How to discover your purpose

So what is your purpose? What’s your vision for yourself and your place in the world? It’s a terrifying and existential question which can’t be easily answered.

Most people go their entire lives without knowing what their purpose is. Most of us have been taught to be grateful, accept what we’re given and be happy with what we’ve got.

Defining a purpose seems to defy that education, by saying we’re destined for bigger and greater things. If you’re unhappy with what’s happening and you don’t feel like the commitment is worth the effort, that’s usually a sign that you don’t have a purpose. Or you’re committed to the wrong purpose.

The first roadblock that we encounter when we are clear on our purpose is “how do I make money from that?”. It’s difficult to imagine a world that rewards and even supports us for embracing our purpose.

We’re taught from an early age that if it’s enjoyable and rewarding, it can’t support us. Playing games, talking, reading, learning, watching TV. There are so many enjoyable activities that are seen as a waste of time. “Purpose’s” get dropped into that category too.

Just because you love something and you’re driven by it, doesn’t mean it can support you does it? Travel is a great example. Travel is seen as an excuse to shed responsibility and be free.

But to some people, travel is THE purpose in their lives. It’s what gets them excited . You can feel it in the room when you talk to them. The energy is palpable and you can’t help but get sucked in.

But purpose can sustain you. Your purpose can absolutely drive a successful, comfortable and rich life. It’s not easy, even with a clear focus on why you’re here. But it can support your life and can lead to great riches.

Purpose helps us endure the worst that life has to offer. Just because we have a clear purpose doesn’t mean life get easier or everything is a cake walk. It means that we have the drive, energy, motivation and direction to ACHIEVE that purpose and push past the barriers that other’s aren’t willing to do.

We’re going to explore some questions that should help you discover your purpose. If your entire life seems like too much of task to assign this to, then look at something like your business or job.

What do you want to learn more about?

The single largest contributing factor to your purpose, is asking yourself “am I willing to learn more about this every single day?”.

What do you want to learn more about every single day? What are you willing to dive into, get wrong, experiment with and discover over and over? As insane as it sounds, I love learning more and more about sales.

I love it. I love the whole process. Learning about the psychology and science behind making the sale. I honestly assumed that everyone felt this way about the subject of sales. But they don’t.

Are you taking for granted your love of a subject? Does it surprise you that no one else wants to learn what you learn? What’s the thing that you read about or listen to podcasts on? Who do you follow online and what do they teach?

Part of the problem, lies in that you might not know at all what you’re obsessed with learning about. There might be nothing that springs to mind. Which is OK.

First, have a real think and look at your bookshelf, Facebook posts and shares, the movies you watch and the magazines you buy. Your purpose might be right in front of you. If you’ve got 100 cookbooks, and you cook all the time, that might be a clear indication.

“Mike, that’s just a hobby. I could never make a living out of that!”

Don’t listen to yourself. There’s a reason you’re spending money on learning and investing in resources like that.

Here are some purposes we’ve discovered inside people, by exploring what they had in front of them the whole time.

  • A chef who had dozens of pairs of running shoes, books and biographies. She retrained as a sports therapist and is now the UK’s top running specialist sports therapist.
  • A corporate copy-editor for a telco company who had Pinterest boards, Stumbleupon saves, bookmarks and books on branding and design. Now runs his own branding company for course businesses.
  • An accountant who started competing in fitness events and reading and watching everything he could on the sport. He created a sports clothing company which is now rivalling Addidas and Reebok.

Your purpose could be right in front of you. The reason you can’t imagine a life where your purpose sustains you, is because you’re not thinking big enough.

If you start to SHARE your purpose and encourage others to join in, it sustains you. It’s a relatively simple idea. The more you put in and share, the more you get back.

Your purpose has to be shared, loved, given away and discussed. Your job is to find and support and create a community where your purpose is celebrated. It’s amazing how fast your purpose can start to drive you, sustain you and energise you when you start to share it with others.

Finally, purpose is even more powerful when it’s designed to HELP people. We’ll get to that in a bit. But your purpose will explode with nuclear levels of power when you decide to help others with it.

Your purpose isn’t to be kept just to you. You have to share it and you need to help others. If you’re not willing to share with others and help others, you’ll run out of energy and motivation fast and it won’t do much for you.

I want to live in a world where…

Let’s start getting clear on your purpose. Maybe you’ve started thinking that movies, books, sales, motivation, clothes, fitness, money, business, education, freedom, equality, media or anything else is your purpose. Something vague, but not specific enough yet.

How is “running” your purpose? How is “movies” your purpose?

The sentence we need to finish is “I want to live in a world where…”

That sentence is what uncovers your deeper purpose.

Running might be your purpose. But when you think about what the world needs, it might be that more people need to run. Or injured runners need to run more. Or you want to break the 2 hour marathon.

Play around with the sentence. Write down some ideas. You can keep them private for now. I know what it’s like writing down ideas this big. It’s scary. It’s intimidating.

What if someone saw! They’d laugh in your face and you’d look like an idiot.

