What Is Your Purpose In Life (Actual Examples and Answers)
Updated 11 October 2019
by Hugo: Founder of Tracking Happiness, marathon runner, data junkie and happiness tracker for almost 6 years.
Having a purpose in life is one of the fundamental factors of happiness. Without it, you'll live your life less focused, less efficient and you'll often feel restless and stressed because you don't feel aligned with the things you do. This article is about different purposes in life, with actual examples and how you can define your purpose in life.
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 enjoying those around you
- Traveling the world
- Fighting the declining condition of our planet
But what is YOUR purpose? You can't just copy & paste one of these purposes and call it a day. You have to find your own purpose in life. In this article, I will show you how to discover and define your purpose in life, with actual examples of people that I've asked.
Table of contents
- What is my purpose in life?
- Why it's important to truly discover your purpose
- Discovering your purpose in life
- Defining 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
- With all that out of the way: here's my purpose in life
- Closing words
Did you know that you are happier when you have a purpose and a passion in life? This article is a part of the biggest (free) guide on how to be happy and is covered in-depth in Chapter 6: Intellectual happiness. This chapter teaches you how to be happier by finding your "Why" in life.
What is my purpose in life?
What is my purpose in life?
This question is very common but makes you think about what you truly want. Answers are usually a variation or combination of the following:
- Feeling loved
- Having a positive impact on the lives of others
If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking: “I want everything you just said!” And without giving more thought to this question, you might plan out your life to be a successful and rich person with a huge positive impact on the world.
Because that sounds like a good purpose, right?
Why it's important to truly discover your purpose
So here you are. You have a purpose "to become a successful and rich person with a huge positive impact on the world".
You've written it down in your journal as one of your goals, and off you go.
Fast forward 10 years:
Let's imagine you're now successful and rich and have a huge influence on the world. You have spent your early years building a company that develops - say - portable toilets, that people in poor countries can use. Your company makes a nice profit, and people all around the world look up to you because you seem to be successful, rich and have a positive influence on the world.
You now check all the boxes of what you thought your purpose in life was 10 years ago.
But are you happy? No. Because in the process of fulfilling your life purpose, you've had to sacrifice other things, like:
- Dating and finding a loving partner
- Spending time with your family
- Going on holidays with your friends
- Getting kids
- Traveling the world
- Running a marathon
Even though your purpose in life wasn't necessarily a bad purpose, there's one problem with it: it wasn't YOUR purpose in life. Maybe your purpose in life was to simply build a loving family and to be happy?
That's why it's extremely important to discover your own 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. No, you have to discover your purpose by trial and error.
So how do you discover your purpose? Not by sitting in a chair by the window. You find it by doing things and taking action.
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 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 fill their purpose in life. A very small percentage of people find actual purpose in the work they do.
For example, I personally have a very simple purpose in life, and it has got nothing to do with my work! That's not to say that I hate my work, I just don't regard it as something I'm passionate about.
Long story short: you have to discover your purpose in life by trying out new things. If you feel like you haven't yet found your purpose in life, that means you need to try something new that sparks your interest again.
Defining your purpose in life
You can't copy & paste somebody else's purpose in life and expect to be happy by doing the same things.
No, you have to define YOUR purpose.
Just as much as happiness is something that's unique for every single person, the purpose of life differs from person to person.
Elon Musk's purpose in life might be to develop futuristic ideas into reality, while your purpose can be to just provide the best life to your family and children.
Copy & pasting the purpose of somebody that you respect and like will probably leave you unhappy and unfulfilled. For example, I think Elon Musk is doing spectacular things, but I wouldn't be happy if I were in his shoes. My purpose in life is wildly different from his!
I have defined my own purpose in life, and I advise you to do the same!
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.
I don't want you to copy and paste these life purposes and make them your own. I only want to show you how diversified life purpose statements can be!
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 my the whole point of 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 then 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 in 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 Starbuck, who writes about personal growth and positive thinking over at Jumpstart Positivity. I personally feel connected to her purpose in life, as I am also constantly looking to be the best version of myself.
It's part of the reason why I started to track my happiness >5 years ago!
"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 compassioante 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 actually 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 be seen as a purpose in life:
- Solving problems by thinking outside the box
- Making positive connections with others and enjoying 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
But these things can all be thought of as things that simply make you a happier person.
Happiness is a purpose
You see, 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
Before I started to track my happiness, I wanted – among others – to become rich and financially free. Why? Because I was working a job that I absolutely hated.
During the last 5 years, my happiness has moved quite a bit (this is an understatement). Throughout this time, I constantly forced myself to think about these questions:
- What is my purpose in life?
- What makes me happy?
I’ve learned that it’s not so much that I wanted to be rich. I just wanted to not have to work a job that I didn’t like. Instead of focusing on a vague pipedream (quitting my horrible job with enough money in the bank), I focused on actively steering my life in the best direction right away.
What did I do?
- I steered my career in a different direction.
- I focused on being happy now, instead of only planning for my future happiness.
A fun example:
When me and my girlfriend were in a bad long-distance relationship, I noticed that running long-distances made me extremely happy. On a whim, I signed up for a marathon that was just 3 weeks away. Running a marathon had always been on my bucket list, but it was only when I re-evaluated my happiness that I decided to be bold.
3 weeks later, I crossed the finish line feeling broken, shattered and physically dead.
Was it the smartest decision I ever made? Probably not, but I still did it. The result? Running long-distances is still something that I dearly love, and I’m about to run my 5th marathon in 1 month!
Don’t worry, I’m much better prepared this time. (Update: I barely finished it as it was a LOT harder than I expected. Still an amazing experience though!)
The point of this story is – and this is where I might sound cheesy – that 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.
With all that out of the way: here's my purpose in life
My purpose in life is to live a long and happy life.
Sounds cheesy and anti-climatic? Maybe, but here's the thing:
Everything that I do is a result of my purpose in life. There are a lot of other things that I feel are part of my purpose in life, like:
- Making others happy
- Making the world a better place
- Spending as much time as possible with the people I love
- Challenging myself intellectually and physically
But I only truly care about these things because they will eventually result in my main purpose, and that is to live a long and happy life. If you're wondering, this is how I try to be as happy as possible every single day of my life.
This may not be the climax you were hoping for after reading this entire article, but it's the way I feel. I hope I have at least shown you multiple aspects of this purpose in life. If you now have a better idea of how you can discover and define your own purpose, then I have reached my goal! 🙂
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? Do you disagree with something I said in this article?
I'd love to hear more from you in the comments!
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Who runs Tracking Happiness?
My name is Hugo, and I'm from the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, a passion for data and statistical analysis and am an expert in happiness.
I've tracked my happiness every day for 5 years in a row. And I'm now using my knowledge to inspire you to prioritize your happiness. You see, I'm a strong believer in what gets measured gets managed. I want to show you what I - and many others - have learned while tracking our happiness.
My Happiness Essays have reached thousands of people around the world and have been shared in many places.
With my data, I have inspired hundreds of others to also track their happiness. And I'm hoping this number will only grow more!
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