Finding more purpose. Having a “purpose-driven life”. “Finding” ourselves.
Cultural buzzwords like these prove that, more than ever, we all seem to be searching for more out of life.
Many of us are blessed to have our basic physical needs met (food, clothing, shelter) and therefore have the luxury to ask the deeper life questions like “Why am I here?”
And yet, it seems like there’s never been an era where we are so confused about what it really means to have life purpose. We wonder where to find purpose, how to determine what our purpose could be, and most of all, how to actually end up living with purpose and intention.
With all the chaos and seemingly random activities of our modern world, some even question if there is such a thing as purpose.
So first, let’s set the record straight.
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The Most Important Truth about Life Purpose
You were made by God on purpose and with a purpose. And that’s something we should celebrate!
“He crafted every part of your body” (Psalm 139
“He guides every moment of your life” (Psalm 23
“He has better plans for you than you could ever hope or imagine” (Jeremiah 29:11
Day by day God somehow fuses our brokenness, our talents and our passions into a beautiful masterpiece. He weaves all of our life experiences together—every high and low—with great intention and purpose.
The world and all its troubles may tempt us toward meaningless and despair, but God’s great purpose is that, in all of the imperfection, we would still find abundant, purposeful, intentional living (John 10:10
You see, if we are in Christ, our life purpose goes beyond just surviving one week to the next. We can exhale deeply knowing that we are created to be a beautiful instrument in His grand orchestral piece played for all of human history. Praise be to God for that!
So then, the question remains: Why does a purposeful living seem to elude so many of us? Why are we stuck in distracted, empty living that doesn’t lead to a fulfilling life and true purpose?
There are a few good reasons for that. Let’s explore that topic further.
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Common Issues that Sidetrack Us from Finding True Purpose
Can you recognize your misguided attempts to discover your life purpose in any of these areas?
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1. We want a carbon copy of someone else's successful life purpose.
If we’re seeking purpose, then naturally we gravitate toward others who seem to be firmly planted in the midst of their purpose. “What are they doing? How can I have what they have?” we wonder.
While there’s nothing wrong with gleaning insight from someone else’s successful life purpose journey, the trouble comes when we find ourselves seeking to re-create their journey in our lives.
For example, we may see someone running a six-figure home based business and wonder, “They seem to be so happy working from home as an entrepreneur. Maybe part of my life purpose is to be an entrepreneur.”
Maybe. But if they seem grounded and happy in their decision to become an entrepreneur, perhaps a better question is, “What were the questions they asked themselves to determine that this was their right path? Why did they make that decision, and what was their journey along the way?”
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2. We focus on outward achievement versus inward satisfaction.
Many of us are so stuck in our culture’s relentless need to “get ahead,” to “have more” and to impress others that we can easily associate our true purpose with achieving a certain level of external success.
Twenty-four years ago, I heard a sermon on achievement and “having it all” that forever changed my then-nineteen-year-old brain.
The pastor described the all-too-common phenomena of what he termed “destination sickness.”
Destination sickness, he said, was getting everything you wanted out of life (cars, money, relationships, etc) and still feeling empty. He described it as one of the worst places to be because those who’d arrived there realized that they’d spent their lives pursuing a mirage of what was their true purpose.
Of course on a surface level we think, “I know I have more purpose than to just achieve things and to get more ‘stuff.’”
But what do our life pursuits say? How do we spend our time? Which life areas do we inadvertently gauge as barometers for our success? Are we leaning too heavily on outward achievement in the name of “finding life purpose”?
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3. We place artificial constraints on when we will achieve our purpose (dates/times); and specific constraints on what the journey will be like to get us there.
Many of us think of “finding purpose” as a static destination in which to arrive.
Surely purposeful living requires that we set both big and small goals. But quite often we stress ourselves out by hyper-focusing on our need to determine when these will happen, how they will happen and the perfect path to arrive at their completion.
What if we instead started on our path toward meaning by stating an overarching purpose and then walked toward that purpose without the pressure of how it will all happen?
As an example, if we were to drive from Los Angeles to New York City (a trip that would take nearly a week to complete), we would have a relatively good idea of how we would get from one coast to another. But doesn’t it seem a bit ridiculous on day one of our journey to map out every turn of the drive? We have a relative idea of where we’re going, but we remain flexible with how the tiny details of the journey will play out.
