By Leo Gura - July 29, 2013 | 16 Comments
Critical points for finding your life purpose
Hey, what’s up? This is Leo for Actualized.org and I’m here in Zion National park in Utah. Today as I’m up here on our path towards Angel’s Landing, just up behind the mountains, I thought I would talk about life purpose and what life purpose is and really ask you a question and that is, “What is your life purpose? What is your purpose in life?”
What Is Your Life About?
By that I mean what kind of impact do you want to have? What is your life about? Are you just living your life going about the day to day, the nine to five like most people do, or do you have something that’s driving you, something that’s deeper, some sort of principles that you’re living by, something that you want to accomplish, some sort of impact that you want to have with your life and being driven by that?
It’s interesting that life purpose, I always intuitively understood that it was something that was very important to figure out because if you don’t have a life purpose then nothing is grounding you in what you’re doing and you’re like a leaf in the wind you’re just blowing around you don’t have anything there that’s connecting your job to your deepest values. You don’t have anything that’s connecting your life to your deepest values and so first of all, I think it’s difficult to be fulfilled when you don’t have a purpose.
Second of all, I think you’ll just have the sense of loss and you’ll have this sense of blowing around in the wind as it were, and not be able to accomplish the kind of great success that you want whether it’s financial or a certain prestige you want to have, a certain reputation you want to have, whether it’s within your relationships…whatever. Life purpose is a very deep and personal thing. For everybody it’s going to be something different. The question is, do you know what yours is?
The Layers of an Onion
I spent a lot of my own time figuring out what my purpose is for me and that has taken it’s time. It’s not something, which originally the way that I thought it would be is that I would either just have a purpose to begin with as I was growing up or I would pick a purpose and then set myself on that track and then there it is. One sentence purpose to do X, to do Y. what actually happens I think is life purpose is a much deeper topic. Nobody really tells you about this, but David Deida in his book, Way of the Superior Man, talks has a really good discussion about life purpose and about the way that it works.
It’s more like an onion with a bunch of layers to it so it’s not just this simple one sentence definition of what it is that you’re doing with your life. It’s more like you are the onion and you’ve got all these layers to you and so you start with the outer layer. The outer layer is your basic intuitions as to what you want to be doing with your life. By purpose I mean – and by what you’re doing with your life – mostly related to your career.
You’re spending eight hours a day, forty hours a week probably if not more than that on your career so you want that to be the thing that is important to you, something that is deeply fulfilling for you. If you’re not doing that, think about it. Eight hours a day, forty hours a week that’s a third of your life spent on your job and then another third of your life is spent sleeping. So a third of it is spent sleeping, a third of it is spent working and then another third of it is spent doing other miscellaneous things. You want that third that’s spent working to be fulfilling for you.
What David Deida talks about is that you’ve got an onion and you’ve got that outer layer that you start with and that outer layer is just your basic intuition as to what you want to be doing. Then what happens is you go and you pursue that thing. You try it out, you’re feeling around, when you’re new at this you don’t really know what you should be doing. You’re feeling around, maybe you like this thing or you don’t like that thing, you get little hints here and there and then you peel that layer back as it were.
You peel it back and you reach another deeper layer inside and then you work on that for a while, you work on that, and you think that that’s the thing you’re really after and you start to see that it starts to peel away as well and there’s something deeper there. You go even deeper and you get another layer and you peel that away and so this process is really a dynamic process, it’s a dynamic way to think about life’s purpose. It’s not just a static thing it’s a dynamic thing and it’s something that just keeps evolving over the course of your life.
Start By Peeling The Outer Layer
Maybe you’re the kind of person right now that has no idea what they want to be doing with their life. Maybe you just have a dead end job that you’re doing just to earn money. That means you have to start with that, the outermost layer. You have to start working on that and then work your way through inwards. That outer layer is the first one you’ve got to start with and it might take you a year just to figure out the outer layer but maybe you’re already pretty deep into it.
Maybe you already feel like you have a pretty decent career, you went to school and you know that what you’re doing is something that’s resonating with you, but still there’s more. That means you’ve penetrated maybe past that first surface, but then there’s still more in there and what is more being there? What is it that you really want to bring forward and share with the world? What kind of impact do you want to have through your job? Maybe you already have a decent job, maybe you’re an engineer or you’re an artist, you’re a graphics designer.
