Having a purpose in life is one of the fundamental factors of happiness. Without it, you risk living a life without a sense of direction. As a result, you often feel restless and stressed because your daily actions are not aligned with your inner compass.
But what are some examples of a purpose in life? There are a lot of commonly known purposes in life, like providing for your family, living a successful life, making positive connections with others, and traveling the world.
But what is your purpose? In this article, I’ll show you how to discover and define your purpose in life, with actual examples of people that I’ve asked myself!
- Why it’s important to truly discover your purpose
- Discovering your purpose in life
- Examples of life purpose statements
- “My purpose in life is to solve problems by changing the status quo”
- “My purpose in life is making positive connections with others and enjoying those around you”
- “My purpose in life is to teach other parents of kids with ADHD how to positively parent to help their kids”
- “My purpose in life is to make things”
- “My purpose in life is to use my writing to better the world”
- “My purpose in life is to empower myself to empower others”
- “My life doesn’t have a purpose, and I don’t want it to”
- Happiness is a purpose too
- Wrapping up
Why it’s important to truly discover your purpose
If you don’t define a purpose in your life, you risk living a life without a clear sense of direction.
I personally decided to major in civil engineering because I didn’t know what else I wanted. My father was an engineer, and I was always kind of interested in what he did. 4 years later, I got my Bachelor’s degree and started my career in offshore engineering.
I knew I hadn’t found my purpose in life yet, but I wasn’t really looking for it either.
Fast forward 6 years and that career burned me out and I quit.
If you spend your life without questioning your direction and purpose, you are more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety.
So, with that in mind, how do you discover your purpose in life?
Discovering your purpose in life
People don’t wake up one day and have a “eureka” moment and suddenly know what their purpose in life is. Instead, they discover their purpose by trial and error.
So how do you discover your purpose?
What’s important here is that you try new things. If you haven’t yet discovered your purpose in life, then you are not going to find it by trying the same things over and over again.
It’s also important to be willing to reinvent yourself if you’ve not found your purpose yet. In my situation, that meant I had to quit my career in offshore engineering. Only by shutting one door, the other door to finding my purpose opened.
What does our data say?
Reinventing yourself can be scary and intimidating. It means stepping outside of your comfort zone and putting yourself out there. However, the benefits are worth it, as I’ve learned from 128 interviews. 33 of these interviews talked about reinventing oneself to find a new purpose in life. Here are the things that these 33 people overcame as a result:
It’s also important to know that your purpose in life and your job are not the same things. Too many people look for a job that is simultaneously something that can fulfill their purpose in life.
A very small percentage of people find purpose in the work they do. But that doesn’t have to mean that you won’t find a purpose outside of your work!
Examples of life purpose statements
Even though you have to define your own purpose in life, it’s still interesting to read about other people’s purposes. That’s why I’ve asked around to include examples of life purpose statements in this article.
Here are actual examples of life purpose statements of the people I asked:
“My purpose in life is to solve problems by changing the status quo”
You will love the story of how Michael Arnold found his purpose in life. This is a great example of how straightforward your purpose in life can be.
I don’t remember my grandpa, he passed when I was 9 months old but I sat on his knee while Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. I always wanted to be an astronaut even studying Astronomy, Geology and Physics in high school.
But when I checked into the requirements of becoming an astronaut, I realized I had been lied to… I was told work hard and you can reach your dreams.
But there it was in black and white, maximum height 6’1”! I was 6’4”! I couldn’t be 3” shorter.
So, I decided to become an engineer and build taller spaceships, discovering my new purpose solving problems by changing the status quo.
“My purpose in life is making positive connections with others and enjoying those around you”
I got cancer age 30 and am currently grappling with this question. My focus has completely shifted and I feel like the whole point of my life now is just 2 simple things:
This is what a Redditor answered when asked about her purpose in life. The first simple thing that she recognized:
Making positive connections with others and enjoying those around you. It is a lot easier to sit on the couch and watch a feel-good show than it is to go have dinner with your in-laws when you are tired – but what is the point in sitting there watching TV? We all waste way too much time doing crap like that. Better to build meaningful connections while you can. There are millions of super isolated people in the world as well who would kill to have someone to have dinner with.
The second purpose of her life is:
Squeezing every bit of enjoyment out of life. I need to walk home – I can either take the subway for 5 minutes underground or I can walk 30 minutes through a park and tree-lined streets and truly enjoy it.. maybe get an ice cream on the way. I’d pick the fast way every time before, now I’m constantly looking for the most enjoyable route instead.
“My purpose in life is to teach other parents of kids with ADHD how to positively parent to help their kids”
My oldest (who are 18 and 21) were really difficult kids. I didn’t know until they were about 10 years old that they had ADHD. I probably made every parenting mistake possible as a result. It wasn’t easy. I became a therapist and as a result, specialized in ADHD, specifically in parenting.
This is the story of Merriam Saunders, who found her own purpose in life is helping other parents deal with ADHD.
