6 years of building a company which does a lot of good in my part of the world but has cost me my health, friendships, stress and a lot of grief. It is hard to get off the roundabout – and what will I be without it? Many thanks.

  • glasshalffull

    Thanks for this article. It’s actually the second article I have read lately that reveals we are being too pressured today to define our purpose. I fell into that trap. I am a widow of 3 years now and have been navigating the world as now a single person. What have I learned? To just live a full life, doing things that make me happy and providing kindness and helpfulness to those around me. If we look, life will present wonderful opportunities to live a full and productive life. One of the basic things I have gleaned? Life balance. Work, rest, playfulness, service. When you find a way to balance that, contentment and happiness will ensue!

  • Melanie Miceli

    Michael, thank you so much for writing this. For giving us
    permission, when we couldn’t give it to ourselves, to stop running on that
    never ending treadmill of finding our ‘purpose.’ I too have read blogs and
    listened to podcasts and heard these amazing people who seem to have found this
    intangible concept and live it. And it
    made me feel inferior, that I should be doing more.

    But then I ask – how can we find our ‘purpose’ when we don’t
    even know who we are? Life moves so fast, we go through so many changes due to
    relationships, jobs, births, deaths that we are always changing. We all know
    that who we are at 20 is a different person than who we are at 40, but how many
    times do we do a check up on ourselves and determine who we are all over again?

    I love the idea of creating; it resonates with me so much! You
    are so right that humans need to create; we wouldn’t be where we are and have
    the technology we do without this drive.

    I am going to do some deep pondering and I will ask myself
    who I am, and I am going to sit and really think about what I want to create.

    Thank you!

  • Kuń

    Oh boo f*cking hoo! My business was thriving, my finances were best but I had no purpose. Cry me a river.

  • Kaja Knudsen

    Well. I agree that it is important to have enough money, because it feels more secure that way, but rich people get depressed and sometimes kill themselves as well. When I visited Tanzania some years ago I noticed children playing in the streets. They had old rugged clothes and weren’t rich at all but their hearts were full of joy and laughter, so rich doesn’t have to mean happiness and poor doesn’t have to mean depression. And I guess this article was about that. He had everything he needed but still felt empty inside because the things he had accomplished were not coming from the heart.

  • Michael Glover

    Thank you so much for your comment, Tricia. I’m so happy it resonated with you and helped 🙂 I definitely know that feeling of allowing business to overtake us, so it’s great that this has helped in some way!

  • Michael Glover

    That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing your comment 🙂 What a wonderful realisation and shift in the way to look at life!

  • Michael Glover

    Fantastic, Melanie! Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad it wasn’t just me thinking this way about purpose! So happy this has created some pondering and self-reflection time for you 🙂

  • Michael Glover

    I haven’t seen the original comment to this as it has been deleted for some reason. But thank you, Kaja! You hit the nail on the head right there, in my view. When I was in Thailand, I stayed with a tribe family in the middle of nowhere who had nothing by our western standards and everyone was so happy and full of joy. Money is not good or bad, it is simply something that we can facilitate us living amazing lives if we choose to 🙂

  • Barry

    Thanks Michael for sharing this wisdom. It has helped me find more fun and fulfilment in my life.

  • Angie

    Thank you Michael. I spent 2hrs trying not to run away and travel (too much). Instead I knew I needed to start healing at home – looking deep inside. However I also read, listened, etc to lots and sometimes that is to escape the hard, scary work of looking inside. Always niggling in the back of my mind though was this idea of purpose and hoping one day a light bulb moment / revelation would happen. It hasn’t! So I had an idea of something and many reasons (excuses?) why not. Then one day it was suggested I just feel into my options, put aside the how I’d get there and just notice how I’d feel doing that. Suddenly I realised one day this is what feels right… for now. So I’m not sure and I don’t know if it’s what I want to do long term, but another pointer I was given was just take one step at a time. Sometimes the next step isn’t revealed until you’ve made the previous step. So this journey isn’t set in stone and neither is the way I find ‘purpose’. It’s scary but at least it takes the pressure off myself to find that one thing.

  • Angie

    2yrs, not 2hrs… lol!

  • brooke

    Wow, thanks for this. I feel like I am at this stagnant point in my life and I don’t know who to talk to about it, or how to move forward. I am a 21 year old girl, in college, a student athlete. I am in my senior year, about to stop playing the sport I’ve defined myself within since i was 6 years old, and heading into the “real world” and man…I can’t really explain what I’m feeling on the inside. Something inside me is yearning for a difference. My soul is screaming for depth in my life. I’m surrounded by a generation and peers that on a daily basis make me realize that I am not like them. I don’t enjoy the conversations I have with these people. I want to be around people that make me view life differently, I want to go dancing to jazz music, i want to listen to someone tell me about the story of their life. I want to lay on the beach and have a conversation about all of the gods i believe in. I want to leave my phone behind and just be. I don’t know. I am not being fulfilled and i don’t know how to take my first steps into what my soul has been telling me i need. i want to meet people that adventure and live to the fullest. don’t get me wrong, I have wonderful people in my life, and maybe its me that isn’t igniting the types of things my soul is searching for within the people i do know.

    I too, often wonder my purpose in life! I wonder who exactly I am. I want to just create love, and joy, and pure things. I don’t know if any of this is making sense and i can’t really articulate all that i mean lol, but just thanks for your blog. I am confused on how to start this journey but i know that I need to start somewhere and just go for it.

    and p.s i don’t think that your quest for happiness is irrelevant at all, i think that is more powerful and more important than any dollar in the world.

  • Michael Glover

    Awesome, Barry! So glad it helped you. Thank you so much for your comment 🙂

  • Michael Glover

    Fantastic, Angie. So glad you liked the article and found it useful. I say who cares what we do ‘long term’? As long as what we’re doing right now makes us happy and purposeful then it’s the ‘right’ thing 🙂

  • Michael Glover

    Thank you so much for sharing, Brooke. And I’m so happy you liked my article! I can definitely relate to what you’re saying. A few years ago I was having the same thoughts of not fitting in with what I thought everyone else in society wanted me to do – get a shitty job, drink, live for the weekend, complain about life and work towards one day having some big house in the ‘burbs. What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s nothing wrong with any particular way of ‘doing life’. But the only way that you will find the joy, happiness and fulfilment is by doing it YOUR way 🙂

  • Jainal

    Loved it!

  • Michael Glover

    Thank you, Jainal!

  • Justin

    I love you Mayra alejandra horta. Marry me