Whatever it is that you’re doing, maybe you know that that’s the line of work that you want to be working in, but maybe now the next step for you is going off on your own and maybe doing your own thing because what you’re doing at your job right now you feel like it’s not letting you express yourself fully. It’s not letting you share your full potential and it’s not letting you have the kind of impact that you really want to have at your job.
Maybe that means going and finding another job that’s along the same lines so let’s say if you’re a web designer maybe you’re still going to be a web designer but in a different company because that company is more in line with the values that you have. Maybe they’re working on websites, the kind of websites that you’re more interested in, that you feel are necessary and important for the world to experience and to see and to interact with. Maybe it’s like that.
Maybe you feel like you’ve been a web designer and you’ve been that way for a few years, you’ve been working at it and now you feel like it’s totally not you’re gig anymore and you’ve found out an important lesson here. That even though web design is not your purpose, now you’ve kind of peeled back that first layer and now you’re going deeper and it’s like “Okay, my purpose is something else. Maybe I like art and I like programming, maybe I can mix those somehow in some other way, some original way. Maybe I should go and do something that’s an offshoot of web development”. Maybe it’s like that.
Keep Digging Until You Get To The Core
You just keep drilling deeper and deeper and deeper until you get to some sort of core. I don’t know if this core is ever gotten to, it might be just an ideal that you’re trying to strive for, but ultimately what you’re trying to do is trying to dig deeper and trying to get to the core of yourself, really who you are, figuring out what your values are and the kind of expression you want to have so that you’re one hundred percent authentically expressing yourself through your work.
How do you want that to be? This is a choice for you. There’s so many different ways, regardless of the kind of values that you have, there’s so many different ways that you can actually go out there and manifest them in the real world. There’s so many different careers that will line up with the kind of impact that you want to have in the world.
Maybe you have a very specific objective. Maybe you want to have a specific influence on different people in society. Maybe you want to have a specific influence on kids, maybe on seniors, maybe on people that have suffered through the same kind of problems you’ve suffered through and so that is your purpose. Now you’ve got to think about, “How do I get my life aligned with that purpose?” That’s the trick because not only does it take sometimes years to figure out what your life’s purpose is, then it takes a lot of courage and actual action to get your life aligned with it.
I’ll give you an example. When I started off, I always thought that my purpose since I was a kid was to be a video games designer and that’s something that I pursued very vigorously. Eventually I got, after college, when I finished college, I got hired by a pretty nice games design studio up in Boston and I moved all the way from California to Boston and I started working there and I thought that that was going to be my dream job and that was going to be fulfilling my purpose. What I realized when I was at Boston about a year later, I realized that there were aspects of me that were not coming out there at that job even though I loved designing video games, there were just certain aspects of me that I felt were being repressed and I couldn’t be completely expressive.
For example, I felt like I needed autonomy in how the overall big picture of the design of the game was coming along. I didn’t have much say in that, so I felt that was something I couldn’t bite my tongue and carry on with. That that’s something that I had to do something about so what I ended up doing is through much consternation I ended up having to start my own business and it wasn’t even a game development business it was an internet marketing business so that I could fund, so I could build the capital that I needed in order to then start my own game business.
It Takes A Lot Of Courage
I went through a yearlong process of starting a business and then running my internet marketing business for about three or four years. I still have it but I don’t take an active role in it anymore. So the idea there is that it took a lot of courage to leave a job that was a really nice position, that had a lot of room for growth in it and that I would get a lot of experience from but leaving it because I knew that it somehow wasn’t aligned with who I was. It took me three years to go, start a new business, get involved in all this stuff, take all this action, just to bring my life into some sort of alignment.
Counter intuitively, what I figured out is that it brought me out of alignment because internet marketing was not something I wanted to do. In fact it was something that I hated doing and that I wanted to get myself out of. I was just using it as a means to build capital. In that case what I had to do was reconnect with my purpose. I had to find what my purpose was going to be and I didn’t know at that time what it was going to be.
I had ideas, there are things that I gravitate towards but how to actually make that into something that’s valuable to other people, how to make it into something that actually produces money for yourself so you can support yourself with it, and how to make it such that you can express yourself in that position that you’re in so that you’re not beholden to some sort of other company or some other client or some sort of special interest that’s going to undermine the creative vision that you have, the kind of impact that you want to have. That’s tricky. That takes a lot of work and designing your life around that is definitely challenging. It’s something that takes years of effort to do. It’s like a long term goal that you can set for yourself.