What I realized was that by constantly reprimanding my own children for behavior outside their control, I was ruining their self-esteem and leaving them (and, frankly, me) feeling like failures. Instead of asking them to change, I needed to ask it of myself. I changed my parenting approach to one of finding the things they were doing right, scaffolding the things they weren’t, and letting them make mistakes without shame. We became a happier family for it, and they are now well adjusted and academically succeeding.
“My purpose in life is to make things”
This idea was the center of my thoughts for the past few years. And I did a lot of testing out who I was and what I wanted out of life. Trying on different careers and always second guessing myself. And I was struggling and unhappy and went through a lot of different situations to figure this out. Find a career, find a partner, find something else to fill the void in my life.
This is the story of another Redditor. This shows that a purpose in life doesn’t have to be sophisticated or impressive. We don’t need to one-up each other with a bigger and better purpose. You need to find what your own purpose is. What makes you happy?
The example continues:
But the idea of making things was always there. Even as a kid just fucking around or even when I was at my most depressed as an adult. I always turned to making things.
Make ceramics, make sculptures, make music, make a garden, make good food, make a book, make my own clothes. Make something that didn’t exist.
I make things because that’s how I understand myself in this world. It soothes me. It shows me that I’m strong. It comforts me, in a mental and physical sense. It makes me proud and it makes me happy.
It’s simple, but it seems to be the one true thread in my life that makes absolute sense. And it’s a path I can follow without doubting myself.
“My purpose in life is to use my writing to better the world”
For a class in high school we had to write a mission statement for our lives. Mine was simple: to use my writing to better the world. And I have tried to live up to that. I have written about the environment, diversity and bullying as well as a host of other topics. But I was happiest when I wrote something that addressed a problem and even happier when I would get feedback saying that my writing touched someone.
This is the story of Walter Meyer, who is an author and speaks about anti-bullying. His purpose has slowly changed into something broader. This shows that we don’t have a single purpose in life, but that it is something that evolves as we grow and try out new things in life.
A few years ago, I fell into a part-time job working for a nonprofit. At times, the job has gotten in the way of my writing, but I also know I am making a difference in my community and getting kudos for it. So I slightly modified my life mission statement: to better the world.
I still write and use that as a major tool, but I teach, put on seminars and exhibits and other events to educate the public. I am at my happiest when I am doing what I love, getting paid for it, and getting feedback saying I am doing the right thing. We only have a limited amount of time in life so I want to make the most of my years. And because any of us might go tomorrow, I would like to think that I have left a mark in many lives and will leave my little corner of the world better than I found it.
“My purpose in life is to empower myself to empower others”
As a recovering perfectionist, anxiety warrior, and depression fighter, my purpose in life is to empower myself to empower others. I define my purpose in life as a continual journey of becoming the best possible version of myself. By doing this, I can help other people become the best possible version of themselves.
This is the story of Nicole, who reached out to me with her life-purpose example. I personally feel connected to her purpose in life, as I am also constantly looking to be the best version of myself.
“My life doesn’t have a purpose, and I don’t want it to”
My life doesnt have a purpose, and I don’t want it to. A purpose puts too much pressure on me. I just want to be able to say I lived a happy, ethical, and compassionate life. If I do, then I will have hopefully improved the world for a few people, animals, and the planet. That is what really matters, I think.
This is another interesting take on a purpose in life by a Redditor. Instead of having a clearly defined purpose, she’d much rather like to be happy above anything else. She continues:
I see too many people driving themselves mad trying to change the world. They put all their happiness on the line for their “purpose” and end up miserable. Too many people want to be remembered after they die, but I don’t care because I don’t think it really matters. I’ll be dead so I will have no idea if people remember me! So I just focus on being a happy, good person, because I am the only thing I can truly control. 🙂
This last example is pretty funny when you think of it. Why would I include it in this article, if it directly seems to counter the point that I’m trying to make?
Well, maybe this article is not so much about finding a purpose, but more about finding things in life that make you the happiest you can be.
These examples have shown you that the following things can all be seen as a purpose in life:
- Solving problems by thinking outside the box.
- Make positive connections with others and enjoy those around you.
- Teaching other parents how to deal with ADHD.
- Making things.
- Leaving the world a better place.
- Empowering others.
- Providing for your family.
- Living a successful life.
Happiness is a purpose too
The life purpose examples that I’ve mentioned so far can all be thought of as things that simply make you a happier person.
These purposes in our lives are only there because we have reason to believe that we’ll be happy when we either:
- Chase these purposes, or…
- Reach these purposes.
It’s truly the journey that matters much more than the destination. You can spend your whole life working towards something that you think you want (a so-called purpose), while you should really focus on being happy now!
Life is just too short to only focus on eventually reaching that purpose. You have to start focusing on your happiness now. Do more of what makes you happy now. And hey, maybe that should be your purpose too?
Think about it.
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This may not be the climax you were hoping at the end of this long article. But I hope this article has inspired you to think about your own life purpose for a bit. No matter what, I do believe that the end goal should be happiness. Even if you want to make the world a better place, I hope you’re doing it because it makes you happy too.
Now, I want to hear from you! Do you want to share your purpose in life? Do you feel like you don’t have a purpose in life? I’d love to hear more from you in the comments.