I’ll let you in on a secret. THE biggest players on the planet – Elon Musk, Virginia Rometty, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Indra Nooyi, J.K. Rowling, they believe you can change the world. They’re not going to laugh in your face. They’re going to ask you how they can help you.

Don’t worry about those who detract from our purpose. People who HAVE changed the world still get Zed’s telling them it’s impossible. They laugh or critique achievements that have already been accomplished and have broken what humans believe to be possible and even realistic. Those that laugh or say it can’t be done, have usually done nothing.

It’s easy to say when something can’t be done. You don’t have to risk anything. It’s easy. It’s easy to laugh. Usually because those people can’t envision a world where they’re any more important than a piece of carbon using up oxygen.

The world has been proven wrong too many times with “we can’t do that”.

Flight. Space travel. Women’s rights. Gay marriage. Smaller processors. 4 minute mile. Phone apps (Steve Jobs was notoriously against the idea). Recording moving images to film. The COUCH was considered a step in the wrong direction. People thought it would lead to non-stop orgies and sex parties.

Travel to Mars. Sub-2 hour marathon. Quantum computing. Cryogenics. Advanced robotics. De-centralised banking systems. These are all “impossibles” which we are on the cusp of “possiblising”. Take that reality.

Whatever people tell you is a reflection of themselves. It’s what they believe they’re capable of. Not what you’re capable of. They might even love you and be looking out for you. But don’t listen to them.

So what kind of a world do you want to live in? Think in terms of helping people. That’s usually a good start.

I want to live in a world where…

  • Disabled people can run freely
  • Single parents can earn money from home while looking after kids
  • People can travel safely and easily to new countries
  • Businesses can sell more products to their customers
  • People can live a lifestyle they want
  • People can lose weight and keep it off while eating good food.

Don’t worry about HOW yet. Don’t think about the delivery. What needs to change in the world and what kind of a world do you want to live in?

I think that this is unfair in today’s world…

Another angle is to think about what’s unfair in today’s world.

A friend of mine thought that the treatment of women and children in war-torn Middle Eastern countries was unfair. They’re denied education. Forced to work as sex slaves or workers. She did something about it.

She went out there and started building schools. She found teachers and got them educations. She was harassed, bullied and even threatened. But she stuck to it.

If you’re immediately thinking “I couldn’t do that! How do I pay for that?!” that’s because it’s not your purpose. We’re driven to do incredible things when we believe in the purpose.

This isn’t a guilt trip. There is absolutely no point in pretending your purpose is charity or self sacrifice if you don’t believe it. You’ll run out of fuel fast.

Let’s take my purpose. Help more people sell products.

On the surface, that seems pretty selfish. Money focused. Industry and capitalism-centric. Maybe it is.

I honestly believe that most businesses have excellent products that help people. However, they’re usually pretty bad at making the sale. It’s a two way benefit.

I think it’s unfair that people with awesome products, businesses and services don’t get the chance to sell and help more people.

Most people’s products can help people. If I can help someone sell more stuff, I’m helping them HELP more people. And the more they sell, the more they earn. They can support their families, pay their staff, pay taxes for government services.

My purpose is to help as many people as possible and support many more families and businesses that I could never reach myself. I want my customers to get bigger than me. I want them to outgrow me and move on. I want their achievements and goals to eclipse mine.

You need to ask yourself, what’s unfair in today’s world? What can I help with? Remember, we’re not focusing on HOW yet. We don’t need to have the answers. If you already had the answer, someone else would too and it wouldn’t be a problem.

No one is trying to solve the problem of motorise transport. We’ve got that. Henry Ford decided that he wanted to solve the problem of transport on a mass scale. He didn’t know how. But he knew that was the problem he was going solve.

You’re going to look at something you have to FIX. The entire point is that NO ONE knows how to fix it yet.

So finish the sentence I think it’s unfair in today’s world that…

  • People under the age of 30 can’t afford a house
  • People with great film ideas can’t get funding
  • Kids in hospital have to deal with old toys and books
  • The best product doesn’t always get the sale
  • What’s unfair in the world and are you willing to fix it?

What if you don’t want to change the world?

I understand that changing the world is scary. We’re worried about failure. You need to get rid of that idea now and fast.

Failure is a part of it. It’s one of the aspects of changing the world. No one cares that you failed. Those that do care don’t matter.

Changing the world might NOT be a global name changing enterprise. That might not be what motivates you. Let’s take one of my goals.

I want to help 100 course membership businesses generate $1 million in revenue. That’s creating $100 million in revenue. That is a lot of money to me. But on a global scale it’s a tiny impact. But helping 100 course businesses break a million? That would be massive to those 100 businesses.

Is it going to globally change the world forever? Probably not. But it’s a start and I’m obsessed with making it happen. I’d love a purpose that changes the world on a global scale, but I haven’t found it yet.

Time, maturity and experience have yet to reveal what that global purpose is. I’m sure I’ll find it one day.

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Mike Killen

Mike is the world's #1 sales coach for marketing funnel builders. He helps funnel builders sell marketing funnels to their customers. He is the author of From Single To Scale; How single-person, small and micro-businesses can scale their business to profit. You can find him on Twitter @mike_killen.