Set A Long Term Goal For Yourself
I think it’s really important to do that. What else would you do with your life? If you’re not pursuing a purpose, if you don’t have some sort of concrete objective in mind as to the kind of impact that you want to have with everything that you’re doing in life specifically at work, then you’re just going to be floundering. You’re going to be going here to there, you’re going to maybe be motivated by a bigger paycheck, maybe you’re going to be motivated by better benefits, maybe you’re going to be motivated by a nicer company that has a better reputation.
You’re going to be doing that and doing this back and forth but you’re not going to be expressing whoyou are. If you’re lucky enough to have the kind of job where you’re doing that, and you’re totally passionate about it and you love it, then I think that’s great and you should be really grateful and thankful that you have that because most people I think don’t, and because I think that most people don’t take the time to plan this thing out long term and to do the introspection that’s necessary over a course of months and years, to build a life purpose and to design their life around it, I think because of that a lot of people are lost and a lot of people are living mediocre lives quite simply because it’s hard to have a massive impact on others without being very dedicated to it, without putting that intention to it. It’s hard to do that accidentally.
I think if you look at all the great visionaries out there that have started amazing companies that have done amazing things, amazing politicians and businessmen and political leaders and anybody like that in society, they knew what they wanted out of their lives and they pursued it with determination. With total determination. If you’re not doing that then you’re kind of just living your life day to day and that tends to lead to a mediocre kind of life.
Life Purpose Is Dynamic
The point of this video is to really get you to understand and to see that life purpose is a dynamic, shifting, evolving thing and even right now, even as my purpose right now is to coach other people, to counsel other people on personal development issues to become really well versed in personal development and to apply it to my own life so that I can help others apply it in their own lives, that’s my purpose at this point but that’s something that’s evolving or me as well.
That’s pretty abstract and generic. There’s so many different ways that can flush out. Should I do that through more coaching? Should I do that though my website? Should I do that through public speaking, or should I do that through running seminars or writing books?
There’s so many different ways that it can be done and all the time I’m still thinking about my purpose. I’m still peeling those layers back. I feel like I’ve peeled the outermost layers of the onion and I’m getting deeper and so it’s nice to feel that after about four years, andnow I’m starting to peel those inner layers and that’s really exciting and empowering. To start peeling those layers and understanding that on some level there’s a core to you that is just you, your deepest values and the things that you really want out of life, the things that excite you, that get your creative juices flowing.
There’s that and that might be innate on some level, but then there’s also what you want to create and that’s something very conscious. I can take my life from this pint on to wherever I want to go any way I want. Now it’s really a question of where do I what to take it?
Now it’s about asking myself what would I like to do more? Would I like to do more writing? Would like to do more public speaking? Would I like to do more videos? Would I like to be travelling the world? What is it?
Starting to feel that out because you can’t really tell ahead of time what’s going to resonate with you, what you’re going to like, what you’re not going to like. You can have certain intuitions and certain guesses, but a lot of times what I found is I have to go into something and actually do it for a while until I really start to develop a love for it, or maybe I’ll figure out that it’s not something that I loved after all, so I’ll have to shift and do course corrections dynamically, so to speak. This stuff is not something that you can just plan out, you can’t just sit down and plan it all out for yourself and set it in stone.
What Would You Be Doing If…?
There’s something that’s going to shift it and evolve for you over time, and the best way to start to work on your purpose is to start asking yourself questions like, what would you be doing if you had all the money in the world and money was not a motivating force for you anymore? What would you be doing with your time?
What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind after you’re dead? What do you want people to remember you for? What do you feel most proud of? What kind of accomplishments in your life do you feel most proud of?
You have to start with those accomplishments that you’re very proud of already are giving you little senses of what would really make you feel really fulfilled if you did it full time at a very high level and if you just gave yourself completely to that process of creating value for people. I think inherently if you think that your life is about you, you, you and what you can get and about how much money you can earn and what car you can drive and what kind of house you can have and what travel you can do, that’s going to be limiting. There’s a limit to how much fulfillment you can get from that. You’re going to get a little bit of titillation here and there but ultimately that’s going to start to feel empty.
You’re going to start to want to contribute, you’re going to start to want to influence other people, and the question is how do you want to do that? There’s probably already different ways in your life that you’ve done that and you felt good about it you just haven’t forged a career out of it and you haven’t set that deliberate, conscious intention that you want it to be your life purpose and that you want it to be something that you’re going to pursue, something that you’re going to master over a course of years and decades and so that’s what I want you to start thinking about.