What if we saw our purpose and goal setting in this similar fashion? What if we gathered a larger sense about where we want to go and had a relatively reasonable outline as to how it could happen, but we chose instead to walk it one week or month at a time, making small adjustments toward the trajectory as we go along?
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4. We neglect to acknowledge that our life purpose can play out differently in various life seasons.
Most of us have more life purposes than can be exhibited in a single life season.
For example, I’m a mom, and clearly being a good mom is part of God’s purpose for my life.
But that calling has certainly changed over the years (and it still changes day by day) because the circumstances around that calling are continually in flux.
For example, when I was a mom of four young children under the age of 8, God called me to be a good mom by physically tending to the needs of my kids and blessing them. Lots of nursing, feeding, cleaning up and physical play.
Now that my kids are older (my oldest boys are 16 and 14) I find that my kids need me much more emotionally than physically. In this season, my life purpose as a mom often looks more like mentor, counselor, encourager, disciples and listener.
When I was a mom of young kids, God asked me to press pause on some of his other callings for me, including encouraging others through my writing. Those life purposes were still there, but they were dormant for many years.
Only recently have I begun to awake those purposes again, and I must be content with the truth that they probably won’t come to their fullest expression until I no longer have kids in the home to mentor.
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5. We have no clue how to find our purpose.
Arguably, this is where most people find themselves. They know that God is calling them to a meaningful life, but they have no idea what that is or how to access it.
Many people desire more purpose in life, but they are either, first, hung up on the day-to-day survival mode of modern life or, second, they don’t know how to connect the dots to determine what God may be calling them to.
And that brings us to a great question: Practically speaking, how can we find life purpose?
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How Do We Determine Our Life's Purpose?
There’s no magic formula, but as a Christian life coach I’ve found that most people discover their life purpose as a beautiful conglomeration of these four elements:
core values (guiding life principles, often centered in Christian truths for believers);
passions (what uniquely drives an individual and brings them energy);
experiences (those unique life occurrences that shaped an individual to who they are today); and
talents/gifts (those distinct emotional, physical and spiritual giftings that set an individual apart)
Because God is the one ultimately weaving together our individual purposes, it makes perfect sense that He reveals Himself present in each of these areas.
To give a visual picture of this phenomenon, it’s as if Christ is the center spoke of a wheel and each of these aspects—core values, passions, experiences and talents/gifts— radiate out from the center. He creates or guides each of these, and is continually mixing and matching them together to reveal our life purpose for this season.
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3 Step Plan to Determining Life Purpose
Step 1: Take inventory.
If you’re serious about discovering your life purpose, I encourage you to first take inventory around the four elements mentioned above. What are your core values? Your passions? Your significant life experiences? What are some of your talents and gifts?
Spend time in prayer
asking God to reveal these to you. Begin to consider how God may want to blend these unique aspects together into specific life callings.
Step 2: Ask the deeper questions.
Next, take some time to prayerfully consider the following three questions:
Where am I now?
Consider your limitations and blessings in this season. What aspects of a particular life calling might you have to limit right now? Which ones could you expand in this season?
What burdens has God placed on my heart?
What are those things that anger you and get you riled up? What activities or causes do you want to see furthered in the world? Where do you want to spend your energy in this season?
Where do I want to go in the future?
What do you hope to accomplish in life? If you were to stand at the end of your life and look back, what would make you feel proud? What things really matter to you?
Step 3: Set a short term goal related to your life calling.
Once you have a good sense of some of your life purposes and how these life purposes may play out in this season, write down one goal you could set to move toward that purpose.
I’d encourage you to create a goal that is fairly small and could be a stepping stone toward a bigger life purpose.
It’s also wise to set goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely, otherwise known by the acronym SMART Goals.
By the way, if you’d like one-on-one help with determining what your life purpose is (and how to walk with purpose in your current life season), as a Christian life coach I’m happy to help you gain clarity, momentum and accountability around your life purpose. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
May God bless you as you ponder the truths in this post and seek your ultimate life purpose as a son or daughter of the King!
, Christian life coach and founder of Vibrant Christian Living, is passionate about empowering women to discover their fullest, best selves through a thriving relationship with Jesus. Alicia is the creator of the 5Rs Bible Study™ Method, a simple plan for anyone to understand and apply biblical truth in under 10 minutes a day as part of a daily Bible time. Alicia also creates holiday resources at her site ChristCenteredHolidays.com where you can find practical strategies for Christian families who want to make Christ the center of their holiday celebrations. Learn more about Christian life coaching or connect with Alicia at email@example.com.
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