Get Help From A Life Coach
Working with a life coach is a really good way to start to get your head around life purpose. If you don’t know what your purpose is at all, that’s a good place to start. If you already do know your purpose but you feel like you’re not living up to your full potential, then that’s also a good place to start because then we can pick you up and take you from where you are right now and take you to your dream career, to that path that’s going to leave you completely fulfilled.
That’s something that I personally love to do which is why I got into coaching myself, because I struggled through this issue myself personally for years and I’ve kind of been feeling my way out of all the different angles, all the different problems and solutions and techniques that are out there to develop your life purpose. I felt like I’ve worked on it myself and also read a lot of information, literature about it from other people who are trying to figure out this thorny issue.
For now I’m going to leave you on this last thought. What would you be doing if you had all the money in the world and money was no longer a motivating force for you at all? What would you be doing with your life? I don’t mean partying or decorating your house or buying a new car, because you can do all those things, but on top of that.
Your life is pretty long. You still got a good ways to go. A third of it is going to be spent doing some sort of work. Even if you had all the money, you still would not want to party 24/7. You’d want to spend a certain chunk of your time doing something fulfilling for other people, question is, what would that be?
One More Thing
One more point that I wanted to make about life purpose is that there’s this tendency I think to assume that people are born with one or that people understand what their purpose should be in life and that’s very deceptive to think that way. If you think that people naturally have a purpose what’s going to happen is you’re going to assume that you should have one as well and that’s not true at all. I think purpose is something that has to be built over time.
If you don’t have a purpose right now, then I’m going to make a suggestion for you: make your purpose to find your purpose. That’s where it all starts. Start with wanting to find your purpose like something that’s deeply important for you. Personally for me that has always been at play.
Since I was like six years old I always knew that I needed a purpose in life. I needed to channel my energy towards some sort of meanings, towards some sort of goals and if I wasn’t doing that, I felt like I wasn’t living optimally and I wasn’t living to my full potential. So I went on a quest to find what my purpose was going to be. I went through a lot.
I’ve done my career so far, which has been pretty short, has actually covered a lot of territory. I went from, in college, aerospace engineer, to philosophy major, to video game designer, to web designer, to SEO internet marketing, then to mobile games developer, then to now life coaching and now I’m kind of taking life coaching and even evolving that to more of a self-help expert/ guru type of career track.
You see how that evolves. There’s so much ground I had to cover there just to sort of understand what I wanted and what would make me happy. I used to believe that if I could just sit down, one day I would just sit down and figure it out. I would just sit down and say to myself, “Okay, what do I want to do with my life? Then I would just think about it for a little while, philosophize about and it’s like, “Okay I want to do engineering” and I would just be an engineer and it would be solved for the rest of my life.
Your Purpose Can Be To Find Your Purpose
It didn’t quite turn out that way. What I found out is that in reality, your life purpose is so dynamic, you just have to work with it. It’s like a big lump of dough that you have to constantly knead and knead and knead. If you don’t have a life purpose right now, set your purpose to be to find your purpose.
So that means whatever it is you’re doing, if you know that you’re not happy doing it right now, that’s fine. That’s where you’re at and maybe you can’t leave your job immediately, that’s not what I’m saying. You might have to stick around just because of the financial situation that you’re in or whatever, that’s fine, but start to think ahead. Start to think about what you want your purpose to be.
If you weren’t doing your job right now, what would you be doing instead? What would you rather be doing? What would be the best possible position for you in any possible company in the world? Maybe you’ll be starting your own business, start thinking about that and maybe what you can start doing is start reading, start researching, start exploring, start testing out the field, testing out what it is that you want to go into.
Maybe you’re doing one thing and you want to go into something completely different, test out that completely different thing, see if it’s going to work for you. A lot of times what’ll happen is you’ll try it out and you’ll figure that this is really not what you want so then you have to go search for something else. Ultimately, if your purpose is to find your purpose, that is what is going to ground you at least for now. That is going to ground you and you’re going to use that to test out all these different niches that you could potentially fill, until you find one that’s going to be nice and comfy for you and that’s going to make you fulfilled. For now, if you don’t have a purpose start by making your purpose to find your purpose. That is your purpose right now.